They were using both applied and pure research. They had a main goal they were experimenting toward but along the way created or founded a new substance and/or material.
Work Step by Step
The scientists are using applied science at first but later they use pure. The scientists have a main goal they're trying to research or make. However, they end up making something totally different or researching something other then the project, then creating something new and useful and/or still letting them complete their main goal.