Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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2.2 Technology Transfer Quantified

Measuring technology transfer is difficult given the diverse and complex ways in which transfers occur. It would be so even if the task were confined to quantifying the transfer of hardware. When "software" elements such as education and training are included in a broad definition of technology transfer (as is done in Chapter 1 and then used throughout this Report), the task is further complicated; it becomes almost impossible if some judgement about effectiveness is also demanded. "How much effective technology transfer related to climate change mitigation or adaptation takes place between countries each year?" is an interesting question, but one that cannot be answered with any confidence. Data are simply not collected and analysed in a manner that informs policy makers interested in the issue. In commenting on the effect that changing patterns of international finance have on the environment, one observer has noted that "aggregate data on international financial flows obscure important variations across all relevant variables thereby failing to provide much guidance for strategic planning related to particular environmental issues or geographic areas of interest" (World Resources Institute, 1998).

Despite these difficulties it is possible to draw some general conclusions about global technology flows based on information in the literature. Various organisations collect, analyse, and present data on international trade, development assistance, foreign direct and portfolio investment, foreign lending, and related topics. One problem is that none of these corresponds directly to the government, private sector, or community dominated pathways for technology transfer used roughly as the organising scheme for analysis elsewhere in this Report, although different stakeholders generally favour different delivery mechanisms. Used with some caution and an understanding of their limitations, however, such data can give a crude indication about levels of international technology transfer, and how these levels are changing over time.

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