11.5 Programmes, Policies, and other Interventions for Technology Transfer
11.5.1 Barriers to Technology Transfer between Countries
Constraints of supply of new technologies
Shortage of technological information.
Because the developing counties lack access to information, they are not aware
of what technologies fit their conditions and where they can find the suitable
ones. International technology exchanges are helpful for overcoming this obstacle.
Shortage of capital.
Due to the long-term aspects of climate change, financial capital may also be
a constraint to new technology.
Growth of agricultural research funding is slowing.
Agriculture is heavily dependent on climate in developing countries, so technology
transfer is crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The growth
of agricultural research funding is slowing down, as Table 11.6 illustrates.
This will impede the generation and transfer of technology. Funding trends for
international research centres under the auspices of the CGIAR have shown a
similar decline. Between 1971 and 1982 real spending for the CGIAR grew 14.3
per cent per year. Growth in real spending decreased to 1.4 per cent per year
between 1985 and 1991, and decreased further to 0.5 per cent per year between
1991 and 1996 (Alston et al., 1998). Given the time lags between initial R&D
investment and diffusion of technologies, it may be several years before the
effect of this slowdown becomes noticeable on the availability of new technologies,
but the negative effects seem certain.
|Table 11.6. Growth in Public Agricultural
R&D Spending in Developed and Developing Countries, 1971 to 1991
AVERAGE ANNUAL GROWTH RATE (PER CENT CHANGE)
1971 TO 1981
1981 TO 1991
|Other Asia and Pacific
|Latin America & Caribbean
|West Asia and North Africa
Barriers to private sector involvement
The worry about the absence of protection for intellectual property might be
the key barrier to more private sector involvement in Technology Transfer. So
it is important to adopt stricter IPRs to encourage greater private investment
in agricultural R&D, and greater involvement in technology transfer to increase
agricultural research funding. Many (particularly developed) countries have
adopted stricter intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes for agrochemicals,
agricultural machinery and biological innovations. A rationale for adopting
stricter IPRs is to increase private appropriability of research benefits and
to encourage greater private sector investment in agricultural R&D and greater
involvement in technology transfer. Although evidence from the United States
suggests that increased plant variety protection has stimulated private R&D
and adoption of improved crop varieties, the issue of IPRs for genetic resources
remains controversial. Particular areas of controversy are farmer and research
exemptions to IPR protection, and whether and to what extent IPRs should be
extended to developing countries (Frisvold and Condon, 1995, 1998; Knudson,
1998 in press). Recent theoretical literature suggests that there may be limits
to how far IPRs should be extended internationally (Deardorff, 1992, 1993).
Financial barrier for developing countries to access new technology
According to FAO (1990b), technology transfer in developing countries involves
some 550,000 staff, most of them in public extension services, and costs about
US$4.5 billion annually. Under the influence of structural adjustment and declining
public funding, extension services have in recent years tended to shrink. Governments
and international organisations have the opportunity to encourage the private
sector to promote effective modalities for the access and transfer, in particular
to developing countries, of ESTs through grants and concessional loans.
Technology developments respond to local conditions
There is a close relationship between the development of technology and technology
transfer. Hayami and Ruttan's theory of induced innovation best describes this
process (1985). They link resource scarcity with the economic incentive to overcome
that scarcity through the development of new technology (Sanders et al., 1996).
Thus, a country like Japan, which has a scarcity of land, will develop an agricultural
technology which is land saving. This includes higher yielding varieties, better
irrigation, and terracing of land. A country like the United States, which had
a scarcity of labour, proceeded in another direction, developing a labour saving
technology in agriculture that includes: the mechanical reaper, the steel plow,
and the combine harvester. Both in Japan and the United States, and in other
countries with specific resource scarcities, institutions were established to
develop the technology and assist the technology transfer. Examples would be
the Land Grant University in the United States and the itinerant farmer in Japan.
For developing countries, policies to assist technology transfer might include:
- An accelerated international effort to collect germ plasm from species
(such as drought resistant crops) whose qualities will be most valuable in
- The expansion of credit and savings schemes, to assist rural people to
manage the increased variability in their environment;
- Shifts in the allocation of international agricultural research for the
semi-arid tropics towards water-use efficiency, irrigation design, irrigation
management and salinity, and the effect of increased CO2 levels on tropical
- The improvement of food security and disaster early warning systems, through
satellite imaging and analysis, national and regional buffer stocks, improved
international responses to disasters, and linking disaster food-for-work schemes
to adaptation works (e.g., flood barricades);
- The development of institutional linkage between countries with high standards
in certain technologies, for example flood control and GPS (Touche Ross, 1991).
Special problems of technology transfer among developing countries
The main flow of technology transfer to deal with climate change is from developed
to developing countries, as emphasised by UNFCCC and The Kyoto Protocol. Some
cases of the existing technology transfer between developing countries are beneficial
to climate. International organisations and relevant developed countries could
encourage the existing technology transfer among developing countries.
Institutional capacity on agricultural research is limited in developing countries.
A matter of great concern is the state of the national agricultural systems
(NARSs) in developing countries, many of which have declined in capacity over
the past decade or two. In the past, developed countries provided support to
strengthen NARSs and to make them more effective, but since 1985 this support
has dwindled hughly and appears poised to disappear entirely. This declining
support comes at a time when developing countries are facing problems of competition,
trade and economic restructuring. This seems to make the continued linkages
with these programmes even more needed.
Operational budgets per researcher in many developing countries have been
declining in recent years.
Due to the restriction this places on researchers' access to their clients,
much national research remains of little practical relevance. Effective links
to extension and feedback cannot be properly established. National institutes
have often been slow to adopt a client-oriented approach in research programming.
The biggest barrier for technology transfer among developing countries may
be the shortage of financial support. Technology recipients need new investments
to adopt new technology. The providers need to ensure human and financial
resources to transfer the technology. The extent of technology transfer may
be limited by the shortage of financial resources. If the technology is to be
transferred between developing countries, both the technology provider and the
recipient may need new and additional financial resources. Additional financial
resources may need to be accompanied by the removal of institutional barriers
in order to be effective. Cost-sharing may be an important safeguard.