Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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15.5.1 Incentives for In-Country Technology Transfer

The use and transfer of coastal-adaptation technologies worldwide has occurred mostly because of societal interventions and not in response to market forces. Examples of such interventions include direct governmental expenditures, regulations and policies and public choices. Each stakeholder-governments, universities and government-sponsored laboratories, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and local communities and landowners-has its specific interests, directions and objectives. Incentives for technology transfer vary according to each of these agendas, independent of the technology considered (Kuhn, 1990).

National governments are responsible for national security in the broadest sense, embedding issues of international economic competitiveness and national prosperity, national defence, environmental stewardship and improving the standard of living. Public-policy formulation and implementation of coastal adaptation are motivated principally by the need to reduce public costs associated with loss of property and life and preserving common goods. Likewise, economic considerations are a driving force for research and development (R&D) on coastal-adaptation technologies. Excluding information technologies such as GIS, most development and innovation of coastal-adaptation technologies occur in R&D programmes sponsored by national governments, either directly by government-owned or -controlled laboratories or indirectly by universities, R&D consortia and international research programmes (Capobianco, 1999). The private sector then refines and applies these technologies, usually in a government-sponsored project. Only rarely have government institutions themselves pursued opportunities for commercial exploitation of research results that lead to the recovery of royalties (Case Study 21).

Traditionally, the motivation for university-based research was scholarly reputation; user need and involvement and technology transfer was not considered important. Value was based on authorship of new knowledge and peer recognition. However, a growing number of universities are increasing their focus on applied R&D and more extensive connections are established with potential users of tangible results. For some universities, it is the desire to increase support for academic research. For other institutions, such as sea-grant colleges in the United States, the impetus is an expanded concept of their mandate to serve the coastal community.

The private sector seeks to generate profits. The community of coastal-technology private-sector companies is predominantly made up of small companies providing engineering and consulting services, with a small number of global players (Funnell, 1998; UNFCCC, 1999). Few are actively pursuing technology transfer (Stockdale, 1996). For most technological developments, the market is too small or diffuse to justify private-sector investment. The sector may generate appropriate technologies, but then relies on government funding to see it applied, usually on a project-specific basis. Motivations for technology transfer include leveraging limited resources with public financing for R&D, reducing commercial risk and increasing competitive advantage and market share for products and services (Stockdale, 1996).

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