Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

Other reports in this collection

2.1 Building capacity

Capacity building is required at all stages in the process of technology transfer. It is a slow and complex process to which long-term commitments must be made for resources and to which the host country must also be committed if results are to bear fruit. For enhancing the transfer of ESTs, the focus should be on building human, organisational and information assessment capacity. Moreover, integrating human skills, organisational development and information networks is the key to effective technology transfer. Social structures and personal values evolve with a society's physical infrastructure, institutions, and the technologies embodied within them. New technological trajectories for an economy therefore imply new social challenges. This requires a capacity of people and organisations to continuously adapt to new circumstances and to acquire new skills. Governments can support the establishment of dynamic flexible learning mechanisms not only at the national level, but also at a level of sub-national regions. This applies both for mitigation and adaptation technologies. Comparatively little consideration has been given in a systematic way to what capacity building is required for adaptation to climate change.

Human capacity
There are many failures of technology transfer that result from an absence of human and institutional capacity. This makes adequate human capacity essential at every stage of every transfer process. The transfer of many ESTs demands a wide range of technical, business and regulatory skills. Capacity is needed to assess, select, import, develop and adapt appropriate technologies. Accumulated technology transfer experience indicates that developing countries enterprises are not always able to effectively exploit the diversity of available technological options and services. Policies aimed at ensuring the availability of these skills locally can enhance private international investments through which much technology is diffused.

Many ways of developing capabilities for the assessment, agreement, and implementation stages of technology transfer are suggested by development experience: (a) formal training of employees, (b) technological gatekeeping, by keeping informed of technical literature, forming links with other enterprises, professional and trade organisations, and research institutions; (c) learning by doing-operational experience such as through twinning arrangements with other firms.

Implementing such activities involves different responsibilities for developed and developing countries. The donor agency understanding or concepts of capacity building have frequently been that they can be developed or strengthened along the lines of management and organisational models of the donor countries. However, the experiences and results of over three decades of capacity and institutional building in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, suggest that these assumptions or concepts do not necessarily hold. Developed country governments could therefore pay more attention to ensure that training and capacity building programmes they sponsor are in full co-operation with all relevant stakeholders, including local governments, institutions and stakeholders, NGOs, community organisations, commercial organisations and consumers and take into account local conditions under which these may be provided.

Developing country governments can build local capacities to gear them for technology transfer. Training and human resource development have been popular development assistance activities. Future approaches can be more effective by better stressing the integration of a total package of technology transfer, focusing less exclusively on developing technical skills and more on creating improved and accessible competence in associated services, organisational know-how, and regulatory management. The engineering and management skills required in acquiring the capacity to optimise and innovate are essential. Various kinds of high quality training are needed to embody in personnel of the receiving firm the skills, knowledge and expertise applicable to particular products and processes.

Organisational capacity
The historical legacy of development efforts, i.e. the failure of top-down, technology focused development, has provoked a reassessment of the appropriate roles of the community, government and private sector in development and technology transfer. It is now widely recognised that involvement of community institutions is an essential part of successful sustainable development and is therefore an important factor for the successful transfer of climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies. The involvement of local government agencies, consumer groups, industry associations and NGOs can help to ensure that the ESTs being adopted within their particular country/region are consistent with their sustainable development goals.

Besides the involvement of such community institutions, lessons from technology intensive economies teach that technology increasingly flows through private networks of information and assessment services, management consultants, financial firms, lawyers and accountants, and technical specialist groups. These new insights make it important for governments to strengthen the networks in which these diverse organisations can contribute to technology transfer. Although many actions that facilitate the growth of such networks are already underway, initiatives of particular importance to EST transfer include:

  • Expansion of opportunities to develop firms for management consulting, accounting, energy service, law, investment and product rating, trade, publishing and provision of communication, access to and transfer of information, such as Internet services;
  • Encouragement of industry associations, professional associations and user/consumer organisations;
  • Participatory approaches to enable private actors, public agencies, NGO's and grassroots organisations to engage at all levels of environmental policy-making and project formulation;
  • Where appropriate, decentralisation of governmental decision-making and authority, in relation to technology transfer, to effectively meet community needs.

Information assessment and monitoring capacity
Information access and assessment are essential to technology transfer. However, focussing too narrowly on information barriers while ignoring the later stages of the transfer process can be counter-productive. Technology information programmes should be demand driven and results oriented to the degree possible. Information is most useful when it supports an actual technology choice, investment decision, etc.

Because of its public good characteristics, technology infrastructure required to generate new knowledge and information may lack direct economic value to one firm, and thus individual firms may lack adequate incentives to build technology infrastructure on their own. This points to an important role for governments to create the necessary information assessment and monitoring capacity. However, the roles of governments and private actors in technology assessment are changing. Private information networks are proliferating through specialised consulting and evaluation services and over the Internet. Increasing FDI also demonstrates that many ESTs can diffuse rapidly without direct government action.

Governments in developing countries, developed countries and countries with economies in transition may wish to consider:

  • Developing improved indicators and collecting data on availability, quality and flows of ESTs to improve monitoring of implementation;
  • Developing technology performance benchmarks for ESTs to indicate the potential for technological improvements;
  • Improving information systems and linking them to international or regional networks, through well-defined clearing houses (such as energy efficiency and renewable energy centres), information speciality firms, trade publications, electronic media or NGOs and community groups. In order to overcome information barriers, technology information centres have been widely advocated, but existing experience and literature does not provide enough certainty about exactly what is required for key stakeholders at critical stages.

Other reports in this collection

IPCC Homepage