Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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1.5 Stakeholders, Decisions and Policies

Technology transfer is embodied in the actions taken by individuals and organisations. The investment and trade decisions made by firms, acquisition of knowledge and skills by individuals through formal education and on-the-job experience, purchase of patent rights and licenses, assimilating the published results of public or private research, development and demonstration (RD&D) activity, and migration of skilled personnel with knowledge of particular technologies, all represent different forms of technology transfer. Technology transfer can also be influenced by government aid and financing programs, and by multilateral bank lending. Governments can implement policies that promote R&D programmes that address global climate change concerns in sectors such as energy, forestry, and transportation. The role of governments is especially important for those climate-related technologies, which are not immediately viable and profitable. An overview of how environmental policies influence technology development and diffusion in OECD countries describes public-private partnerships for developing environmental technologies and policies aiming at diffusing them (OECD, 1999, see also Section 5.6 for a more elaborate treatment of public-private partnerships).

The rate of technology transfer is affected both by motivations that induce more rapid adoption of new techniques and by barriers that impede such transfers. Both types of factors can be influenced by policy. Table 1.1 shows a typology of different types of stakeholders, their motivations, and the kinds of decisions or policies they can adopt that relate to technology transfer. The taxonomy of stakeholders is further described in Annex 1-1, which could be a useful reference for policymakers to consult. Motivations of the various stakeholders can differ markedly:

  • Transnational or multinational corporations are major sources of technology. They seek international sales, market share, and cheaper production costs through equipment transfers and foreign direct investment. Corporations are primarily concerned about profits, acceptable risks and ensuring protection of intellectual property.
  • Recipient-country firms are also motivated to transfer technology to minimise costs, just as with transnational corporations. But other motivations may be quite different from those of supplier firms, such as: (a) technical capabilities, quality, or cost reductions that they cannot achieve on their own; (b) the higher perceived status of "international level" technologies; (c) access to managerial and marketing expertise and sources of capital; (d) access to export markets; and (e) access to new distribution networks.
  • Recipient governments may seek to increase capabilities for domestic technology-development and promote foreign investment in their country. At the local level, communities and community organisations need to be reached by information networks, get organised and participate in decision-making processes to improve local living standards and the quality of the environment via appropriate technologies.
  • Provider or donor governments may set up policies to encourage technology transfer and fund transfers of research and expertise via Official Development Assistance (ODA) to support development and political goals, but more often are interested in policies that expand foreign markets for their national firms and increase exports.
  • Multilateral agencies with development goals, such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Regional Development Banks and Regional Organisations, pursue technology transfer to support development and as an instrument for achieving desired economic and policy reforms.
  • Multilateral agencies with environmental goals, such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), have the transfer of ESTs as an explicit objective, and explore new and effective means to accomplish these objectives, by catalysing sustainable markets and enabling private sector involvement in the transfer of these technologies (see Box 5.2 for further reference on the GEF).
  • Non-governmental organisations have been at the forefront of concerns about technology choice and the "appropriateness" of technologies transferred through development assistance and commercial channels, the social and cultural impacts of such transfers, and the needs for technology adaptation to suit local conditions and minimise unwanted impacts.

The decisions and policies shown in Table 1.1 represent another point of departure for thinking about barriers to technology transfer and interventions for overcoming such barriers. Each of these decisions and policies will face a set of barriers that will limit their realisation. We see throughout this Report how interventions affect the decisions and policies presented in Table 1.1. (For further reference on the link between relevant policy tools with barriers see Table 4.1 and 5.1 which also indicate the relevant sectors).

The relevant aspects of the capacity for technology choice - a true measure of the capacity to make independent decisions on sustainable development - are a separate issue, and are taken up in Chapters 3-5, while the criteria for the effectiveness of technology transfer are elaborated upon in Annex 1-2 and briefly in Chapter 6.

Table 1.1 Principal stakeholders and their decisions or policies in technology transfer
Stakeholders Motivations Decisions or Policies that Influence Technology Transfer


  • national/federal
  • regional/provincial
  • local/municipal
Development goals
Environmental goals
Competitive advantage
Energy security
Tax policies (including investment tax policy)
Import/export policies
Innovation policies
Education and capacity building policies
Regulations and institutional development
Direct credit provision

Private-sector business

  • multinational
  • national
  • local/microenterprise

(including producers, users, distributors, and financiers of technology)

Market share
Return on investment
Technology R&D/commercialisation decisions
Marketing decisions
Capital investment decisions Skills/capabilities development policies
Structure for acquiring outside information
Decision to transfer technology
Choice of technology transfer pathway
Lending/credit policies (producers, financiers)
Technology selection (distributors, users)


  • multilateral banks
  • GEF
  • bilateral aid agencies
Development goals
Environmental goals
Return on investment
Project selection and design criteria Investment decisions
Technical assistance design and delivery Procurement requirements
Conditional reform requirements

International institutions

  • WTO
  • OECD
Development goals
Environmental goals
Policy formulation
International dialogue
Policy and technology focus
Selection of participants in forums
Choice of modes of information dissemination


  • research centres/labs
  • universities
  • extension services
Basic knowledge
Applied research
Knowledge transfer
Perceived credibility
Research agenda
Technology R&D/commercialisation decisions
Decision to transfer technology
Choice of pathway to transfer technology

Media/public groups

  • TV, radio, newspaper
  • Schools
  • Community groups
  • NGOs
Information distribution
Collective decisions
Collective welfare
Acceptance of advertising
Promotion of selected technologies
Educational curricula
Lobbying for technology-related policies

Individual consumers

  • urban/core
  • rural/periphery
Expense minimisation
Purchase decisions
Decision to learn more about a technology
Selection of learning/information channels
Ratings of information credibility by source

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