Chapter 2
TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER

Effective technology transfer is a difficult and complex process. Even the definition of technology transfer is complex. Numerous definitions can be found,1 including one that concludes the term is too broad for a general definition to be useful! The National Technology Transfer Center defines technology transfer as “the process of utilizing technology, expertise, know-how, or facilities for a purpose not originally intended by the developing organization.”2 Because the NDCEE was established to transfer technologies developed for commercial applications to military uses, the NTTC definition was adopted for the purposes of this study.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER

One important measure of success in technology transfer is the extent to which the receiving organization spends its own money to use and advance the technology. This measure implies that the technology is economically viable. If a technology is demonstrated at an enterprise through direct involvement with the transferring organization, but is ignored by that receiving enterprise once the transferring organization departs, the transfer cannot be considered successful.

The following are prerequisites for successful technology transfer:3

  • The technology must be appropriate for the proposed application.

  • The technology must be at an appropriate level of maturity.

  • The recipient must be at an appropriate level to apply the technology.

  • The technology must meet the organizational needs of the recipient.

  • The technology must be economically viable.

The technology transfer process is widely accepted as a difficult one. It must be a process of cumulative learning, in the same manner as successful research and development.4 The difficulties of transferring a new technology to the world or merely transferring one that is new to a particular organization or site are comparable. In either case, knowing why a particular technology works is often as important as knowing how to make it work. Because technology transfer depends on the transfer of knowledge in the specific context of the adopting location, understanding the reasons for a particular technological choice is essential for building on the transferred knowledge. Thus, the transferring organization must also have a complete understanding of the processes being transferred.

Technology transfer is a way of linking knowledge to need. Understanding the user’s needs and their special circumstances and needs for products and processes are vital, as are continuing strong links between the users and the producers of the technology.

It is common practice to refer to technology transfer as a “contact sport.” This is to say that extensive contact between individuals in the transferring and receiving organizations is essential for a successful transfer. This contact may be formal or informal. Formal technology transfer, as documented by the publication of papers either by the transferor or the receiver, or by installation of equipment at the receiving organization, is important. However, publications and reports are generally less effective than the movement of people for transferring a technology, because much technical know-how is typically unwritten. Therefore, a successful transfer of technology may require extensive person-to-person

1  

Washington, D.C., chapter of the Technology Transfer Society. Available at <http://millkern.com/washtts/docs/ttdefmec.html>. Accessed February 2002.

2  

National Technology Transfer Center. Available at <http://www.nttc.edu/aboutnttc/faq.asp>. Accessed February 2002.

3  

Mansfield, E., A. Romeo, M. Schwartz, D. Teece, S. Wagner, and P. Brach. 1982. Technology Transfer, Productivity, and Economic Policy. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 29.

4  

Brooks, H. 1995. What we know and do not know about technology transfer: Linking knowledge to action. Published in Marshaling Technology for Development: Proceedings of a Symposium. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.



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Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technologies Chapter 2 TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER Effective technology transfer is a difficult and complex process. Even the definition of technology transfer is complex. Numerous definitions can be found,1 including one that concludes the term is too broad for a general definition to be useful! The National Technology Transfer Center defines technology transfer as “the process of utilizing technology, expertise, know-how, or facilities for a purpose not originally intended by the developing organization.”2 Because the NDCEE was established to transfer technologies developed for commercial applications to military uses, the NTTC definition was adopted for the purposes of this study. CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER One important measure of success in technology transfer is the extent to which the receiving organization spends its own money to use and advance the technology. This measure implies that the technology is economically viable. If a technology is demonstrated at an enterprise through direct involvement with the transferring organization, but is ignored by that receiving enterprise once the transferring organization departs, the transfer cannot be considered successful. The following are prerequisites for successful technology transfer:3 The technology must be appropriate for the proposed application. The technology must be at an appropriate level of maturity. The recipient must be at an appropriate level to apply the technology. The technology must meet the organizational needs of the recipient. The technology must be economically viable. The technology transfer process is widely accepted as a difficult one. It must be a process of cumulative learning, in the same manner as successful research and development.4 The difficulties of transferring a new technology to the world or merely transferring one that is new to a particular organization or site are comparable. In either case, knowing why a particular technology works is often as important as knowing how to make it work. Because technology transfer depends on the transfer of knowledge in the specific context of the adopting location, understanding the reasons for a particular technological choice is essential for building on the transferred knowledge. Thus, the transferring organization must also have a complete understanding of the processes being transferred. Technology transfer is a way of linking knowledge to need. Understanding the user’s needs and their special circumstances and needs for products and processes are vital, as are continuing strong links between the users and the producers of the technology. It is common practice to refer to technology transfer as a “contact sport.” This is to say that extensive contact between individuals in the transferring and receiving organizations is essential for a successful transfer. This contact may be formal or informal. Formal technology transfer, as documented by the publication of papers either by the transferor or the receiver, or by installation of equipment at the receiving organization, is important. However, publications and reports are generally less effective than the movement of people for transferring a technology, because much technical know-how is typically unwritten. Therefore, a successful transfer of technology may require extensive person-to-person 1   Washington, D.C., chapter of the Technology Transfer Society. Available at <http://millkern.com/washtts/docs/ttdefmec.html>. Accessed February 2002. 2   National Technology Transfer Center. Available at <http://www.nttc.edu/aboutnttc/faq.asp>. Accessed February 2002. 3   Mansfield, E., A. Romeo, M. Schwartz, D. Teece, S. Wagner, and P. Brach. 1982. Technology Transfer, Productivity, and Economic Policy. New York: W.W. Norton. p. 29. 4   Brooks, H. 1995. What we know and do not know about technology transfer: Linking knowledge to action. Published in Marshaling Technology for Development: Proceedings of a Symposium. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

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Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technologies contact, and at times will even require a transfer of personnel for extended periods of time. Personal relationships and a degree of trust also help to bridge organizational and cultural differences that can delay technology implementation. Although it is common knowledge that substantial resources are necessary to develop a new process or product, it is less well known that transferring technology, once it is developed, is an expensive, extended process. Sources of this cost include:5 The cost of preengineering technological exchanges, during which the basic characteristics of the technology are discussed with the receiving organization; The engineering costs of transferring the process design and the associated production engineering; The costs of research and development personnel, ideally from both parties, throughout all phases of the transfer, including solving unexpected problems during the transfer and adapting or modifying the technology as needed; and Pre-startup training costs and the costs associated with reduced productivity during the changeover. Many of the costs of technology transfer are typically borne by the recipient. Therefore, provisions must be made for meeting these costs, in terms of the specific technology and the specific conditions present. For a smooth transition, the parties must agree in advance on the equitable allocation of costs. Provisions for dealing with unexpected costs and conditions should also be written into the technology transfer agreement. The transferring organization’s understanding of the technology is critical and can be gauged by the number of startups of the technology. The following are five characteristics of successful innovators:6 A thorough understanding of user needs; Careful attention to marketing; Efficient development work; Effective use of outside technology and scientific advice; and Senior staff responsible for innovation. A critical point in materials development is the transition point between technology push from the research community and product pull from the users of technology. The development of a technology may be divided into the following five phases, where this critical point is listed as Phase 2.7 Phase 0 - Knowledge-Base Research Phase 1 - Material Concept Development Phase 2 - Material Process Development Phase 3 - Transition to Production Phase 4 - Product Integration. Phase 2 has been called the “valley of death” in the materials science and engineering community because of the formidable barriers that must be overcome. These barriers begin with the perception that funding is variable and unstable, relative to the earlier and later stages of development. They also include the high costs and long time frames associated with certifying an innovation in materials or processes, especially in fields with high complexity and liability potential such as aerospace, and the difficulty of accurately estimating the costs, technical trade-offs, and demand for a 5   See note 3 above. 6   Wang, Q., and N. Von Tunzelmann. 1998. A Study of the R&D/Marketing Interface Using SAPPHO Methodology. Brighton, United Kingdom: University of Sussex. 7   National Research Council. 1999. Materials Science and Engineering: Forging Stronger Links to Users. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

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Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technologies material or process in order to quantify the potential of the innovation. The wide spectrum of expertise required to complete the development of materials or processes is also a barrier, which is generally beyond the ability of any one individual and may require multidisciplinary teams. In addition, the difficulty of mobilizing academic researchers to work in this phase of research is difficult because of the perception that this work is not as valuable as the earlier phases of research. Finally, differences in cycle times between academic research and industry make long-term collaboration difficult. Technology transfer through a large corporation can be described as a form of Fibonacci series.8 The basic Fibonacci series begins with 0, then 1, and each successive result is the sum of the previous two results. The series representing the number of organizations using a technology tends to be as follows: 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13… indicating that a technology starts slowly but then catches on rapidly. When there are few users, resistance to adopting a new technology tends to be high, but once there are many users the technology is perceived as proven and tends to catch on rapidly, even if the supporting evidence is limited. This sequence reflects that few people are qualified to evaluate a technology on its own merits; so instead of evaluating the technology, they look around and see who else is using it. The spread of a new technology from the early adopters, who are willing to work out the “bugs” inherent in a new technology, to the bulk of users is a difficult journey.9 Most users of a technology wait until the technology is mature enough to be adopted easily. In the meantime, they observe the experience of early adopters to determine the usefulness and readiness of the technology for their needs. The mechanisms for communication of the technology from one location to another must be present for transfer to take place. The complexity of the process indicates that knowledge alone is not sufficient. The barriers to successful technology transfer must all be addressed and overcome in an effort parallel to the development of the technology itself. These barriers are:10 Lack of awareness of available technologies and organizations available to assist; Lack of the knowledge needed to use the technology; Lack of funds; lack of common interests between the transferring and recipient organization; Conflict of interest that would compromise the competitive position of the recipient organization; Lack of trust between the transferring and receiving organization; poor communication; lack of resources, such as equipment; and Lack of time to develop and implement a new process. The following additional factors can prevent success: Technical problems, which generally can be overcome, but can add time, cost and frustration; Resource limitations, such as uncertainty about funding or poor budget control; Changes in a project, such as withdrawal of a partner or the loss of key staff members; and Organizational problems, such as a partner losing interest in the technological area. TRANSFER OF POLLUTION PREVENTION TECHNOLOGIES The successful transfer of a pollution prevention technology requires a detailed understanding of the needs and characteristics of the product to which it will be applied and the facility to which it is being transferred. Unfortunately, most technology transfer does not start with this level of understanding; in fact, “most of the process change literature is inadequately detailed and very few industrial operations are so generic as to allow direct implementation of waste reduction measures from published materials without significant in-house research and experimentation.”11 The challenge of achieving pollution 8   Jones, C. 1995. Why is technology transfer so hard? IEEE Computer 28(6):86-87. 9   Moore, G. 1995. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers. New York: Harper Business. 10   Cooke, I., and P. Mayes. 1996. Introduction to Innovation and Technology Transfer. Norwood, Massachusetts: Artech House Technology Management and Professional Development Library. 11   U.S. Congress. 1986. Serious Reduction of Hazardous Waste: For Pollution Prevention and Industrial Efficiency, OTA-ITE-317. Washington, D.C.: Office of Technology Assessment, p. 99.

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Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technologies prevention goals in diverse, decentralized companies is very analogous to that in the government.12 Despite the common assumption that the Department of Defense is a monolithic organization managed from the top down, the department’s decentralized methods of manufacturing and maintaining weapons systems have much in common with those functions of a decentralized corporation. Geographic proximity and direct communication, including informal interactions between employees, are critical for the transfer of a pollution prevention technology in such a decentralized organization. Utilizing process teams can enhance communication across traditional organization and job function lines in technology transfer, as well as many other fields.13 In addition, the Internet has provided new means of establishing communications between geographically distant locations. However, the formation and maintenance of long-distance relationships require the development of two other types of proximity—organizational proximity and cultural proximity. Organizational proximity can be promoted through membership in joint project teams or by the placement of employees in the facilities of a cooperating organization. Cultural proximity typically evolves over time but can be promoted through the adoption of common business practices, jargon, ethical standards, and language.14 Organizations that have extensive experience with change and product and process innovation are more likely to be successful in adopting a technology than are organizations with a history of resisting change. Often, opportunities to reduce emissions occur coincidentally with other process changes, and an innovative organization will be able to take advantage of those coincidences. It has been postulated that any change implemented in a product or process creates opportunities for implementing pollution-reducing technologies as well.15 The elements of economic pressures and competing interests, however, cannot be underestimated. Although a process change may make long-term economic sense, external business factors can prevent implementation. For example, even with a potential savings of more than $1 million per year, a major chemical facility did not implement identified pollution prevention strategies because of competing business and economic factors.16 In both the military and the commercial arena, economic pressures are strong to continue using relatively mature processes rather than introducing change. Carefully designed organizational relationships and agreements are essential to technology transfer.17 Relationships between the transferring organization, the recipient, and any intermediaries, such as regulators, can be defined through a contract or contracts carefully structured to the mutual advantage of all parties. Contracts can also ensure the security of proprietary information and allow for change in the relationship over time. The owners of intellectual property naturally resist sharing their hard-earned knowledge, unless they are assured that the information will be secure. Increasingly specific and restrictive emission regulations make it likely that pollution prevention technologies will be developed and transferred.18 To a large degree, pollution prevention efforts have been driven by regulatory changes. In general, innovation occurs only when (1) stringent regulations are adopted and firms must innovate to comply, and (2) programs are developed specifically to encourage innovation.19 If schedules for meeting regulations are too short, they may, in fact, limit innovation. The 1970 Clean Air Act is an example of stringent deadlines forcing the adoption of end-of-pipe compliance technologies, rather than process change. For many technologies, the trade-off between direct environmental cost avoidance, indirect environmental improvements, and the cost of the technical effort to develop and implement technologies is subject to constant change. Indirect costs, including permitting, monitoring, reporting, penalties, or environmental damages must be considered when evaluating the implementation costs for such new technologies. As regulations are implemented and interpreted, organizations are driven toward new technologies, and indirect environmental costs and environmental cost avoidance can both gain in importance. For example, powder coatings have the potential to reduce volatile organic carbon (VOC) emissions to essentially zero, whereas the application of aqueous coatings or high-solids coatings 12   Rappaport, A. 1993. Development and Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technology. Westport, Connecticut: Quorum Books. 13   See note 12 above. 14   National Research Council. 2000. Surviving Supply Chain Integration: Strategies for Small Manufacturers. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 15   See note 12 above. 16   Greer, L, and C. van Löben Sels. 1997. When pollution prevention meets the bottom line. Environmental Science and Technology 31(9):418A-422A. 17   See note 14 above. 18   See note 12 above. 19   See note 12 above.

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Transfer of Pollution Prevention Technologies results in comparatively large VOC emissions. Direct environmental cost accounting may not recognize this difference, yet there is an environmental improvement to be made by going to powder coating technologies. Reduction in VOC emissions in urban areas has a positive impact on air quality and improved health for residents, but it is difficult to quantify with a dollar figure. Finally, the cost of implementing new technologies will decrease as more organizations adopt them. International technology transfer may provide a convenient analogy for relationships between organizations involved in pollution-prevention efforts. In both cases, the recipient organization must work with an unfamiliar, and perhaps mistrusted, outside organization. In international situations, the recipient may fear becoming technologically dependent or that the transferring organization may not act in the interest of the recipient.20 To allay these fears and emphasize the necessity of joint effort, transferring organizations often refer to the process of technology transfer as “technological cooperation.” This change in terminology reflects a useful change in the mind-set at the corporate or organizational level and is not just a politically correct term.21 ROLE OF AN INTERMEDIARY IN TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER The observations concerning the broad scope of knowledge and leadership qualities required for successful technology transfer support the view that an intermediary organization could greatly facilitate new technology adoption. A system for assessing the maturity and viability of a technology, with the full involvement of the developers, potential recipients, and other involved parties, is also necessary for success. An intermediary organization, which can facilitate but not control a transfer, must have excellent leadership skills, be able to develop person-to-person relationships, and must engender trust. The intermediary is primarily an integrator and should be perceived by the recipient organization as a part of a larger encompassing organization rather than an outsider. 20   See note 3 above. 21   See note 16 above.

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