In summary, technology transfer takes place between two or more organizations with the common goal of developing a useful product or service that can be sold in the public or private marketplace. At the same time, however, the interactions involve individuals who may be in vastly different institutional settings, and their perspectives on the challenge of commercialization may be significantly different. Thus, it is imperative that they develop a strong relationship that enables them to focus their energies on achieving a positive outcome. Collaboration is most effective when it is carried out on a continuing basis covering a variety of products.
As noted above, the linear model that depicts the movement of an idea from basic research to a successful product or service is often used in theoretical discussions to emphasize the different steps in the process of commercializing a product or service, but the steps are not usually discrete and the overall process is not so simple. Many deviations from the model, often linked to the human dimension of innovating for profit, are characteristic of successful endeavors. Furthermore, the process of developing a product does not necessarily lead to a successful business, and the failure rate of new businesses is substantial.
There are many examples in Western countries and Japan of successful technology transfer of ideas into commercial products that began in universities and research laboratories. Kazakhstani research managers and technology transfer specialists could benefit significantly from familiarization with the histories of a variety of examples of successful technology transfer and also with the reasons that other efforts failed. Of particular interest are steps that were taken to cope with unplanned developments in the innovation cycle and measures that reduced problems when it was necessary to deviate from planned activities.
International experts could, of course, visit Kazakhstan and recount the details of a variety of efforts that illustrate many of the pitfalls and responses in the commercialization process. This type of training would be of particular value if it were a long-term process wherein the foreign experts would become very familiar with local conditions. Also of value would be visits by key Kazakhstani specialists to laboratories and technology transfer centers abroad that have particularly good track records in bringing their products to market. They should also visit organizations that have successfully assisted government agencies in incorporating new goods and services into their public-sector programs. Such visits should include time in different geographic regions since successes or failures in many cases are a result of local circumstances.
The human dimension is key. The talent needed to successfully bring about technology transfer is in short supply, particularly in Kazakhstan, which has little modern experience in this area.