There are many definitions of technology transfer. The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM): “Technology transfer is the process of transferring scientific findings from one organization to another for the purpose of further development and commercialisation.”
The process typically includes:
- Identifying new technologies
- Protecting technologies through patents and copyrights
- Forming development and commercialisation strategies such as marketing and licensing to existing private sector companies or creating new startup companies based on the technology
Technology transfer is usually the first step in technology commercialisation. This also implies that unless a technology is actually used, it has not been successfully transferred and will not ultimately provide public benefits. A “technology” may be an invention, a prototype, finished device, or know-how.
Policy conditions necessary for technology transfer include:
- Sustained research funding to provide pipeline of great ideas
- Ensure that intellectual property rights (IPR) are protected
- Encourage policies that attract investment capital support
- Support public funding through grants and other translational initiatives
Studies show that the bulk of technological progress in developing countries has been the absorption and adaption of preexisting but new-to-the-country or new-to-the-firm technologies, rather than the invention of new-to-the-world technologies (World Bank 2008). Advice given to most developing countries and sectors is that R&D should focus on the adoption and adaptation of preexisting technologies, not on efforts to expand the global technological frontier. The transition from such technology diffusion to technology commercialisation, or indeed the relevance of technology commercialisation for developing countries is less understood.