Technology transfer is a (usually complex) process which cannot be adequately described by a simple line. It may be necessary for scientific or technological resources and many elementary technologies to merge before a functional system can be built.
The technological gap between developed and developing countries is wide and for most of them increasing. Technology flows tend to be associated with investment in and expansion of technologically sophisticated industries. A better understanding needs to be achieved of the various channels for transfer of technology, such as foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade. Technology does not automatically flow from developed countries to developing countries. Reducing the technology gap requires efforts on the part of developing countries to acquire and cultivate technology, as well as efforts on the part of developed countries to transfer technology and know-how.
Technology transfer should be understood in a broad sense encompassing technology co-operation with respect to access to and availability of technologies as well as institutional development and capacity building to identify and use appropriate technologies, including indigenous and local technologies. Objectives for technology transfer should be based on the fact that useful technologies exist in the public as well as in the private domain and that an adequate legal and economic framework, including intellectual property regimes, is necessary in order to facilitate technology co-operation and transfer. The need for relevant technology is especially present in developing countries.
There is need for an exchange of best practices and the provision of technical and, where possible, financial assistance to countries seeking to improve their technological capabilities. There is also need for the provision of advisory services to countries, and even firms, to help them articulate needs for specific technology, to acquire it knowledgeably and to use it effectively. Among the obstacles to effective transfer of technology to enterprises located in developing countries are the weak infrastructures, restricted financial resources and limited bargaining capacity of recipient enterprises.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Agenda 21 recommends that:
The importance of transfer of technology to developing countries has been recognized in various forums. In the context of WTO, the TRIPS Agreement states that developed country members should provide incentives to their enterprises and institutions for the purpose of promoting and encouraging technology transfer to the least developed countries in order to enable them to create a sound and viable technological base.
The Keidanren Global Environment Charter (Japan) requires companies to seek appropriate means for the domestic and overseas transfer of their technologies, know-how and expertise for dealing with environmental problems and conserving energy and other resources.
Simple international mechanisms are needed to monitor the transfer of technologies and their effect on the environment. There is a particular danger that technologies and equipment which have been phased out by industrialized countries will be transferred or sold to other countries with more lax regulations. Surveillance and action are needed to forestall this.
Technologies such as environmentally sound technologies, biotechnology and new materials development also present opportunities for developing countries provided they have access to these technologies and the skills, absorptive capacity and finance to adopt and adapt them.
The widespread adoption of designs and technologies that have been developed in advanced industrialized countries aggravates local development. They are often unsustainable and inappropriate in the light of supply of local resources and indigenous social and economic conditions. They increase dependence on imported plant, materials and equipment, as well as foreign professionals and contractors, while inhibiting the development of local resources.
The technological gap between developed and developing countries is wide and for most of them increasing. Technology flows tend to be associated with investment in and expansion of technologically sophisticated industries. A better understanding needs to be achieved of the various channels for transfer of technology, such as FDI and trade. Technology does not automatically flow from developed countries to developing countries. Reducing the technology gap requires efforts on the part of developing countries to acquire and cultivate technology as well as efforts on the part of developed countries to transfer technology.