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Research and development and technology transfer

One of the most critical aspects of the overall value of research relates to the transfer of results to practitioners. Kingsley et al. (1996) discuss the processes of technology transfer and technology absorption based on a set of 31 case studies of research development and demonstration (RD&D) projects. They define technology transfer as the use of technology or technical information outputs by a party external to a project. Technology absorption is described as the use of output by contractors, sub-contractors, or co-sponsors participating in an RD&D project.

Branscomb (1992a) indicates that technology is the single most important factor driving the evolution of global competition and that over the last 40 years government policies have focused on increasing the supply of new technologies primarily through the funding of defense-related research and development. He indicates that what is important in the global economy is not necessarily the creation of new technologies but the ability to absorb and apply new innovations rapidly. To this end, government should stimulate the demand for innovative ideas in industry by encouraging collaborative research, investing in technological infrastructure, and helping organizations improve their capacity to adapt innovations to specific business needs.

Bozeman and Coker (1992) discuss assessments of the effectiveness of technology transfer from US Government R&D laboratories. Three success criteria are discussed, two of which are based on self evaluations. The self-evaluations focus on two different types of effectiveness- getting technology out the door, and having a demonstrable commercial impact. The third criteria discussed is the number of technology licenses issued from the laboratory. The authors conclude that multi-faceted, multi-mission labs are likely to be most successful in technology transfer.

Kahin (1994) discusses new opportunities for managing and communicating scientific and technical information arising from the advance of computer and network technologies. He indicates that there are however, substantial costs and risks associated with the development of effective knowledge management systems and that it is difficult to organize potential users for cost-recovery. Inter-institutional cooperation and standards development are suggested and a proposal for an organization that would support cooperative efforts in specialized areas is described.