Darryl L. DePriest is the seventh presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Chief Counsel for the Office of Advocacy.
Prior to joining the Small Business Administration Office of...
United States Small Business Administration
Office of Advocacy
Technology Transfer to Small Manufacturers: A Literature Review
1995. 284p. Mt. Auburn Associates, Inc., and Regional Technology Strategies, Inc., Somerville, Massachusetts, under contract no. SBA-7640-OA-92
Ever accelerating technological change has intensified interest in the transfer of technology. Small firms play an important role in converting state-of-the-art technology from federal labs and universities; other small firms need to acquire state-of-the-market technology that is commercially available.
Technology transfer is the translation across organizations of knowledge that can be embodied in a process or a product. The knowledge may be explicit; frequently it is tacit--often called "know-how." Technology transfer includes any knowledge useful in the creation of new products and processes, and also the value of the technology, and principles of operation, management, and utilization.
The aim of this study is to review the literature to ascertain best principles and practices in technology transfer to small manufacturing firms.
Scope and Methodology
This research limits the subject of technology transfer to small manufacturing firms. The study pulls together into a comprehensive framework what has been reported in the literature about the effectiveness of various technology transfer strategies, methods, techniques, and mechanisms. More than 500 books, articles, and papers were reviewed for this study.
A "supply-side" technology transfer mechanism is established and managed by the generator of the technology, and may be more appropriate for the development of new technology. The analysis examines supply-side mechanisms for tech transfer found within federal laboratories, universities, and the private sector.
A "demand-side" mechanism is established and managed by, or on behalf of, the recipients of the technology, and may be more appropriate for diffusion of existing technology. The analysis examines demand-side mechanisms found within two groups, those promoting technology development and those promoting technology diffusion.
There is a wide variety of types of technology transfer--involving different purposes, different tech transfer institutions, and different tools. Different types of tech transfer are appropriate for different situations.
Much technology transfer concerns tacit knowledge, often called "know-how". Such knowledge is difficult to articulate and is best transferred via people, not paper. Formal and informal approaches can be mutually reinforcing. Small firms in general depend more on informal learning. The smaller the firm, the more likely that linkages with customers, suppliers, competitors, and experts will influence technology adoption. Programs that promote the integration of small firms into a broad and strong set of open-ended and informal relationships can be a low-cost, flexible, and dynamic means of expanding capacity and creativity and making the market more efficient.
The report makes clear that federal R&D laboratories, as well as university licensing and technology transfer offices, could do a better job of transferring technology to small firms. In many cases, increased marketing efforts--possibly through joint ventures--may be necessary.
The complete report is available from:
National Technical Information Service
U.S. Department of Commerce
5285 Port Royal Road
Springfield, VA 22161
Order Number: PB96-181029
Cost: A07 (paper); A02 (microfiche)
*Last Modified 6-11-01