The beginning of the industrial revolution is usually used as the time frame from
which increases in the emissions and the accumulation in the atmosphere of greenhouse
gases (GHGs) are measured. The introduction of large numbers of new technologies
was the principal characteristic of the industrial revolution. It is thus not
surprising that a frequently expressed view in the worldwide deliberations on
global climate change has been "If the introduction of new technologies created
the problem, other new technologies will help us in solving it". In most
cases, the adequate technologies already exist, but not necessarily in the locations
where they could best be used to mitigate increases in the emissions of GHGs or
adapt to their impacts on the environment.
Sustaining development globally will require radical technological and related
changes in both developed1
and developing countries. Economic development is most rapid in developing countries,
but it will not be sustainable if these countries simply follow the historic polluting
trends of industrialised countries. Rapid development with modern knowledge offers
many opportunities to avoid bad past practices and move more rapidly towards better
technologies, techniques and associated institutions. But to achieve this developing
countries will require assistance with developing human capacity (knowledge, techniques
and management skills), developing appropriate institutions and networks, and
with acquiring and adapting specific hardware. Technology transfer must therefore
operate on a broad front covering these "software" and "hardware"
challenges, and ideally within a framework of helping to find new sustainable
paths for economies as a whole. A key element is choice. Hence the development
of societal and organisational structures that enable well-informed choices of
technologies which promote climate stability, adaptation to the effects of climate
change and sustainable development is essential. To a large extent, the state
of the environment today is the result of the technological choices of yesterday.
Similarly, the state of the environment in the 21st century will be determined
largely by the technologies we choose today (Trindade, 1991).
The bulk of technology transfers occur within the countries that generate them.
The transfer of technologies from the countries and companies that developed them
to other countries and entities that could put them to good use in reducing GHGs
has been an important theme in international deliberations leading to the UNFCCC.
The Convention, signed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED) in 1992, came into force in 1994, and requires (Article 4.1.c) the parties
to UNFCCC, "to promote and cooperate in the development, application, diffusion,
including transfer, of technologies, practices, and processes that control, reduce,
or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases" (UN, 1992).
Article 4.5 of the UNFCCC further states:
"The developed country Parties and other developed Parties included in Annex
II shall take all practical steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate,
the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how
to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement
the provisions of the Convention. In this process, the developed country Parties
shall support the development and enhancement of endogenous capacities and technologies
of developing country Parties. Other Parties and organisations in a position to
do so may also assist in facilitating the transfer of such technologies".
Another important outcome of UNCED was Agenda 21 (UN, 1993), a vision for the
21st Century based on the concept of sustainable development. Chapter 34 of the
Agenda, on the "Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation,
and capacity building" calls for access to scientific and technical information,
promotion of technology transfer projects, promotion of indigenous and public
domain technologies, capacity building, intellectual property rights, and long-term
technological partnerships between suppliers and recipients of technology. It
points out that "Technology cooperation involves joint efforts by enterprises
and governments, both suppliers of technology and its recipients. Therefore, such
cooperation entails an interactive process involving government, the private sector,
and research and development facilities to ensure the best possible results from
transfer of technology". It also recommends the utilisation of existing technological
information and promoting research partnerships and assessment networks and the
development of new ones.
The importance of "technology transfer" was also recognised in the Kyoto
Protocol to the UNFCCC, where Article 10c asks all Parties to "Cooperate
in the promotion of effective modalities for the development, application and
diffusion of, and take all possible steps to promote, facilitate and finance,
as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies,
know-how, practices and processes pertinent to climate change, in particular to
developing countries, including the formulation of policies and programmes for
the effective transfer of environmentally sound technologies that are publicly
owned or in the public domain and the creation of an enabling environment for
the private sector, to promote and enhance the transfer of, and access to, environmentally
sound technologies". The fourth Conference of the Parties (CoP-4) meeting
in Buenos Aires, in November 1998, further discussed the development and transfer
of technologies, where the SBSTA made a set of specific recommendations, with
a special emphasis on capacity building and consultative processes. Decision 4/CoP4
of CoP4 included a set of questions that are to be considered in these consultative
processes (see text Box 1.1). The CoP4 decision on technology transfer is fully
consistent with Agenda 21 and the Kyoto protocol, and added a fresh dimension
to the UBFCCC. The criteria for effective technology transfer are presented in
Annex 1-2, and constitute a useful checklist for policymakers
and other relevant stakeholders.
|Box 1.1 Questions included in Annex to Decision
4/CP.4 of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC that are to be considered
in the consultative process set up by this decision.
- How should Parties promote the removal of barriers to technology
transfer? Which barriers are a priority and what practical steps should
- How should Annex II Parties promote the transfer of publicly owned
- What additional bilateral and multilateral efforts to promote technology
co-operation to facilitate technology transfer should be initiated?
What should be the priority?
- Are existing multilateral mechanisms sufficient? Are new mechanisms
needed for technology transfer? If so, what are appropriate mechanisms
for the transfer of technologies among Parties in pursuance of article
4.5 of the Convention?
- What should be the objective of collaboration with relevant multilateral
institutions to promote technology transfer and what practical steps
should be taken?
- What additional guidance should be given to the financial mechanism?
- What sort of information is needed and how can this best be done?
- How could access to emerging technologies be facilitated?
- What role is the private sector playing in technology transfer? What
additional role can the private sector play? What barriers prevent their
- What technical advice on technology transfer is needed?
- What areas should be the focus of capacity building and how should
it be undertaken, e.g. what kind of activities, programmes and institutional
- How, to whom and in what format should developing country Parties
make their requests for assistance to assess required technologies?
- What technical, legal and economic information is needed? What practical
steps should be taken to promote and enhance access to such information
by national and regional centres?
- What type of process is needed to develop a consensus on practical
next steps to improve existing technology centres and networks in order
to accelerate the diffusion of clean technologies in non-Annex I Party
markets. What type of arrangement is needed to monitor progress?
- What measures, programmes and activities can best help to create
an appropriate enabling environment for private sector investment?
- How should the Convention oversee the exchange of information among
Parties and other interested organisations or innovative technology
co-operation approaches, and the assessment and synthesis of such information?
- How should information be compiled and synthesised on innovative
technology co-operation approaches? When should recommendations on such
approaches be forwarded to the Conference of Parties?
- How and when should information on projects and programmes of technology
co-operation which Parties believe can serve as models for improving
the diffusion and implementation of clean technologies internationally
under the Convention be provided to the secretariat?
- Can specific technology transfer goals be set?
- Can we develop indicators and accounting systems to track progress
on technology transfer?
- Are particular institutional arrangements needed to monitor progress?
It is widely believed that the provision of a favourable environment must be
based on equity concerns (Pachauri and Bhandari, 1994), and on participatory
decision-making to improve the chances that such enabling environment will be
sustainable. Others emphasise that a great deal of technology transfer will
be the consequence of commercial transactions, not through aid or grants, and
that the emphasis should be on developing a financial and legal framework to
promote investment and trade on climate mitigation and adaptation. In specific
situations, ways have to be found which establish the adequate balance between
these two positions. Actually, the two different positions may not be mutually
exclusive and could occur simultaneously.
Countries and organisations are affected differently by developments such as
climate change. While all countries need to co-operate in addressing global
climate change, their capacity to respond varies greatly. Furthermore, small
developing countries and least developed countries need special attention. Industrial
countries, by and large, have the knowledge and the financial resources necessary
to better respond to these challenges, but most of the countries in the world
are small developing countries, which have limited capacity to take initiatives
and require assistance in moving towards a sustainable development path. Some
organisations fear the additional costs of economic restructuring, whereas others,
who are ready for it, see the challenge providing many opportunities for them
The idea that a country should actively seek to transfer technology to another
country is a relatively new one, seen in practice only during the second half
of the 20th century (Siddiqi, 1990). For most of history, countries have sought
to protect knowledge of technologies, since knowledge is power -- military power
as well as economic power. Most technologies are improved incrementally over
time, but occasionally there are opportunities for leapfrogging, especially
for developing countries. It should be noted that the incremental improvement
of technologies is accompanied by a continuous process of social and organisational
change. The growth of multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations
system, as well as of transnational corporations, and developments in communications
and in intellectual property legislation were major factors in influencing technology
cooperation and change in recent history.
1.4 The Many Meanings of Technology Transfer and Innovation
Differing views of technology see it as a commodity, as knowledge, or as an socio-economic
process (Rosenberg, 1982). The classical economic view of technology as a commodity
holds that technology can be reproduced without cost and transmitted from one
agent to another. In this view, technology transfer is as simple as making a photocopy
of design documents or obtaining a working artifact. But this view of technology
has been supplanted by the view of technology as knowledge (Kranzberg, 1986).
This knowledge is brought about both through research and innovation (moving ideas
from invention to new products, processes and services in practical use), and
through a complex and often costly process involving learning from others. A useful
discussion of technology in relation to climate change is provided in Rip and
Many have concluded that technology transfer is most fundamentally this complex
process of learning (Levin 1993, Kranzberg 1986). "It is not unreasonable
to say that a transfer is not achieved until the transferee understands and can
utilise the technology" (Chen, 1996). A test of this criterion would be the
ability of the transferee to choose and adapt the technology to the local socio-economic
environment and raw materials, and to sell to someone else the original technology
with improvements. In the absence of such capacity to choose, transfer of inadequate,
unsustainable, unsafe, or "bad", but perhaps cheaper technology and
equipment can take place. The transfer during the 1980s of technology for the
production of inefficient refrigerators and the international trade of used cars
are cases in point.
The understanding of technology transfer is not helped by the tendency of public
discourse to lump "science" together with "technology". Each
may benefit from the other, but do not necessarily follow one from the other.
Some countries have good scientific traditions, but are relatively weak in developing
new technologies. Other countries may be world leaders in technology without having
many winners of Nobel Prizes. Often technology development leads to scientific
advance, which in turn may lead to new technology. Furthermore, while it may be
appropriate to think of science as "Public knowledge" (Ziman, 1968),
modern technology is very often "Private (or proprietary) knowledge".
Whereas scientific knowledge is available freely to all that are scientifically
literate, proprietary knowledge is not. As a form of knowledge, technology moves
from one organisation to another in a variety of ways. "The complex ways
in which knowledge moves from individual to individual and organisation to organisation
raises the first problem in effective technology transfer" assert Dodgson
and Bessant (1996). Effectiveness criteria for technology transfer are spelled
out in Annex 1-2 and summarised in Chapter
6. It may be worth repeating that technology is not simply a patent or a piece
of equipment, but knowledge, processes and practices.
Also important is an understanding of the complex networks through which those
involved in technology transfer can interact: "Networks are critical for
market creation [because of] their contribution to learning, specifically to the
generation of a broad social pool of knowledge related to the capital good in
question" (Teubal et al, 1991). Archibugi and Michie (1997) also emphasise
the learning process: "policy to support technology should address the diversity
of learning mechanisms and the conditions which enhance the learning capabilities
of firms". The understanding of technology transfer is different for different
stakeholders: governments and end-users need to understand the costs and benefits
of a technology; innovators need to understand how to adapt it; and firms need
to understand how to market it and how it meets user needs. These differences
are further elaborated in the typology of stakeholders presented in Annex
An increasing number of people feel uncomfortable with the term "technology
transfer". For some, the criticism is that there is an implicit view of technology
as an object, and its transfer is a one-time transaction that maintains the dependency
of the recipient (Heaton et al., 1994). They advocate a new mindset and terminology
--- technology cooperation --- to replace the notion that technology can be transferred
full-blown from one economic and cultural context to another. Martinot et al.
(1997) also prefer the concept of technology cooperation to technology transfer.
Grubler and Nakicenovic (1991) are amongst those who prefer the concept of technology
diffusion to that of technology transfer. For most of the people in this group,
diffusion represents a process of technological change brought about by dispersed
and uncoordinated decisions over time. Still others (Robinson, 1991) see technology
transfer as a two-way learning process that might more appropriately be called
While recognising these different views and meanings, the term "Technology
transfer" is generally used throughout this Report, in conformity with the
Title of the Report. In the Report the term "technology transfer" is
defined as the broad set of processes covering the flows of knowledge, experience
and equipment amongst different stakeholders such as governments, private sector
entities, financial institutions, NGOs and research/educational institutions.
The broad and inclusive term "transfer" encompasses diffusion of technologies
and technology cooperation across and within countries. It comprises the process
of learning to understand, utilise and replicate the technology, including the
capacity to choose it and adapt it to local conditions.
Technology transfer is not just from the North to the South. Most of the technology
transfer today at the international level actually takes place between one industrialised
country and another. Increasingly, however, technology transfer is also expected
to take place from the South to the North or between South and South. The Report
touches on these aspects in several Chapters.