Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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5.6.2 Information Clearinghouses and Technology Transfer Agencies

In order for technology transfer transactions to take place, parties must know about each other and understand the costs and benefits of different technology transfer pathways. Often projects, particularly to introduce the new energy technologies, are conceived without proper understanding of the needs and priorities of the targeted users (Mapako, 1997). Consumers or purchasers must be aware that technologies exist, must know their performance characteristics, reliability, capital costs, operating costs, and economic benefits, and must know how to maintain and service technologies or know of firms who can. While in most of the developed countries there are a multitude of information sources, the same is not the situation in the developing countries. Interviews with more than a hundred negotiators and policymakers in developing countries can be summed up in the words of one interviewee: "we do not know what is available and what we really need" (Gupta, 1997, p.89).

Information clearinghouses and technology transfer agencies are specific forms of technology intermediaries that have been proposed by UN and other public agencies. These agencies point out that numerous public and private environmental information systems already exist. Improving these existing systems and linking them through clearinghouses can be a first step towards establishing an international network of technological information. A number of international information networks and databases that specifically address climate-mitigation technologies already exist (UN, 1997).

Although governments commonly set up information centres, in some countries, national or sector specific industry associations have also set up information centres. The information centres are of two types: information of a highly technical nature, required by larger energy consumers, and general information as would be required by households and small commercial establishments. Traditionally, schools and colleges, science centres, and museums have also been common vehicles for providing general information.

But beyond the simple supply of information, more sophisticated technology transfer agencies can actively promote knowledge transfer through a number of activities:

Notwithstanding the UN initiatives in this direction, many countries in the developing world and CEITs have initiated systems to provide information on different technologies. In a recent climate technology and technology-information-needs survey among developing countries under the auspices of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific and Technology Advice, 60% of the respondents pinpointed to national technology information centres as an important vehicle for dissemination of climate relevant technologies and practices. In over 75% of these respondents' home countries at least two such technology information centres exist (van Berkel & Arkesteijn, 1998). Successful energy-efficiency centres in several economies in transition (China, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, and the Czech Republic) are good examples of technology intermediaries that have been established with international assistance (Chandler et al., 1996). As another example, Box 5.6 describes national-level technology intermediaries in India for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Most developing countries have a large proportion of small and medium scale industrial concerns whose outputs constitute a significant portion of the GDP of these countries. The technology information needs of these enterprises may not be the same as that of big MNCs operating in these countries. Nevertheless the technology information centres springing up in developing countries do or can not serve MNCs. While the private sector has often been disdainful of such information programmes, many representatives of developing countries report that they find vendor information biased and confusing and need help to evaluate competing vendor claims. Such technology information centres can provide such help. The small and medium scale industries are generally short in management and technological capabilities, and can make effective use of information clearinghouses on ESTs. Having said that one should also realise that the small-scale industries or the so-called informal sector are far removed from such initiatives, thus it is desirable that agencies use intermediaries to reach them with this information.

Regulating electric power utilities to perform so-called Demand-Side Management (DSM) is a form of technology intermediation that became well established in the United States in the 1980s (see Box 5.7). Utilities in Germany, Denmark, Canada and other developing countries have followed. Now DSM programmes are being taken up in Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil and other developing countries as well (see also Case studies 10 and 23 in Chapter 16).

Box 5.6 National Technology Intermediaries in India

National-level government agencies acting as intermediaries can also be important in creating incentives and facilitating a market for cleaner technologies. The Energy Management Centre (EMC), an autonomous agency, under the Ministry of Power, Government of India, is an example of a technology intermediary for energy efficiency. EMC has been carrying out a number of initiatives to promote energy conservation and efficiency in India. To begin with, EMC set up and trained 25 agencies (public, private, NGOs), to provide specialised energy auditing and management to consumers in India. Each of these agencies are carrying out an average of 10-12 energy audits annually, and the feedback from the industry is that there is an urgent need for many more such professional agencies to be able to serve the consumers in the country. EMC also carried out a number of studies in the area of technologies for energy efficiency, issues relating to standards and labelling, as well as implementing a nation-wide energy conservation awareness project. EMC annually organises, through industry associations, about 20-25 training programmes and workshops for wider dissemination of information on energy conservation in the country. To date, it is reported that over 5000 professionals have been provided training in different aspects of energy efficiency. Regular feedback carried out indicated that the participants have actually implemented energy efficiency projects in their organisations. EMC was the executing agency for international cooperation projects with Germany, the European Union, and the Department of Energy (USA), among others.

The initiatives of the Indian Government implemented through the EMC have resulted in a significant rise in the exposure and awareness on energy conservation technologies. It is reported that there are proposals to introduce standards for appliance and energy consuming devices and these would be mandatory. Penalties for non-compliance would be enforced once the law is passed by the Indian parliament. Under a collaborative programme with the EU, EMC has set up an Information Service on Energy Efficiency (ISEE), jointly with a national industry association. The database established is expected to contain information on technologies, guide books, manuals, best practice programmes, a list of manufacturers, etc. and is expected to fill the gap in information for energy consumers.

The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) in India was established as an autonomous organisation of the Indian Department of Science and Technology, and has been particularly successful in making the public-private sector linkages, providing information on patent issues, and supporting start-up ventures. Each of these activities provides important examples for other similar, knowledge-based technology transfer policy offices.

The Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) in the nodal ministry responsible for providing the overall thrust and direction for increased adoption and installation of renewable energy devices in the country. MNES implements the programmes through the state governments and through state energy nodal agencies. MNES has separate programmes for biogas, solar thermal, solar PV, biomass gasifier, and for new technologies.

Box 5.7 Regulating Electric Power Utilities to be Technology Intermediaries

The key role played by electric utilities as technology intermediaries in promoting energy efficiency has been well established in scientific literature. Historically, utilities in the US began offering energy efficiency or demand side management (DSM) programmes to consumers after regulators made this a policy goal. The utilities were compensated by the utility commissions for any loss of revenue that may have occurred in this process, after accounting for other savings due to reduced fuel costs, etc. Investment on DSM is reported to exceed US $2 billion, and this is expected to account for about 14% of the new investment in the power sector in the US in 1994. Utilities in Germany, Denmark, Canada and other countries followed. Now DSM programmes are being taken up in Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil and other developing countries as well (see Case Study 10 and 23 on DSM in Chapter 16). These programmes are in their early phase, and they account for a small portion of the activities on energy efficiency in these countries. Utilities are essentially playing the role of information provider to start with; then they assist consumers to achieve energy efficiency at the consumers' premises. Several utilities have set up independent companies, 100% owned by the utility, which are outside the control of the regulator, since energy efficiency business was essentially unregulated.

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