Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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15.6.3 The Role of Stakeholders

Currently, the international flow of coastal-adaptation technologies is mostly government-driven. As in any technology transfer, governments create and sustain the conditions for the successful development and delivery of coastal-adaptation technologies. As the primary technology source, they must support continuous and targeted innovation by means of investments in education, R&D and scholarly and technical exchange programmes. Governments can take a proactive role in technology transfer by encouraging collaborative relations of national laboratories and universities with foreign-affiliated businesses, as well as the involvement of foreign nationals in publicly supported research. Claims that these policies result in the loss of knowledge assets paid for with public funds without fair compensation are mostly unfounded. Instead, the driving force of coastal technology transfer is often information sharing and, in an economic context, both parties benefit only when new knowledge, rather than currency or goods, is exchanged equally (Rollwagon, 1990).

For their part, universities must continue to invest and reward the conduct of basic research, since this is the "seed corn" for innovation. However, under the paradigm of international technology transfer they also have a responsibility to present new knowledge in forms that can be readily utilised by diverse audiences and to provide technical assistance. Since these activities do not generally lead to peer-reviewed publications, universities may wish to restructure reward systems to meet this new global social contract. Moreover, interdisciplinary approaches to understand systems rather than processes may benefit coastal adaptation and related technology transfer.

Although the companies that make up the coastal-technology sector generally have limited resources, many of the service providers in this sector can adopt practices that call for active participation and training of host-country users and joint project management. This leads to long-term relationships and potentially new business opportunities.

NGOs play a vital part in international technology transfer. They often serve as "knowledge translators" to bridge the gap between technology acceptance and application, and create and promote adaptive capabilities within the receiving country to sustain technology operation and maintenance, as well as enable repetition (Box 15.4; see also Section 4.4 on the role of NGOs in technology transfer).

Box 15.4 The role of NGOs
Non-governmental organisations can be used to promote new coastal-adaptation technologies, because they typically have close links to communities and individuals with a direct interest in the coast. NGO activities in the coastal zone are very diverse and range from environmental education, consultation, lobbying and campaigning to research into alternative coastal-management strategies (De Waal, 1994).

Much of the coastal-adaptation technology transfer can be developed at the grassroots level, based on the needs as identified by communities and individuals. The advantage of NGOs is their ability to reach into isolated communities, which often have little or no experience in communicating problems and concerns to government representatives, to manage the important community-development components of technology transfer. NGOs may have their headquarters in metropolitan countries as well as country field offices to facilitate grassroots networks. These country field offices can facilitate country-specific bilateral and non-government funding and technical assistance. On the other hand, regional programmes also allow for cost-effective provision of technical assistance, training and management of project funds.

The commonality of NGOs can be seen in terms of their wishing to retain maximum involvement of individuals in projects even when those projects involve institutional development for government. This approach is ideal for testing and introducing a range of adaptation technologies, especially simple ones, on a cost-effective basis. Cross-training and sharing of experiences, successes and lessons learnt between projects are essential features of the way NGOs operate. Quality control may also be enhanced for project monitoring and implementation by sharing tools and expertise. The success of this approach can be attributed to, amongst other things, the integration of individual needs with government programmes and cultural sensitivity.

More visible and controversial technology-transfer initiatives could engage NGOs (UNEP, 1996), but only where there is a high degree of mutual trust and two-way learning, not merely the transfer of money (Earle, 1997). Experience and case studies (cf. De Waal, 1994) show that of the various reactionary strategies available to NGOs, extensive public awareness and education campaigns, dialogue with all interest groups and extensive media attention are amongst the most effective.

NGOs may or may not have core-funding or an endowment source of funds to finance their operations. However, NGOs are often in a unique position to harness foreign funds for assistance and in administering development projects. Some NGO projects are implemented independently, other ones in cooperation with other NGOs, national institutions, government or grassroots organisations.

The UK-based NGO Oxfam provides a good example of technology transfer relying on generating synergies. Oxfam supports grassroots communities in coastal-management activities such as replanting mangroves and developing artificial reefs, while concurrently assisting national fishery organisations that provide support to those communities. Links are encouraged between the two organisations and more specialised lobbying organisations in order to change national legislation (Earle, 1997).

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