Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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11.5 Programmes, Policies, and other Interventions for Technology Transfer between Countries

11.5.1 Barriers to Technology Transfer between Countries

Constraints of supply of new technologies
Shortage of technological information.
Because the developing counties lack access to information, they are not aware of what technologies fit their conditions and where they can find the suitable ones. International technology exchanges are helpful for overcoming this obstacle.

Shortage of capital.
Due to the long-term aspects of climate change, financial capital may also be a constraint to new technology.

Growth of agricultural research funding is slowing.
Agriculture is heavily dependent on climate in developing countries, so technology transfer is crucial for climate change adaptation and mitigation. The growth of agricultural research funding is slowing down, as Table 11.6 illustrates. This will impede the generation and transfer of technology. Funding trends for international research centres under the auspices of the CGIAR have shown a similar decline. Between 1971 and 1982 real spending for the CGIAR grew 14.3 per cent per year. Growth in real spending decreased to 1.4 per cent per year between 1985 and 1991, and decreased further to 0.5 per cent per year between 1991 and 1996 (Alston et al., 1998). Given the time lags between initial R&D investment and diffusion of technologies, it may be several years before the effect of this slowdown becomes noticeable on the availability of new technologies, but the negative effects seem certain.

Table 11.6. Growth in Public Agricultural R&D Spending in Developed and Developing Countries, 1971 to 1991
1971 TO 1981
1981 TO 1991
Developing countries
Sub-Saharan Africa
Other Asia and Pacific
Latin America & Caribbean
West Asia and North Africa
Developed countries

Barriers to private sector involvement
The worry about the absence of protection for intellectual property might be the key barrier to more private sector involvement in Technology Transfer. So it is important to adopt stricter IPRs to encourage greater private investment in agricultural R&D, and greater involvement in technology transfer to increase agricultural research funding. Many (particularly developed) countries have adopted stricter intellectual property rights (IPR) regimes for agrochemicals, agricultural machinery and biological innovations. A rationale for adopting stricter IPRs is to increase private appropriability of research benefits and to encourage greater private sector investment in agricultural R&D and greater involvement in technology transfer. Although evidence from the United States suggests that increased plant variety protection has stimulated private R&D and adoption of improved crop varieties, the issue of IPRs for genetic resources remains controversial. Particular areas of controversy are farmer and research exemptions to IPR protection, and whether and to what extent IPRs should be extended to developing countries (Frisvold and Condon, 1995, 1998; Knudson, 1998 in press). Recent theoretical literature suggests that there may be limits to how far IPRs should be extended internationally (Deardorff, 1992, 1993).

Financial barrier for developing countries to access new technology
According to FAO (1990b), technology transfer in developing countries involves some 550,000 staff, most of them in public extension services, and costs about US$4.5 billion annually. Under the influence of structural adjustment and declining public funding, extension services have in recent years tended to shrink. Governments and international organisations have the opportunity to encourage the private sector to promote effective modalities for the access and transfer, in particular to developing countries, of ESTs through grants and concessional loans.

Technology developments respond to local conditions
There is a close relationship between the development of technology and technology transfer. Hayami and Ruttan's theory of induced innovation best describes this process (1985). They link resource scarcity with the economic incentive to overcome that scarcity through the development of new technology (Sanders et al., 1996). Thus, a country like Japan, which has a scarcity of land, will develop an agricultural technology which is land saving. This includes higher yielding varieties, better irrigation, and terracing of land. A country like the United States, which had a scarcity of labour, proceeded in another direction, developing a labour saving technology in agriculture that includes: the mechanical reaper, the steel plow, and the combine harvester. Both in Japan and the United States, and in other countries with specific resource scarcities, institutions were established to develop the technology and assist the technology transfer. Examples would be the Land Grant University in the United States and the itinerant farmer in Japan.

For developing countries, policies to assist technology transfer might include:

Special problems of technology transfer among developing countries
The main flow of technology transfer to deal with climate change is from developed to developing countries, as emphasised by UNFCCC and The Kyoto Protocol. Some cases of the existing technology transfer between developing countries are beneficial to climate. International organisations and relevant developed countries could encourage the existing technology transfer among developing countries.

Institutional capacity on agricultural research is limited in developing countries. A matter of great concern is the state of the national agricultural systems (NARSs) in developing countries, many of which have declined in capacity over the past decade or two. In the past, developed countries provided support to strengthen NARSs and to make them more effective, but since 1985 this support has dwindled hughly and appears poised to disappear entirely. This declining support comes at a time when developing countries are facing problems of competition, trade and economic restructuring. This seems to make the continued linkages with these programmes even more needed.

Operational budgets per researcher in many developing countries have been declining in recent years.
Due to the restriction this places on researchers' access to their clients, much national research remains of little practical relevance. Effective links to extension and feedback cannot be properly established. National institutes have often been slow to adopt a client-oriented approach in research programming.

The biggest barrier for technology transfer among developing countries may be the shortage of financial support. Technology recipients need new investments to adopt new technology. The providers need to ensure human and financial resources to transfer the technology. The extent of technology transfer may be limited by the shortage of financial resources. If the technology is to be transferred between developing countries, both the technology provider and the recipient may need new and additional financial resources. Additional financial resources may need to be accompanied by the removal of institutional barriers in order to be effective. Cost-sharing may be an important safeguard.

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