Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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15.5.3 The Role of Stakeholders

By means of their regulatory and decision-making apparatus, national governments can stimulate the implementation of coastal-adaptation technologies by providing incentives to lower levels of government, as demonstrated in the case of the application of littoral cell-based management in England and Wales (Box 15.2). Thus, a government's operational responsibilities for coastal adaptation make it a developer and customer of adaptation technologies at the same time. As such, national governments need to balance investment in the development of new technology with support for information infrastructure and education and training. For example, governments can create mechanisms to bring together the fragmented coastal-technology private sector and foster partnerships and alliances that improve access to government-owned innovations, leverage talent and capital and share risks. National governments of many small and/or developing countries have neither the financial nor the human resources to facilitate development of technologies for coastal adaptation. The dilemma posed consequently is that such countries must depend either on other countries to produce appropriate technologies or upon developed countries and international agencies to sponsor R&D.

In countries with several levels of government, governments below the national level play a principal part in managing coastal resources and development. It is at this level that most coastal-adaptation technologies are implemented. Subnational governments do not account for a very large share of total investment in R&D for coastal-adaptation technologies. However, with their business and academic partners, they have knowledge of local and regional conditions that national governments cannot equal (Carnegie Commission, 1992; Moser, 1998). Subnational governments are most effective at timely communicating new ideas and priorities to the public, and putting the public's needs forward in national science and technology forums.

The traditional paradigm for science and technology innovation is that government laboratories concentrate their R&D on mission-oriented projects, universities confine themselves to basic research, and the private sector concentrates on shorter-term, more profit-oriented developments (Kozmetsky, 1990). National governments have the primary responsibility for creating conditions for successful coastal-adaptation technology transfer (Capobianco, 1999). This role includes nurturing and optimising a synergetic and symbiotic interrelationship between stakeholders in industry, academia and government (Kuhn, 1990). Accessible technologies, high-quality human resources, adequate physical infrastructure and a favourable public-policy environment are especially important.

The function of universities in the national research system is the creation of public knowledge. The primary role of academic research in coastal adaptation is the development and testing of generic design methodologies and tools, and the presentation of this emerging knowledge for effective exchange. When academic research is applied to a specific problem-solving situation, it may serve as a stimulus for new areas of research, resulting from reformulation of problems uncovered in technological development or assessment (Box 15.2). The research thus seeks a more in-depth understanding than required by the immediate needs of the original problem, ideally giving rise to new questions of conceptual importance (Brooks, 1993). Academic institutions also play a critical part in the dissemination of knowledge to numerous audiences. Knowledge dissemination serves to increase awareness amongst the public, and contributes to basic education and training in technical and problem-solving skills that are needed for effective technology transfer.

As opposed to companies focusing on climate mitigation, only a few of the larger coastal-technology companies are strongly involved in technology transfer (Stockdale, 1996). Where the manufacturing of hardware is involved, successful technology transfer requires an industrial provider. Furthermore, government and university laboratories generally do not have the mandate or resources for commercial-scale testing of new innovations, so leveraging resources by means of public-private sector partnerships are vital to widespread technology transfer and continuous improvement. Organisations such as WL | Delft Hydraulics, HR Wallingford and the Danish Hydraulic Institute combine original research with facilities capable of prototype testing. A significant portion of each organisation's R&D is done in collaboration with government partners (see also UNFCCC, 1999).

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) increasingly offer a new channel for accomplishing technology transfer in ways that governments and the private sector cannot, should not or will not act. The advantage of NGOs is that they can serve as catalysts to spark action and create diffusion networks at the grassroots level. NGOs have the unique capability of reaching isolated communities and stakeholders to provide the proper cultural and socio-economic contexts required for successful technology transfer (see also Section 4.4).

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