Technology Transfer: A Communication Perspective

Frederick Williams

David V. Gibson

This study arises out of the work carried out at the University of Texas at Austin, particularly the Innovation, Creativity, and Capital Institute, and the Technology Transfer Research Group.

For the purposes of structuring this book, technology is defined not only as process and product, but also as information that is put to use; knowledge and science are not defined; and technology transfer is defined as the iterative movement of applied knowledge through channels of communication, in the manner of the process school of communication. In that view, scientists are the information sources and clients are the destinations, dyads structured as groups or organizations. The earliest models adduced for such an approach are Berlo, McLuhan, and Schramm, and so the reader must be prepared to stroll through the chiaroscuro of the groves planted by Shannon and Weaver and mulched by McLuhan. These limitations are lifted a little to reveal that "technology transfer is often a chaotic, disorderly process," but it might have been more useful to illuminate the process with the enlightenment provided by the sociology of technology, e.g., the discussion of algorithmic and enculturational models of research in The Social Construction of Technological Systems, edited by Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, & Trevor Pinch, 1989.

Nevertheless, technology transfer itself is dealt with usefully, particularly in the bibliographic chapter, which lists 179 of the more than 3,000 items in a data base on technology transfer and technological innovation compiled as part of this overall project.

After an introductory chapter predicting the "coming economy" of technological innovation, intraorganizational and inter-organizational environments for research, management, and international linkages are described. Some contexts in which technology transfer can take place are dealt with: research consortia; university-industry linkages, including a detailed treatment of one such linkage in micro-electronics; the "spin-out process," i.e., the industrial commercialization of research from U.S. government funded laboratories; and networking scientists and industry by telecommunications links of many kinds--a useful international checklist for those researchers determined to share in electronic interchanges.

The final, and most interesting section, is about the international scene, with examples from India, Italy, Japan, and Mexico, as well as the multinational milieu.

The reader will learn about technology transfer in these pages, but may conclude that, because the study's goal of examining technology transfer as a communications process was inadequately defined, it could not be achieved.



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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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