Historical Patterns in the Scholarship of Technology Transfer

This essay is the first in a series authored by each Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Technology Transfer and Society to provide a sense of the scope and range of coverage the journal provides. It offers a historian's view of the development of the scholarship about technology transfer over the past half century, interweaving two primary threads. First, it identifies events and circumstances that have influenced and shaped real-world efforts to move technology in its many guises across boundaries— national, geographic, institutional, organizational, social, or otherwise. These historical situations have had a profound impact on the efforts of American policymakers and leaders in business, government, universities, and nongovernmental organizations who deal with technology transfer. These circumstances have produced significant changes of emphasis in the definition of technology transfer at different points in time. Scholars interested in technology transfer have taken their cues from the unfolding events of history, but they have also worked within a variety of disciplinary traditions. The second strand of this essay surveys a number of these disciplinary approaches to the study of technology transfer, with attention to a few principal problems and issues scholars have identified. By connecting historical events and trends within academic disciplines, this essay provides an overview of basic patterns within the scholarship related to technology transfer since 1950.