Despite the vast research on the effectiveness of technology transfer or the adsorptive capacity of the nation, society, or firm receiving the technology, little is known about the nature of the failure of technology transfer. When failure does occur, it is too often diagnosed in absolute terms, without delving into the possibilities of particular instances of success obscured by the overall disappointment. As a step toward examining failure more fully, this study explores two examples of technology transfer from post–World War II Peronist Argentina (1946–1955): the development of the Pulqui II jet fighter and the atomic fusion research project known as el Proyecto Huemul. An analysis of the complex historical contexts in which these cases of failure took place and the individual components of technology transfer—people, knowledge, institutions, and machines—yields three main conclusions. First, one historical context in particular, Argentina's policy of import-substitution industrialization, clearly contributed to the short-term failure of these projects. Second, the reliance of the national innovation system on state-sponsored research and development made implementation of technical success unachievable. Finally, the lack of knowledge transfer from the German scientists, engineers, and technicians involved with these projects to Argentine personnel ensured the long-term failure of the transfer of this technology. Overall, this study helps us to understand that the complexities of technology transfer projects found in historical contexts and technology components drive the difficult task of determining the triumph or disappointment of technology transfer. In addition, this analysis refines our understanding of the nature of failure itself.


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pp. 73-98
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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