- In this Issue
In previous issues of Comparative Technology Transfer and Society we have published articles that demonstrate that understanding the process of technology transfer and diffusion requires attention to the contextual issues that shape and determine final outcomes. Our editorial commitment is to examine transfer activities in their many institutional settings, which range from international development programs involving nongovernmental organizations and governmental agencies, to knowledge-management initiatives within large corporations and university technology-commercialization work. In this present issue, the full range of technology transfer activities is on display, in examples from both the contemporary world and from a historical perspective. We also have the benefit of work of scholars from three different countries whose cases examine developments in those and other countries and Japan.
In 2008, almost every large and mid-size U.S. university possessed an office intended to move technological innovations created by its faculty and students into the marketplace. A Google search for the term "university technology commercialization" returned 392,000 hits! For example, the University of Texas at Austin's IC2 Institute offers "an executive master's degree program like no other"—a Master of Science in Technology Commercialization (MSTC)—while the university also supports a separate Office of Technology Transfer outside the institute (IC2 Institute, 2008). This is a topic that has been explored in other articles in these pages (Coppola, 2007; Kozleski, 2004; Lockemann, 2004; Sobol & Newell, 2003). Beyond the United States, major changes have occurred in European universities over the past fifteen years, and Asian universities are every bit as involved in promoting technology commercialization (Naubahar & Baark, 2008; Siegel, Veugelers, & Wright, 2007).
In his article Identifying Superior Performance Factors Relevant to Australian University TTOs, Alan Collier adds to the growing literature that evaluates the efforts of these university programs of technology commercialization. His case study analysis examines data from 13 Australian universities, and two of his three conclusions concerning the common patterns found in successful university programs support our fundamental assertion that the success of any transfer initiative rests upon social and cultural factors. His first point—that the university must conduct excellent research with global potential—covers the technical factors, but his argument that the TTO (technology transfer office) must have a commercial focus and enjoy long-term support from the university's upper administration places great importance on pivotal cultural aspects of the process.
In their article Business Process as Tacit Knowledge Equilibrium, Monique French and Ben Martz consider a process of knowledge development and diffusion in another institutional setting, the modern business corporation. Their approach rests upon the four-phase model developed by Nonaka and Takeuchi: socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization. Such work in the field of knowledge management is a matter that, from the beginning, the editors have sought to included in the pages of CTTS, given our sense that "knowledge management" is another term of "technology transfer" (Klingner & Sabet, 2005; Shepherd, Tesch, & Hsu, 2006; Weeks & Davis, 2007). We remain eager to explore this topic in future issues. French and Martz seek to understand the circumstances that encourage the development of new knowledge, and then track the way in which problem-solving activities lead to the spread and diffusion of this knowledge. Again, using the terminology of knowledge management, they show how a knowledge equilibrium can be disturbed by changing environmental expectations, which in turn trigger knowledge creation. Their manufacturing-based case study from the chemical industry shows how this process works. Whatever the words and terms used, institutional circumstances must be factored into the equation in order to fully understand the processes of diffusion on technology—in this case, in the form of information or knowledge. [End Page viii]
The last two articles have a common timeframe—the 1950s—and the shift of focus for understanding technology transfer programs to the larger geopolitical sphere of international relations. This decade was highly significant in the history of technology transfer, for even though diffusion activities among nations had been important for economic development since at least the time of the Industrial Revolution, during the 1950s scholars and practitioners began to pay serious attention to understanding and promoting...