Leveraging technology transfer for industrial development explored in new UNCTAD study

14 January 2015

‚ÄčThe study presents cases from Africa, Asia and Latin America, which provide contrasting experiences of the role of technology transfer and absorption in the development of different industries.

The report entitled Studies in Technology Transfer, Selected cases from Argentina, China, South Africa and Taiwan Province of China, builds on ongoing efforts by UNCTAD to investigate the role of the transfer of technology in economic development.

It was prepared under UNCTAD's mandate to undertake research and analysis in the area of science, technology and innovation (STI) with a focus on making STI capacity an instrument for supporting national development and helping local industry become more competitive.

The report examines the role of technology transfer in the development of integrated circuits production in Taiwan Province of China, button manufacturing in Qiaotou, China, automobile manufacturing in South Africa and biotechnology development in Argentina.

The cases therefore cover high-technology activities (integrated circuits and biotechnology), medium-technology activities (automobiles) and low-technology activities (buttons). This approach illustrates the potential for technology transfer to play a role in activities of widely differing knowledge, technology and skill intensities.

These cases represent varying degrees of success in the leveraging of technology transfer and local capability development for industrial development in developing economies.

The cases of integrated circuits in Taiwan Province of China and buttons in Qiaotou, China are both highly successful experiences of technological and industrial upgrading that laid the basis for globally competitive industries.

In the cases of biotechnology in Argentina and automobiles in South Africa, the results have been more mixed, with slower technological upgrading and a more nuanced picture in terms of the success of industrial upgrading and international competitiveness.

The four studies illustrate the varying approaches that firms and industries in different countries have taken in using international and domestic transfer of technology and combining these transfers with knowledge accumulated through internal effort in order to build stronger capabilities and improve their innovation performance.

They also illustrate the substantial variation in policy frameworks, institutional development, levels of policy intervention and underlying strategies implemented by national and local governments in developing economies in their quest to promote catch-up with more advanced economies by closing the gaps in scientific, engineering, technological and innovation capabilities and performance.