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Overview of Technology Transfer

photo of: Steve Bauer

The concept of technology transfer in all its forms is a popular one. However, the concept must be understood and the process must be implemented to be useful to the field of assistive technology. Unfortunately, the supporting literature on technology transfer is only in the formative stages even for elementary topics such as the definition of terms, the methods employed, measurement tools used and the roles of stakeholders.

In the absence of a solid foundation of literature, the term technology transfer has become synonymous with a wide range of activities. Technology transfer is defined as a process for conceiving of a new application for an existing technology. It is also defined as a process for converting research into economic development. The term technology transfer is also used to mean licensing intellectual property to a manufacturer for production in a product, or reducing an idea to practice in a prototype, or even the process of recording concepts of technology know-how in a professional paper or patent application. The noun technology is simultaneously used to mean concepts, descriptions, components, processes and products. People use the verb transfer to mean moving from one point to another, but there is little consensus about the source or destination of the movement within technology transfer.

How can the same term have multiple meanings? Which definitions are correct or incorrect? Our analysis of current theory and practice indicates that all of the definitions in the literature are actually describing elements of a larger process technology transfer in the broader sense. None of the definitions are complete, but none are totally incorrect either. The Tech Transfer RERC's team submits that technology transfer remains misunderstood because of continued attempts to define the whole as only one of its parts. The technology transfer process taken in its entirety is a substantial undertaking that can only be accurately described by developing constructs and models that encompass all of the parts and how they interrelate.

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