Experts: International Tech Transfer Can Benefit All

By Edward Harris, WIPO Communications Division

The international transfer of technology and technical know-how promotes economic development in poorer regions, while also helping to open new markets with increased social and political stability that can have global benefits, according to keynote speakers at a recent WIPO forum.

McLean Sibanda, CEO of Innovation Hub in Pretoria, South Africa, presented the developing-country perspective, while Sherry Knowles, Principal of Knowles Intellectual Property Strategies LLC, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, offered the view from developed countries at the Feb. 16-18 WIPO Expert Forum on International Technology Transfer.

Boost human capacity

Photo: WIPO

This is a win-win for both
the developed and
developing world.

McLean Sibanda

Knowles noted an increasing awareness in the US business community that helping boosting human capacity, and even transferring proprietary technology, for poorer overseas regions can promote stable new markets and eventually contribute to the corporate bottom line in.

“This is a win-win for both the developed and developing world,” said Sibanda.

Knowles said that more work remains to be done to convince developing-world business leaders that technology transfer should be considered a core part of corporate social responsibility, which traditionally focused on workplace safety and ethical management, among other factors.

Do right, do well

“Doing the right thing is also often the right thing for the corporation,” Knowles said.

Sibanda said Africa, which is the world’s poorest continent, also boasts the highest continent-wide growth rate on the globe. However, research and development rates at about 1 percent of gross domestic product in many African countries are only half of those in many richer nations, he said.

Sibanda said developing countries, and Africa specifically, need to create enabling environments for innovation, particularly by stimulating research and development. This includes greater investment in science, technology and innovation infrastructure by both public and private entities, which will build human capital, and bolster intellectual-property systems to create greater incentives.

Research and development

Photo: WIPO

Doing the right thing is
also often the right
thing for the corporation.

Sherry Knowles

“Africa does have hope and what is required is to invest significantly in research and development, which will result in upgrading human capital,” he said.

For Sibanda, technology transfer can come via conferences, research collaborations and business networks. 

Knowles said that developing-world businesses engaging in technology transfer are looking for a strong legal and regulatory environment, strong IP protection and a well-developed national infrastructure that will protect the fruits of any collaborations.

Knowles said that entities looking to source technical know-how or the transfer of a technology from overseas should ask for something possessed by the donating firm, be specific in their request and help create opportunities for good public communications related to a grant.

The forum’s objective was to provide a framework for an open dialogue among experts from both developed and developing countries knowledgeable in public and private sector technology transfer and for debate. The event concluded with a set of expert thoughts for promoting international technology transfer that will be submitted for consideration and approval at a WIPO committee meeting of member state delegates between April 20-24, 2015.

Clearing-house for tech transfer?

Knowles, in her presentation opening the event, called for a “clearing-house” for technologies and information, citing as an example WIPO Re:Search, which seeks to match research needs with IP and other resources to stimulate new advancements in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis.

“We all know that there are interests in developing countries and people and groups that have certain needs, but they don’t know where to go, who to ask,” she said. “Who are you going to call?”

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