Technology transfer

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In economics, technology transfer is the external utilization of technological knowledge . The exchange enables this knowledge to be used for third parties.


Technology transfer refers to the transfer of industrial manufacturing processes or process technologies to developing or emerging countries, including the financially supported further training of engineers and scientists at Western universities and research institutes, and to the transfer and commercial exploitation of scientific findings from science to industry . The subject of a technology transfer is usually know-how .


There are different definitions in the literature, but by and large they have the same characteristics:

  • Technology transfer ( technology , "manufacturing, processing theory", from ancient Greek τεχνολογία technología "artful treatise on an art or science"; transfer , via the English from Latin transferre "to transfer, transfer") is understood to mean the transfer of technical knowledge (e.g. B. Research and development results ) between creation and use in the process of combining production factors . "In institutional terms, technology transfer means the planned, time-limited, private-sector or state-supported process of diffusion or dissemination of technology in terms of its economic utilization for third parties"
  • "Technology transfer is the inter-organizational transfer of technologies or the transfer of research and development results."
  • "Transfer of technical knowledge (e.g. research and development results) for use in the production process ."

Conceptual classification in the economy

Technology transfer does not serve as a goal, but as a means of increasing economic growth , profitability and thus also prosperity . The reason for this is the increase in the degree of utilization of the technology. Universities, business and politics are involved in this.

Types of technology transfer

In an international context, technology transfer means the transition of economically usable skills from one country to another. A distinction is made between different types of technology transfer.

In the case of goods-based technology transfer , capital goods are exported that were previously not available in the recipient country. In contrast, one speaks of the person-related technology transfer when domestic workers by foreigners, by counseling and education and training , trained to be. Furthermore, the sale of patents , license and know-how contracts and exchanges that take place through international corporate collaborations in the field of research and development are referred to as non-factor-bound technology transfer . The aim of this cooperation is to acquire the partner's technological edge. A large part (70–80%) of this form of technological exchange takes place between affiliated companies such as parent companies and subsidiaries . A conversion via media such as books, magazines, etc. is called a non-commercial technology transfer . In addition to these types, there are also illegal forms of technology transfer , which are reflected in industrial espionage and the infringement of industrial property rights such as patents, for example through imitation products .

Technology is understood in the broadest sense as the totality of the abilities to control and use the environment. Technological knowledge is available from trained persons, in machines and systems and in other facilities of the production apparatus. An important point in the transfer of technological knowledge is its storage. After all, if knowledge storage is disregarded, no more exchanges can take place. When it comes to the accumulation of knowledge, a distinction is made between artificial and natural knowledge carriers. Artificial knowledge carriers are primarily understood as electronic storage media (e.g. floppy disks, CD-ROM). In contrast, the human brain stands as a natural carrier of knowledge.

Carrier of technology transfer

In the diffusion of advanced technologies, multinational companies come first in the context of international production. At a subsidiary founded abroad you are confronted not only with modern production technologies, but also with modern management techniques. As a result, the exchange of information within the company leads to a permanent technology transfer. The majority of expenditure in global patent and license transactions consists of intragroup payments, as multinational companies are becoming increasingly important in the global economy.

The promotion of knowledge and technology transfer is also a legal task of German universities ( Section 2 (7 ) HRG ).

Technology transfer regulations

If one considers the technology transfer in developing countries, the industrial catch-up process as well as the development and transfer of the technology to the special conditions are in the foreground. In doing so, the aim is to adapt to climatic conditions and to make the residents more controllable. As part of development cooperation by the Federal Government, technology transfer takes place through the German Society for International Cooperation (giz) GmbH.

With regard to approval, options for drafting contracts and taxation, there are various state regulations that differ from country to country.

Dealing with technology and innovation has a high priority with regard to the competitiveness of companies today. Technological knowledge is a predominant factor due to increasing technological dependency.

Contents and points of view

Perspectives from the past and present

Historically, technology transfer occurred mainly between industrialized and developing countries . The world economy was weakened by the two world wars and the Great Depression in 1929. Due to this, a gradual reconstruction took place in the second half of the 20th century. The resulting renewed globalization sparked competition between industrial locations.

Particular attention was paid to the transfer of space and military technology in industrialized countries . The focus of the transfer to developing countries was a kind of technological development aid in the form of cross-company advice. The first oil crisis in 1973/74 and the general economic recession of the 1970s made it appear necessary “to transfer scientific and technical results, experience and skills from research into the economy and into the public sector in order to be able to use products, processes and methods faster than before improve qualified services and thus create favorable conditions for innovations ”. Today's view of technology transfer will become more and more important due to the decreasing half-life of technology and the associated know-how (e.g. ever shorter product life cycles ) in order to remain competitive .

In 2002, the so-called university professor's privilege was abolished in order to give universities the opportunity to protect all economically useful inventions in their field and to use this as a basis for industrial exploitation to a greater extent and more effectively than before.

With the Horizon 2020 funding program , the European Union is contributing to research and innovation from basic research to the marketability of new products.


Technology transfer is understood as a planned, time-limited, privately or state-supported process that is usually based on a contractual agreement (e.g. license agreement). A distinction is made between free technologies (e.g. patents, licenses) and goods-related technologies (e.g. special machines, complete factories). In the development policy provides technology transfer also an important tool.

application areas

Technology transfer takes place between universities, inventors, research institutions and companies, within multinational companies , between different companies, between industrialized countries and between industrialized and developing countries.

Characteristics of technology transfer

Orientation directions

There are two directions of transfer, “technology push” and “demand pull”. First of all, it should be said that technology is being transferred from science to business. This means that first a new technical development occurs and only then possible applications and users are sought (transfer direction: science → business). With “demand pull”, the technical development only takes place according to the needs of the economy. This means that the companies look for a transfer partner with a specific order who then provides a solution (direction of transfer: business → science).

Inter- and intra-organizational transfer

If knowledge (or technology) is transferred from one subsystem to another within an organization, one speaks of intra-organizational transfer. The inter-organizational transfer takes place between two economically and legally independent organizations.

Direct and indirect transfer

Direct transfer measures can be recognized by the direct relationship between the transfer provider and the transfer recipient. This means that no transfer agent (transfer agent) is involved in any phase of the transfer. Indirect transfer measures include all forms of transfer in which the transfer of technology between the two transfer partners takes place via transfer intermediaries. The result is an indirect relationship between the transfer partners.

Horizontal and vertical technology transfer

Vertical transfer is understood to be the transfer process between institutions at different levels, i.e. between providers of knowledge (universities, research institutions) and demanders of knowledge (companies, administrations). Horizontal transfer is understood to mean the transfer between institutions at the same level (research institutions, companies).

Activated and passivated transfer

With passivated transfer, knowledge is only made available, while with activated transfer, intensive contacts take place between transfer providers and transfer recipients throughout the entire transfer process. In the activated form, transfer means bringing in expertise and jointly developing a problem solution in an intensive interactive process.

Reverse innovation

In reverse innovation processes is the transfer of radically simple, inexpensive, developed in developing or emerging technologies in industrial nations.

Transfer mechanisms / transfer media


When carrying out the technology transfer, a distinction is made between international trade in goods, in particular the import of capital goods by developing countries, and the transfer of production know-how. The international trade in goods leans on the product-related technology and the functionality and working method embodied in a product. Whereas the transfer of production know-how aims at free (not goods-related) technology. This can be understood as a plan that contains all the information required to manufacture a product with a certain qualification using certain production processes. However, a general differentiation between technology transfer and know-how transfer is only possible to a limited extent, as these are often linked.


There are a number of different forms of technology transfer. However, none of these instruments are so optimal that they make others superfluous. Rather, these transfer mechanisms run in parallel and interlock.

Transfer type features
Contract research Companies commission certain research institutions with a specific research assignment under specified conditions. The research results are the exclusive property of the company.
consultation Experts, specialists, inventors advise economic institutions. The consultation is usually billed according to fixed daily rates and extends over a few days.
Licensing With licensing, a research institution acquires the right to use a certain research result.
Funding projects As part of publicly funded research projects, several partners from science and business are working on a common problem, e.g. B. Craft businesses and universities of applied sciences. The results of the project will be made publicly available.
Diploma theses Research and development questions can be dealt with scientifically through diploma or longer study theses. In addition to the student's scientific knowledge, the company can establish initial contacts with scientists.
Company internships During longer internships, students can work on research questions . Here, very intensive support from the company is necessary, especially for students in younger semesters.

Other important forms: collaborative research, expert reports, publications, informal meetings, conferences, seminars, placement of university graduates, patents, on-site demonstrations, etc.

Technology transfer provider

There are a large number of different research institutions from science and business. This selection is only a fraction of the transfer offices available in Germany.

  • Universities of Applied Sciences / Universities: Universities in cooperation with industry cover the area of ​​short-term, implementation-oriented research and development. Universities of applied sciences are the ideal partner for small and medium-sized companies when it comes to problem solutions for new and further developments of products and / or processes that can be implemented at short notice.
  • Universities: The focus is on medium and long-term research. Due to the wide range of subject areas, universities are particularly suitable for fundamental innovations and interdisciplinary research and development projects.
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft : The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft conducts research in hundreds of fields of technology and makes the results available to industry in the form of patents, licenses, advanced training courses and, above all, in the form of contract research projects.
  • Leibniz Association : The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Science Association e. V. (short: Leibniz Association ) brings together non-university research institutes and service facilities for research. The orientation of the Leibniz Institutes ranges from the natural, engineering and environmental sciences to economics, social and spatial sciences to the humanities. They use both basic research and applied and large-scale equipment research.
  • Steinbeis Foundation : The Steinbeis Foundation uses know-how from basic research, applied research and development in a practical manner.
  • TuTech Innovation Gm bH: Founded in 1992 as the first technology transfer company owned by the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg , TuTech Innovation GmbH offers services in the field of knowledge and technology transfer, such as the initiation and management of cooperation projects between universities and companies, the exploitation of inventions as well as the promotion of business start-ups from universities.
  • PROvendis GmbH : PROvendis is the patent marketing company (PVA) of 27 universities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, based in Mülheim an der Ruhr. As a link between universities and business, PROvendis accompanies the inventors from the idea through the evaluation and patenting to the professional exploitation of their innovations. With the representation of more than 20,000 patent-relevant scientists, PROvendis is the largest PVA for inventions of German universities and also one of the largest PVAs in Europe.
  • The "Bayerische Patentallianz GmbH" is the central patent marketing agency of the Bavarian universities and colleges for applied sciences.


  • Karsten Boyens: External utilization of technological knowledge. DUV - Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-8244-0420-6 ( Business Administration for Technology and Innovation 25), (At the same time Kiel, Univ., Diss., 1998).
  • Erwin Dichtl, Ottmar Issing (ed.): Vahlens Großes Wirtschaftslexikon. Volume 4: R-Z. 2nd revised and expanded edition. Beck, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-8006-1830-3 .
  • Dirk Fornahl, Christian Zellner, David B. Audretsch (Eds.): The role of labor mobility and informal networks for knowledge transfer. Springer Science + Business Media, New York NY 2005, ISBN 0-387-23141-2 ( International Studies in Entrepreneurship 6).
  • Helmut Helmschrott: Technology transfer and industrial research and development in the third world. With particular reference to India and South Korea. Weltforum-Verlag, Munich et al. 1986, ISBN 3-8039-0342-4 ( IFO studies on development research 17).
  • Rudolph Henn, Lothar Späth , Hermann Lübbe , Gerhard Krüger : Employment and the Transfer of Technology. Springer, Berlin et al. 1986, ISBN 3-540-16639-4 .
  • Stephan Hofstetter: Technology transfer as an instrument for promoting innovations in technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises. difo-druck, Bamberg 1990 (St. Gallen, University of Economics, Law and Social Sciences, Diss., 1990).
  • Ulrich Schmoch, Georg Licht (Hrsg.): Knowledge and technology transfer in Germany. Fraunhofer-IRB-Verlag, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-8167-5600-X .
  • Jendrik Scholz: Regional structural policy using the example of Trier and Luxembourg: Development of methods, instruments, reference processes and political recommendations for action to promote the transfer of technology and innovation in the craft sector. In: Verwaltung & Management - magazine for general administration. 15, 3, 2009, ISSN  0947-9856 , pp. 163-167, urn : nbn: de: 0168-ssoar-58452 .
  • Lothar Späth , Georg H. Endress , Martin Sättler, Rainer Röder, Dieter Pfister : Technology transfer in conception and practice. Poller, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-87959-305-1 ( publications of the International Hightech Forum, Basel , 3).
  • Jochen Streb: State technology policy and cross-sector knowledge transfer. on the causes of the international innovation successes of the German plastics industry in the 20th century. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-05-003873-X ( Yearbook for Economic History. Supplement 4), (At the same time: Heidelberg, Univ., Habil.-Schr., 2002).
  • Peter-Tobias Stoll : Technology transfer. Internationalization and nationalization tendencies. The structuring of interstate economic relations, private rights of disposal and transactions by the United Nations, UNCTAD, WIPO and the Uruguay Round of GATT. Springer, Berlin et al. 1994, ISBN 3-540-57959-1 ( contributions to foreign public law and international law 113), (also: Kiel, Univ., Diss., 1993).

Individual evidence

  1. Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon S – Z, 16th edition, Gabler, Wiesbaden 2004, p. 2906
  2. Erwin Dichtl / ​​Ottmar Issing: Vahlens Großes Wirtschaftslexikon R – Z, Volume 4. Beck, Munich 1987, p. 1821
  3. a b Meyers Lexikon online: Article: Technologietransfer (archive version) ( Memento from February 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (Accessed: August 23, 2009)
  4. Axel Sell: Introduction to International Business Relations . 2nd edition, Oldenbourg-Wissenschaftsverlag, 2003, p. 190 f.
  5. Karsten Boyens: External utilization of technological knowledge . DUV Deutscher Universitätsverlag, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 9 f.
  6. Axel Sell: Introduction to International Business Relations . 2nd edition, Oldenbourg-Wissenschaftsverlag, 2003, p. 193
  7. Axel Sell: Introduction to International Business Relations . 2nd edition, Oldenbourg-Wissenschaftsverlag, 2003, p. 194 f.
  8. Karsten Boyens: External utilization of technological knowledge . DUV Deutscher Universitätsverlag, Wiesbaden 1998, p. 1
  9. Jochen Streb: State Technology Policy and Cross-Sector Knowledge Transfer , in: Yearbook for Economic History , Supplement 4, Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2003, p. 13
  10. ^ Hilde Strohl-Goebel: German Document Day 1982 - Specialized information in the age of the information industry . Munich 1982, pp. 232-248
  11. Federal Ministry of Education and Research: Federal Research Report VI (PDF; 23.8 MB) accessed April 10, 2008
  12. ^ Stephan Hoffstetter: Technology transfer as an instrument for promoting innovations in technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises . Bamberg 1990, p. 23
  13. ^ Stephan Hoffstetter: Technology transfer as an instrument for promoting innovations in technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises . Bamberg 1990, pp. 24, 381
  14. ^ Stephan Hoffstetter: Technology transfer as an instrument for promoting innovations in technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises . Bamberg 1990, p. 23 f.
  15. ^ Helmut Helmschrott: Technology transfer and industrial development in the Third World . World Forum, Munich / Cologne / London 1986, p. 3 f.
  16. Ulrich Schmoch u. a .: (2000) Knowledge and Technology Transfer in Germany . Fraunhofer IRB, Stuttgart, p. 9
  17. Ulrich Schmoch u. a .: Knowledge and technology transfer in Germany . Fraunhofer IRB, Stuttgart, 2000, p. 121 ff.
  18. IHK Darmstadt: Technology transfer and research cooperation between universities and companies  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF) p. 6 accessed April 9, 2008@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  19. SME INNOVATION: Article: Why is technology transfer becoming increasingly important today? (Accessed: April 9, 2008, 11:06 pm CET)