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Technology Transfer Mechanism for Textile Industry (Part-II)

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Farid Ahmad1, Maeen Md. Khairul Akter2

1 Institute of Appropriate Technology (IAT), Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

2 Department of Textile Engineering Management, Bangladesh University of Textiles

Introduction

In the last issue the Part-I of this article has been published where the first two of the four proposed elements of the proposed transfer mechanism for the textile industry has been described. The four elements were Transfer Process, Transfer Strategy, Transfer Mode and Transfer Personnel. The last two elements will be described in this article.

It is beyond debate that the textile and apparel industry of Bangladesh needs to concentrate in developing its technological fundamentals now as the traditional way will not be sustainable anymore in the contemporary global market dynamics. As a result, the industries must start transforming themselves from the inside so that they can embrace the organizational change for improvement. Keeping this in mind the transfer mechanism has been developed in such a way that is develops the culture, competencies, resources and networking ability of the industries.  The Transfer Mode decides the pathway for the new technology or technology component from the source to the industry and Transfer Personnel indicates the persons responsible for initiating and implementing the transfer process.

Transfer Mode

Transfer mode is depicted differently by different researchers. One classification can be noted as the Material transfer, Design transfer and Capacity transfer. This classification is also interrelated with the Vertical and Horizontal mode of technology transfer. The question arises as long as technology transfer mode is concerned, how the industries are receiving the technology?

So a common point can be noted in the industry practice from investigation that every technology or technology component need some modification in the user’s premises so that the new technology can be completely facilitated in the new organizational framework. Some industries are able to take this modification to a higher level of research to create their own styles and designs. Some only can design new versions of product from the new technology. Some cannot do any modification of the technology rather uses as it is transferred form the technology base for production and manufacturing.

This phenomenon matches the concept described by Hayami and Ruttan (1985) and Amsden (1989) where they identified four stages in technology generation and assimilation in the transferor’s and transferee’s premises. They are:

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This proposal of transfer mode depicts that industries with high innovative capacity should go for the Adoption mode where they follow the typical innovation process that starts from basic Research to applied research, to idea development, product design and production. This route takes a huge investment in R&D which is only possible by the high innovative capacity industries as they are endowed with adequate resources to invest in R&D, infrastructure and technology purchase.  These industries are able to do capacity transfers which is associated with the know-how and software not simply to manufacture existing products but, more importantly, to innovate and adapt existing technologies and products, and ultimately design new products.

The industries which are not very strong in innovation but have medium innovative capacity should adopt the reverse transfer mode that starts form production then to design, development and research. This is because operating basic research is not possible for these type of industries due to lack in their R&D infrastructure and proper human resource. But as they have moderate innovation capacity they should be able to do the necessary modifications. This is why this mode starts form production and goes through up to research. The aim of this mode is to analyze the transferred technology component and so that it can be modified to make new designs and developments of the products and processes. Even if it is needed to do some indigenous research so that a new implication of the technology can be brought out can be done in this transfer mode. In this mode it is possible to do design transfers but it is not possible to do capacity transfers in this mode as it requires extensive R&D and highly intellectual knowledge base.

The third one is for industries who are really weak in innovative performance and completely rely on low end products and reworks and have no investment in R&D. These type of industries generally depends on practicing new processes. That is the Adept mode which becoming used to a new process or technology by using it several times. Only material transfer is possible in this mode. The concept of horizontal technology transfer also matches with this type of transfer mode. So industries with very low innovative capacity can follow this transfer modes to facilitate the transferred technology effectively.

Transfer Personnel

The observation from the industries depict that no industry has designated position like a technology manager to take-care of the technological fundamentals of the industry. That means there is no personnel uniquely assigned to think about the technological fundamentals. It proves that the textile and apparel industries of Bangladesh are not considering technology as a major factor of production and business as they are considering their product quality and productivity. From the literature it was evident that technologically innovative industries used to have dedicated staff to think about the technology used in the industry and how it can be upgraded in order to make more business. An idea can be noted from Cooke and Mayes (1996) where they suggested two dedicated personnel in every industry to take through the technological innovation and transfer processes smoothly. He proposed two positions namely, Godfather and Champion.  In this research two technology transfer personnel is also proposed adopting the idea given by Cooke and Mayes (1996). These two personnel will be dedicatedly assigned to manage all the technological fundamentals including all four components of technology (like, technoware, skillware, infoware and orgaware) and must be accountable to the top management for any issues regarding the overall technological development of the industry.  The two personnel is named as Technology Manager and Technology Officer. The Technology Manager position must be from a top managerial post and the Technology Officer can be from mid-level managerial post or executive post. These two persons will be assigned to take decisions and manage the elements of the transfer process. The functionality and the responsibility of the Technology Manager and the Technology Officer is described in the following table.

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It can be easily noted that the technology manager and the technology officer are the two key persons who will be managing the technology transfer process. The technology manager works as a technology gatekeeper, keeping update of the global technological innovations in the company’s field. He is the one who develops strategy and a concrete idea considering the industry’s need and their innovative capacity discussing with the concerned functional managers. He is the one who initiates the transfer process which later is facilitated with the technology officer.

The technology officer is responsible for implementing the technology in the industry. The role of Technology Officer may eventually mature into the role of a Technology Manager. The person in this role should also have excellent knowledge on internal politics and skill-set of his company as he has to build knowledge and know-hows with the concerned people. The person in this role also has great people skills and is a good communicator because he has to manage the internal affairs regarding the transfer process. He is the one who will ensure the transfer process is complete and the industry is full-filling the needs for which the technology has been innovated and must be accountable to the technology manager. At the end the officer also must prepare a report identifying the difficulties faced by the transfer process and also the actual implications of the transferred technology.

Now there are cases when only the technology management personnel of a company will not be sufficient for complete transfers. This is where contribution of a third party agent is required who will work closely with the technology manager and the officer to facilitate the complete transfer process. The transfer process can be classified into two categories according to the involvement of the transfer agent. The first category is passive and the second is active. This classification refers to the level of activity in applying the technology in the transfer process. If the technology transfer mechanism presents the technology to the potential user without assistance regarding its application, then the mode is called passive. In the passive mode only the knowledge part of technology is transferred, the skills surrounding the technology are not transferred. These mechanisms can include presentations in a report. If, on the other hand the provider of the technology assists with the application of the technology then the mode is called active. These mechanisms include training. The boundaries between passive and active are not that easy to define and therefore a semi-active mode is also defined. The following table defines the three modes of technology transfer and also show the extend of responsibility taken by the technology manager, technology officer and transfer agent.

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It can be seen that in the passive mode the transfer process doesn’t require any assistant from a third party transfer agent. The transfer strategy and concept here is developed by the manager here and implemented by the officer.  In the active mode there is the transfer agent specialized in the target technology who is responsible for the knowledge building about the technology and the transfer process; that is to supply the SOP/manuals/instructions to the concerning party, interpreting them and training the employee of the company. He is also responsible to work closely with the technology transfer personnel of the company to implement the complete transfer process.

In the semi-active mode the role of the transfer agent is limited to that of adviser. Very often in the semi-active mode, the transfer agent only screens information in the relevant field of interest and passes it on to the final user. He therefore ensures the relevance of the information, about the user’s needs, but also because of his knowledge about the technology. The role of the transfer agent is therefore one of communicator between the technology and the user. If his role is beyond this then the mode of transfer becomes active.

Conclusion

This transfer mechanism is designed to enable the industries to transform their company practices by developing their indigenous capacity to adopt new tools, techniques and technologies more efficiently. The general aim was to create a guideline for the industries so that they can continuously develop their technological fundamentals to ensure sustainable growth in the contemporary competitive market. As textile and apparel sector is the lifeline of Bangladesh economy, the development of this sector bears great significance. This research can also be used as a framework for researchers, universities or consultants working in the same field. Universities and institutes in the textile and apparel trade can attempt to establish a Technology Transfer Office (TTO) in near future for providing procedural support to the industries regarding technology assessment and technology transfer. A final verdict can be made about the research is that, even though the validity of the proposed transfer mechanism has not been made here still it creates a new domain of research that creates a scope of cross-fertilization of knowledge to work further so that the complex and dynamic system of technology transfer for the industries are made more achievable in the near future.

 

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