(PDF) Defining the Concepts of Technology and Technology Transfer: A Literature Analysis

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www.ccsenet.org/ibr International Business Research Vol. 5, No. 1; January 2012

ISSN 1913-9004 E-ISSN 1913-9012


Thus, the term technology has been given various definitions by previous literatures. According to Kumar et. al (1999)

technology consists of two primary components: 1) a physical component which comprises of items such as products,

tooling, equipments, blueprints, techniques, and processes; and 2) the informational component which consists of

know-how in management, marketing, production, quality control, reliability, skilled labor and functional areas. The

earlier definition by Sahal (1981) views technology as ‘configuration’, observing that the transfer object (the

technology) relies on a subjectively determined but specifiable set of processes and products. The current studies on

the technology transfer have connected technology directly with knowledge and more attention is given to the process

of research and development (Dunning, 1994). By scrutinizing the technology definition, there are two basic

components that can be identified: 1) ‘knowledge’ or technique; and 2) ‘doing things’. Technology is always

connected with obtaining certain result, resolving certain problems, completing certain tasks using particular skills,

employing knowledge and exploiting assets (Lan and Young, 1996). The concept of technology does not only relate to

the technology that embodies in the product but it is also associated with the knowledge or information of it use,

application and the process in developing the product (Lovell, 1998; Bozeman, 2000).

The early concept of technology as information holds that the technology is generally applicable and easy to reproduce

and reuse (Arrow, 1962). However, Reddy and Zhoa (1990) contend that the early concept of technology contradicts

with a strand of literatures on international technology transfer which holds that “technology is conceived as

firm-specific information concerning the characteristics and performance properties of the production process and

product design”. They further argue that the production process or operation technology is embodied in the equipment

or the means to produce a defined product. On the other hand, the product design or product technology is that which

is manifested in the finished product. Pavitt (1985) suggests that technology is mainly differentiated knowledge about

specific application, tacit, often uncodified and largely cumulative within firms. Thus, based on this argument,

technology is regarded as the firm’s ‘intangible assets’ or ‘firm-specific’ which forms the basis of a firm’s

competitiveness and will generally release under special condition (Dunning, 1981). Tihanyi and Roath (2002)

propose that technology can include information that is not easily reproducible and transferable. Based on this

argument technology is seen as “tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1967) or firm-specific, secrets or knowledge known by one

organization” (Nonaka, 1994).

Technology as the intangible assets of the firm is rooted in the firms routines and is not easy to transfer due to the

gradual learning process and higher cost associated with transferring tacit knowledge (Rodasevic,1999). Valuable

technological knowledge which is the intangible assets of the firm is never easily transferred from one firm to another

because the technological learning process is needed to assimilate and internalized the transferred technology (Lin,

2003). Rosenberg and Frischtak (1985) also consider technology as firm-specific information concerning the

characteristics and performance properties of production processes and product designs; therefore technology is tacit

and cumulative in nature. Burgelman et al. (1996) refer technology as the theoretical and practical knowledge, skills,

and artifacts that can be used to develop products and services as well as their production and delivery systems.

Technology is also embodied in people, materials, cognitive and physical processes, facilities, machines and tools (Lin,

2003). Based on Sahal’s (1981) concept, Bozeman (2000) argues that technology and knowledge are inseparable

simply because when a technological product is transferred or diffused, the knowledge upon which its composition is

based is also diffused. The physical entity cannot be put to use without the existence of knowledge base which is

inherent and not ancillary.

MacKenzie and Wajcman (1985) define technology as the integration of the physical objects or artifacts, the process

of making the objects and the meaning associated with the physical objects. These elements are not distinctive and

separable factors but form a ‘seamless web’ that constitutes technology (Woolgar, 1987). In defining the term

technology, all the three elements must be understood as being inter-connected to each other and a change in one

element will affect the other two elements. The latest definition given by Mascus (2003) has broadened the concept of

technology where technology is defined as ‘the information necessary to achieve a certain production outcome from a

particular means of combining or processing selected inputs which include production processes, intra-firm

organizational structures, management techniques, and means of finance, marketing methods or any of its

combination’. Other scholars such as Tepstra and David (1985) suggest that technology as a cultural system concerned

with the relationships between humans and their environment. From the systems perspective Afriyie (1988) defines

technology as encompassing: 1) the basic knowledge sub-system; 2) the technical support system (software); and 3)

the capital-embodied technology (hardware). This perspective views that technology recognizes the need to identify

the different elements of a particular countrys technology that are complementary and mutually reinforcing. The

previous studies done by the researchers have offered various definitions and concepts of technology from different

disciplines, contexts and perspectives. Table 1 below shows a list of definitions and concepts of technology (in a

chronological order) which was gathered from the previous literatures.

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