Technology transfer and absorption: An 'R & D value-mapping' approach to evaluation

Gordon Kingsley, Barry Bozeman, Karen Coker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Evaluating technology transfer outcomes from government supported research, development and demonstration (RD & D) projects is complicated by the variety of paths through which technology can move from producer(s) to user(s). Using a set of 31 cases studies of RD & D projects the processes of technology transfer and 'technology absorption' are examined. Technology transfer is the use by a party external to the project of the technology or technical information outputs. Technology absorption is defined as the use by contractors, sub-contractors or co-sponsors participating in the RD & D project. This is a rarely studied phenomenon but one especially important for technology policies. The case analysis confirmed the value of viewing transfer and absorption as separate processes with separate determinants. Absorption is a more robust process stimulated by a variety of factors. Transfer is more delicate, thwarted not only by market barriers, but also coordination problems, conflicts, and resource constrains among project members. Using models of the transfer and absorption processes a typology of transfer outcomes is created. 'On-the-shelf' projects (12 cases) were those in which no transfer or absorption impacts occurred. These projects involved large numbers of actors assisting a small private producer/contractor who was dependent upon outside resources for completing the project. While a surprising amount effort was made to transfer these outcomes the efforts failed. 'Absorption' projects (eight cases) were those in which technology was absorbed but not transferred. Absorption occurred both by design and by default. 'Market-induced' projects (four cases) were those were technology was transferred but not absorbed. These cases also involved small private producers but they experienced less project interdependence and were marketing to niches created through public regulation. 'Contractor and sponsor-induced' projects (seven cases) were those where absorption and transfer occurred. In most cases absorption was a springboard for transfer activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)967-995
Number of pages29
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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