26 April 2018 | When looking at technology transferring, observations show that there are two common patterns. One is technology transferring from advanced economies (such as Japan) to emerging and developing economies (such as Vietnam). The other is, within an economy, transferring from research institutes and universities to businesses and corporations.
Cross-country technology transferring often happens with mature technologies going downstream the supply chain. It is good. It helps emerging economies join the global value chain. But it is traditional. Today fast-changing society has new needs and demands that require new and disruptive technologies.
On the second pattern, there is a long distance between research results by institutes and universities and commercial products that markets demand. It takes long time to go through such distance. And time is expensive.
It may be good to think about initiatives that make the process of “transferring” technology into our daily life shorter and faster.
Some efforts are observed in Vietnam innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem by various players.
First, market access support is offered to mature technologies from abroad to Vietnam market. The transferrers are connected to industry experts who will put them in contacts with right corporate executives looking for technologies to improve productivity and efficiency, as well as, enter the global markets. These industry experts serve more likely mentors than consultants. Good news is mentor community in Vietnam and ASEAN keeps expanding in recent years. Mentorship helps lower transaction cost and build trust.
Market access is also offered to new technologies looking for commercialization opportunity. Many young scientists and inventors have great research ideas and, even better, have turned the ideas into technologies and prototypes. They are, however, lack of business relations as well as experience. This is where they need helps, especially from the mentors who are rich in business expertise and industry insights.
Second, technology transferring may not be necessary to start when the technology is invented, but before the invention comes. “Transferring” process may start as early as when the researchers meet and work together with entrepreneurs. These meetups may happen at corporate innovation – where corporate executives tell the challenges they are facing in manufacturing, managing, distributing and so on, then ask researchers and entrepreneurs for feasible and viable solutions. Here we notice the participation of the entrepreneurs. These market-oriented people are the catalysts for fulfilling the gaps between supply of technology and demand for solution.
An example is the story of a Chinese entrepreneur who is managing his company where 20+ IT engineers on big data and AI technology offering solutions to factories. The man was a business analyst of Alibaba before setting his own. What does he do? He visits factories and learns their problems. Then he returns to his engineers team to translate the problems into the engineering language. That helps the engineers understand the problems and start finding out solutions. As soon as they achieve a possible solution for the factory they start a negotiation and sale process.
The sooner the researchers, the scientists, and the entrepreneurs work together, it is the better.
An incubation scheme should be designed to facilitate the above-mentioned efforts. We may think about innovation laboratory/incubator where researchers from emerging economies can meet and work with topnotch scientists. The difference here is to place entrepreneurs in residence in the lab. The entrepreneurs go back and forth to market and corporate world to get inquiries (problems) and feedback (market responses). Corporations are welcome to sponsor and invest in the lab.
The scheme also includes grant and seed funding for idea testing and prototype building. The lab here may play the role of angel investor. Laboratory can co-invest, with VCs and early-adapter corporations, in market access and business model validation stage. Possible exits for the lab are acquisitions (by large corporations), private equity investments, and even IPOs.
* Tran Tri Dung, 2018. “An Entrepreneurship Approach to Facilitate Technology Transfer.” 5th ASEAN-Japan Workshop on Technology Transfer and Artificial Intelligence & Society 5.0, STS Forum.