All about technology transfer, plus need for ‘Aatmanirbharta index’

Instruction: This configuration involves a closer relationship where the recipient lacks the specific skills needed and the donor tends to engage in “technology licensing” without much involvement.

Recipients get the right to use the donor’s patented technologies for their use (production, development, sales, etc.).

Cooperation: In this configuration, donors win and, moreover, they tend to be more involved. The collaboration is under a mutually agreed goal and schedule to develop a specific technology or production through “joint research and development,” spreading costs and risks between the partners.

The aim is to realize shared benefits by combining financial and technological resources based on part of the R&D contribution (including intellectual property, development expertise, research talent, etc.).

Shared Prosperity: In this configuration, involving a close relationship between the two countries, the donors are willing to make most of the decisions and shoulder most of the responsibilities, while the donors enter into a high-stakes “joint venture” or “M&A” to combine technological, manufacturing, distribution and financial resources if the recipients are experienced and have the skills to carry out the tasks.

Depending on the capabilities of the recipient, license agreements vary between: a) Early licensing before the technology is developed, b) Prototype Licensing signed after the technology was developed, and c) Cross Licensingallowing both to share patent rights to develop new products.

These modes (Instruction/Transaction) are prepared for operational execution. When donors have greater involvement through collaboration, namely a) joint custom design, b) joint specification, c) joint R&D projects, and d) subcontracting, donors seek strategic representation.

The crucial aspects to be established regarding donors in technology transfer activity are: a) Willingness to gain the trust and confidence of the recipient, b) Understanding the needs of the recipient and adjusting transfer methods accordingly, c) Problem solving and d) Assess the recipients’ abilities and apply the right strategy to work with them.

Some of the challenges that arise in the transfer of technologies developed in advanced economies are in transmission due to knowledge gaps, level of complexity, mismatch in industrial and technological infrastructure, cultural differences and difficulties in adoption and modification.

What India lacks in technology transfer

Silvere Seurat wrote: “One of the main problems faced by technicians from Western countries in India is their impatience and frustration with Indian bureaucratic procedures, delays in decisions, lack of proper organization and planning. Most of these technicians have limited appointments of a fixed duration and arrive without proper briefing or any understanding of the local culture. More emphasis is now being placed on training such technicians and bringing in intermediaries to act as ‘translators’ etc.” (Technology transfer is a realistic approach1979)

Although India has come a long way since Seurat’s decade-long observation, there are still some systemic flaws that need to be addressed for long-term technological self-sufficiency.

Need for Aatmanirbharta Index

Most of the energy during previous technology transfers has been directed at regulating the technology flow, while it would be wise to improve our ability to manage the transferred technology as well.

It is imperative that India develops expertise to assess the overall technology transfer strategy, to clearly distinguish between types of technology (core or ancillary, eg: manufacturing vs. assembly), how well a technology has met the objectives of the local population, the creation of jobs, the income distribution and its impact factor, considering the spread due to second-order effects.

As the information age accelerates, bridging technology-induced disruptions, it would be wise to create an ‘Aatmanirbharata index’ to benchmark our future efforts in pursuit of critical technologies.

Academia-Industry Linkage and Resource Utilization

Availability of skilled labor is an aspect that hinders industrial progress and confuses the discourse on whether to import technology to match the local skill base or develop skills to the level of technology.

The answer to this dilemma is the obvious choice of skill building, but Indian history is full of examples of taking wrong turns; , importing petroleum-based technology for fertilizers and railways instead of coal (which was readily available in India).

Any future firm that expects to thrive in India must rely on ‘resource extraction’. To have a fast turnaround time, leveraging resources needs a framework that includes public agencies, government departments and their institutional infrastructure, trade associations, inter-firm linkages, and collaborative engineering research associations.

The framework, originally developed by the Japanese and cleverly imitated by the Taiwanese, is an accelerated national economic training system. India, unlike Europe and the US, which rely on attracting talent from across the developing world, is forced to create and retain a talent pool. Creating a connected framework will go a long way towards achieving the goal.

How about attracting the market?

Investment in R&D by Indian industry is extremely low. It is mostly dominated by family businesses like the Korean one Chaebols. If governments do not pay attention to policies to attract demand, such as supporting the commercialization of indigenous semiconductor technologies and related product markets and technology development, then the Indian industry will continue to act as a conduit, finding tedious import substitution solutions without any appetite for adoption , assimilation , and assimilation of technology.

They will continue to languish as glorified ancillary technology packaging firms with a constant dependence on importing core technology without ever taking the pain of developing anything because it is readily available.

So governments need to move away from mere slogans and continue to have dynamic industry policies with tangible goals and focused roadmaps that are institution-oriented rather than people-oriented.

Interfirm strategic alliances and quality consciousness in SMEs

Although technology transfer would boost an industry, without the establishment of linkages between companies to deepen competence and core R&D technologies, it would be a herculean task to create new players and boost semiconductor industries.

While institutional support in the early stages of an industry is vital, we cannot discount the long-term competitive pressures in an open world where quality is key. Technology transfer cannot follow a piecemeal approach.

Traditionally, Indian manufacturing experience has focused only on the initial phase of delivering the recipient’s manufacturing capabilities with very limited follow-up vision.

The lack of engineering orientation such as indigenous development of materials, equipment and development of products and systems has resulted in continued dependence on technology donors for further imports.

Unlike the Japanese, Taiwanese and more recently the Chinese, we have not explicitly identified technology development as a strategic goal of import substitution in electronics with a clear breakdown translating into tangible goals.

Technology transfer management will play a critical role in determining our success. It is high time we take definitive steps in this direction if India wants to stand on its own feet in semiconductor manufacturing and be counted.

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