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Reframing Knowledge and Competency in Trans-national Technology Transfer: lessons from the European Innovation Relay Centres

A Triple Helix 5 Workshop Proposed by:

Adriana Agrimi, Science Park of Tecnopolis CSATA
email: A.Agrimi@tno.it

Edoardo Imperiale, COINOR, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
email: imperial@unina.it

Giuseppe Zollo, COINOR, University of Naples Federico II, Italy
email: giuzollo@unina.it

The workshop is focused on the role of intercultural communication in Trans-national Technology Transfer (TTT). The exchange of technology between University and Industry located in different countries implies the transferring of complex objects (such as techniques, methodologies, processes, procedural knowledge) from a native environment to a new unknown context.

It is important to emphasize that the word “technology” refers to the whole knowledge that goes into the creation and provision of the product or service. According to the UNCTAD definition “such knowledge should be seen as encompassing both the technical knowledge on which the end product is based, and the organizational capacity to convert the relevant productive inputs into the finished item or service. Consequently, “technology” includes not only ‘knowledge or methods that are necessary to carry on or to improve the existing production and distribution of goods and services’ or indeed to develop entire new products or processes, but also ‘entrepreneurial expertise and professional know-how’.The latter two elements may often prove to be the essential competitive advantage possessed by the technology owner.”

As technological objects are deeply rooted in the environment in which they originate, the main issue in TTT is to translate the full set of descriptions, discourses, messages built around the technology from the transferor culture to the transferee one. The ability to deliver such discourses constitutes the core of technological competency of the transferor. From this point of view the TTT is seen as a process of recontextualization of technology competency from transferor to transferee (values, interpreting categories, goals and mode of conduct).

Based on the experience of IRIDE, which is a part of the European Network of Innovation Relay Centres, an approach which focuses on recontextualization of technology competency will be presented.


The workshop is organised by the IRC-IRIDE, the node of the European technology transfer network operating in the Southern regions of Italy.

The mission of the IRCs is to support innovation and transnational technological co-operation in Europe with a range of specialised business support services. IRC services are primarily targeted at technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but are also available to large companies, research institutes, universities, technology centres and innovation agencies.

The IRCs network has been established in 1995 by the European Commission in order to promote trans-national transfer of technologies. The IRCs act as bridging institutions linking agents belonging to different geographical contexts, playing the role of switching nodes within a structured network as well as favoring the transformation of information in operational knowledge. Such network consisted of 53 centres in their first period of activity (1995-1998) and of 68 centers in the second period (1998-2002). For the period 2004-2008 the European Commission has selected 71 nodes of the networks operating in 34 countries. The IRC network has become a leading European network for the promotion of technology partnerships and transfer mainly between small and medium-sized companies.

IRC IRIDE operates in four regions in Southern Italy, namely Basilicata, Campania, Molise and Puglia, and consists of four organizations with complementary skills: the Science Park of Tecnopolis CSATA, Sviluppo Italia Basilicata (the national agency for the entrepreneurial development of Southern Italy), ENEA (the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Environment) and the University of Naples Federico II.

IRC-IRIDE helps to create a suitable environment for technological innovation by offering entrepreneurs a single point of access to the entire range of expert support to perform technology transfer. Several services are offered:

  • IRIDE helps transferors to disclosure their technologies, to disseminate information about their application, to develop an active marketing;
  • IRIDE helps transferees to audit their technological needs, to find suitable technologies and/or partners, to support their clients throughout all the steps of the technology transfer process, for example in assisting them in the negotiation process or by advising them or innovation financing.

Transnational technology transfer not only gives a region’s enterprises access to the very best technological solutions, it also provides them with a route to international markets. The specialized brokerage service offered by expert IRC staff has already enabled hundreds of small companies to sell or licence their technologies outside their own countries far more quickly, and far less risk than they could have done without this assistance.


The workshop is articulated in two sections. The first sections takes 40 minutes, while the second section takes 50 minutes.

  • In the first section a set of experiences will be reported. They illustrate a variety of errors through which people learned, as well as good deal of positive experiences. Two case studies based on the concept of recontextualization of technology competency will be presented.
    • The first case study, presented by Dr. Adriana Agrimi, concerns a small firm whose core activities are the production of monoclonal antibodies for flow cytometry applications and the research and development for tumor detection and cancer therapy. It looked for partners in order to develop a new product addressed to a niche market. It found a German partner with which they engaged in a joint venture aimed at producing a Flow Cytometer for the detection of chromosomal aberrations. The problem here presented regards the emerges the lack of managerial skills and competency in engaging complex communication processes with geographically dispersed actors.
    • The second case study, presented by Dr. Edoardo Imperiale, concerns the University Industry Consortium INNOVA (Regional Competence Centre on Cultural Heritage) which goal is to develop technologies and services for the valorization of historical and cultural goods. The problem here presented is the transferring of a set of technologies, methodologies and services which are deeply embodied on individual skills and expertise. In this case we present a methodology to describe thecnologies, to support the development of complementary competencies and tofacilitate the TTT agreements between INNOVA and other european partners.
  • The second section is articulated as a discussion on the lessons learned from the cases studies and from other relevant experiences. The discussion is moderated by Prof. Giuseppe Zollo and involves both Adriana Agrimi and Edoardo Imperiale, together with European partners of the Innovation Relay Network and experts of Technology Transfer.

The workshop aims to provide an improved understanding of successful mechanisms for facilitating TTT. The presentations will allow the exchange of experience and knowledge about services and methods supporting TTT and innovation financing schemes.

It is open to European representatives, especially those coming from new EU Member States and the Accession Countries. The main target audience of this workshop are: Local Development Agencies, Technology Brokers, Consultants, University Liaison Offices, RTOS, Public & non profit organisations which are willing to organise / establish and run a TTT Network , SMEs.

Triple Helix Conference I Amsterdam, 1996 II New York, 1998 III Rio de Janeiro, 2000 IV Copenhagen, 2002 V Turin, 2005 VI Singapore, 2007 VII Glasgow, 2009 VIII Madrid, 2010 IX Stanford, 2011 X Indonesia, 2012 XI London, 2013
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