Although techology transfer appears to be a relatively new concept floating through the worlds of business, science, higher education and government.
It was highly visible and regulary applied in ancient Greece. Archimedes, the scientist, the mathematician and the engineer, was notable in applying science and math to solve practical problems. The ancient Romans, in their construction of viaducts, rudimentary wooden and metal devices and roads, applied the concepts of technology transfer. The medieval guilds, constructing huge mathematically designed and highly engineered, cathedrals and other large buildings, used the concept of technology transfer and passed it down to their apprentices.
In both England and the United States, the industrial revolution moved large segments of rural populations to the cities to work in factories, filled with machinery, equipment, assembly lines and a hugely systematic method of creating new products for new and emerging markets through mass production. Technology was transferred from the factory owners and their engineers to the unskilled rural masses, creating a new class of skilled worker, earning higher salaries, consuming more products and living a better lifestyle.
As a formal definition, transfer of technology is the process of tansferring skills, transferring knowledge, transferring methods and samples of manufacturing amongst governments and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological development are accessible to a wider range of users. These new users can then further develop and exploit this technology into new processes, new products, new applicaions, new materials or services for the overall good and benefit of society.
One quick example of a highly successful transfer of technology designed, refined and produced in America, over a 40-year span, involved the transfer of guided missile technology from the U.S. to Great Britain.
On March 19, 2011, 124 Tomahawk missles, invented, engineered and built in the United States, were fired by U.S. and British Naval Forces, from ships and submarines, at land targets in Libya. Highly accurate, the missiles destroyed their targets. Design and development of the Tomahawk missles began in the 1970s by General Dynamics and then the engineering, refinement and production of these missles ended up with the Raytheon Corp, a U.S. defense contractor, after the company acquired other defense contractors that worked on the project.
Not only were the technology and the skills transferred from one engineering company to another but, the skills were transferred to the United States Navy, after governemnt approval and then later transferred by the United States, with British government approval, to the British Royal Navy. Personnell on both sides of the Atlantic had to be trained in the new technology and Britsh submarines and ships had to be produced and manufactured to handle the U.S. manufactured missile.