Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 77–79

Clean technologies: implementation and technology transfer challenges


    • School of Engineering and Computer ScienceUniversity of the Pacific

DOI: 10.1007/s10098-007-0091-x

Cite this article as:
Jain, R. Clean Techn Environ Policy (2007) 9: 77. doi:10.1007/s10098-007-0091-x


Clean Technologies generally refer to: technologies that optimize use of resources (water, energy, land), minimize environmental impacts, produce minimum secondary wastes and are sustainable based on current and future economic and social societal needs. Thus, implementation of such technologies and associated challenges are of considerable interest from environmental, economic, and long-term societal view points.

New technology implementation or technology transfer refers to the process by which science and technology are transferred from one individual or group to another that incorporates this new technology into a new or improved process, product, system or way of doing something (Martyniuk et al. 2003). The diffusion of technology occurs through different channels and involves various market agents such as private vendors, customers, consultants and other firms, as well as public technology centers, government laboratories and universities (Lile and Toman 1997).

Clean technology implementation benefits

The implementation of Research and Development results or Technology Transfer accrue benefits to organizations, governmental agencies and society. Some examples are:
  • Technology transfer can improve organization effectiveness and increase productivity.

  • It can increase user involvement in the innovation process and can provide long-term benefits in terms of user and sponsor support.

  • The economic role it has played and continues to play in the US economic well-being is documented in the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC 1999) report that states that research and development and its commercialization has enabled approximately half of the US productivity and growth in the last 50 years.

Even though scientist, engineers, economist, and policy makers have long identified technology as a key input to increased productivity and creation of wealth, it is generally believed that incentives and policies for the utilization of new technology (Technology Transfer) has been lagging; consequently, to a great degree slowing and reducing the potential social and economic benefits. Branscomb (1993) has suggested that some countries, like the United States, need to shift their strategies from those centered on government to strategies centered on industry. He has further suggested that this needs to be done in a way that balances government investment in science and basic research, i.e., the creation of new knowledge, with a new focus on promoting new technology implementation by industry.

Challenges related to implementation and technology transfer

A new technology clearly has to have considerable relative advantage and it has to provide significant value to the customer before it is embraced by the wider user community (Jain and Triandis 1997). Even when the new technology provides a considerable relative advantage and value to the customer, its adoption and wide-scale utilization can be a challenge. Other issues related to marketing, people (perceptions, risk aversion), process (implementation requirements, adoptability and adaptability), incentives, disincentives, regulations and organization policies all could foster or adversely effect new technology utilization. Thus, many new ideas and knowledge related to incorporating Clean Technologies have a significant time lag between the generation of these ideas and their implementation.

Considering impediments to implementing Clean Technologies, it appears, there would be one other fundamental issue: implementation benefits are derived not only by the implementing organization but are also accrued by society at large, thus benefits are a property of the commons. Some examples are: minimizing use of natural resources, recycling/reuse, minimizing environmental impacts and reducing emission of gases contributing to climate change.

Suggested ways to overcome these impediments

Four different approaches may be considered to remove impediments and facilitate implementation of Clean Technologies; they are:
  • Market-based approach;

  • Increased investment in Clean Technologies;

  • Governmental subsidies;

  • Recognition for industry and agencies embracing and implementing clean technologies.

Market-based approaches can be very effective. If an agency or industry, by using clean technologies, reduces emissions at a level much lower than required by regulations, the organization should be able to bank those credits and trade them in ways that could be economically beneficial. This market-based approach seems to have worked well in other cases and can provide not only the necessary economic incentives for implementation but can help stimulate new technology developments as well.
Increased investment in new technology can be quite beneficial for generating new concepts, ideas and systems that are economical and implementable. In a New York Times article (Flynn 2007) it was stated that Silicon Valley investment in Clean Technology—from alternative energy products, like solar panels and hybrid cars, to the use of nanotechnology to solve environmental problems—increased from $34 million in the first quarter of 2006 to $290 million in the third quarter. It appears to be the hottest area of investment at this time. Stephen Levy, an economist with the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy, stated that the growing demand for clean technologies might well make this emerging investment boom cycle a lasting trend. In addition, developments on the California legislative front may help stimulate that growth; as an example, the California law makers set a goal of cutting the state’s greenhouse emissions 25% by 2020 (Flynn 2007).

Joel Makower (2006) in his article stated that the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox, is making a move into Clean Technology and sustainable products and services. It is quite likely that the birthplace of many of the innovations in information technology may be the birthplace of tomorrow’s Clean Technologies. This article further stated that the demand for Clean Technologies could stem not only from the needs of the world but the needs of the regulatory pressures, market trends and consumer demand for cleaner and greener products.

According to the San Francisco Business Times (Wilson 2004) investment in Clean Technology reached $1.17 billion in 2003; in addition, California Public Employees Retirement System is planning to invest a combined $1.5 billion in Green Technologies as part of its “Green Wave” initiative.

Storied Venture Capital Firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (KPCB), which backed Google, Amazon and Netscape has now begun investing in Clean Technologies; John Doerr a partner at KPCB, discusses projects his firm is backing and what these investments may mean for the future of the market (Seabrook 2006).

By and large, most organizations view governmental subsidies negatively, except when it benefits them and then they see no problem in advocating such governmental support. This will be no different for proposed governmental subsidies to implement Clean Technologies. According to one analyses (Bezdek and Wendling 2006), US governmental subsidies to the energy sector since 1950, primarily to the oil companies, amount to approximately $644 billion (in 2003 dollars). Similarly, in the US, large farm subsidies are provided for some very good economic and social reasons. In the case of Clean Technologies, a credible case can be made for governmental subsidies for some sound reasons: minimization of externalities, reducing economic and social costs to future generations and protecting the environmental commons.

Because of considerable public interest in sustainable development and the environment, identification and recognition of industry and agencies that adopt clean technologies can be helpful in many ways: it can be beneficial to industry directly by increasing customer base and for agencies this could help provide the needed public and legislative support.

Implementation and transfer of Clean Technologies present challenges beyond other technologies. Some of the suggestions made here—market-based approach, increased investment, subsidies, recognition for industry and agencies—can further stimulate Clean Technology development and implementation.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007