Technology Transfer and Technological Capability Building in Informal Firms in Tanzania

University dissertation from CIRCLE, Lund University

Abstract: Technology transfer is important to understand how knowledge is transformed to economic value. Applying a case study approach, this thesis investigates the technology transfer efforts from the University of Dar Es Salaam to indigenous informal SMEs in Tanzania and examines the impact of one of their technology transfer mechanisms on the specific technological capabilities that were acquired at the firm level. This dissertation thus aims to contribute to the literature on technology transfer and technological capability building in Africa by studying technology transfer and technological capability building by informal SMEs that engage in interactions with the University of Dar es Salaam. Theoretically, the thesis relates to the many remaining blind spots in the emerging area of innovation studies and university-industry linkages with regard to technology transfer from the formal to the informal economic sphere in developing countries, particularly least developed countries in Africa. The thesis aims to contribute theoretically to the field of technology transfer by a) discussing how technology transfer to the informal economy can occur, where the innovation system is highly fragmented, and b) examining how technology transfer can support the building of technological capabilities in informal firms in such weak innovation systems. An analytical framework based on different levels and functions of technological capabilities is developed to this end. Empirically, this dissertation is based on data collected through a survey and interviews on site in Tanzania during 2008 and 2009. It provides insights into technology transfer mechanisms to informal SMEs and the impact of the technology transfer on the technological capabilities that can be acquired. While technological capabilities were acquired on all levels, the findings reveal that the categories may relate to more basic activities on all levels. The results further show that the different technology transfer mechanisms differ with regard to the technological capabilities that they may generate as a result of the transfer. Overall, the transfer of technology to the informal firms is more complex in terms of the external organizations that are involved and is in contrast to more linear relationships identified in technology transfer literature.