The three events described above are singular points in time, representing the end point of prior activity and the starting point for activity to follow. The intersections between the wave and the axis in Figure 1. set boundaries for four areas two above the axis and two below it. These four areas represent the technology transfer activity surrounding the three critical events: Technology Applications, Technology R&D, Product R&D and Product Commercialization.
Technology Applications (TA) - The Technology Applications activity precedes the idea conception. The Technology Application includes the existing science and technology base and the potential applications of all technology within the field of interest such as assistive technology. Technology Applications represents all of the individual thinking and all of the group communication that precedes the conception of a new idea. The positive slope in the wave across the TA area, represents a gradual convergence of thinking about technology and application opportunities, as people negotiate the conceptual maze of the idea generation process. Technology Applications activity terminates at the idea event, because at this point all of the possible combinations of technologies and applications have been narrowed to one clear idea.
Technology Research and Development (Technology R&D) - Technology Research and Development activity begins after the idea event. Technology R&D activity encompasses the intellectual and physical activity involved in transforming an idea for a technology application to a specific prototype form. In Figure 1., the area first increases as the initial idea expands through research into the application area, into a wide range of application options. Over time, as the intellectual research activity is replaced with the physical development of a prototype, the area diminishes as the range of options available diminishes. Figure 1. also shows Technology R&D above the horizontal axis because it represents the fairly visible and public communication necessary to refine the idea into a working model. The communication should involve evaluative feedback from the likely producers and consumers of the eventual product envisioned. The options available diminish until the technology application idea is reduced to a single developed prototype the prototype event.
The prototype is the point of intersection between technology activity and product activity. The idea takes form in a prototype. The prototype is a tangible example of the technology s potential value in a new or novel application. Sometimes the technology developer is also the product developer, as in the case of internal corporate research and development. Within the technology transfer process, the technology developer is typically seeking a product developer (e.g. manufacturer to implement the transition from technology to product.
Product Research and Development (Product R&D) - Product R&D activity commences after the prototype event. It represents the research and development activity involved in transforming a prototype device into a product ready for commercial production. The transformation from prototype to product is widely known as the valley of death in product development literature. The valley of death is the favored phrase, because few attempts survive the activities required. These activity includes developing and testing working models, engineering beta and production prototypes, tooling and setup for production, and detailing and acquiring manufacturing raw materials and components for assembly.
If sufficient investments of capital and expertise are not made at this time, the project ends before a commercially viable product is realized. Crossing the valley of death requires rigorous evaluations by internal staff and external potential consumers. The Product R&D activity is similarly portrayed as a valley in Figure 1. The wave drops below the horizontal axis signifying the increasing likelihood that the initial financing and development will not occur. The wave regains a positive slope as the product prototype research and development generates additional enthusiasm and support. Product R&D culminates in the third event; the final product ready for commercial introduction.
Product Commercialization (PC) - Product commercialization is the activity of rolling out a new product into the marketplace, so it naturally follows the product event. Product commercialization activity includes the manufacturing, distribution, sales and support for the product. The wave again rises above the axis because the product is introduced to the public marketplace. The PC wave's slope remains in a positive direction as long as the product gains new market share. In the future, the wave's slope will level off as the product matures, turn negative as sales and market share decline, or will simply terminate because the product is replaced by a new or improved product, sometimes based on even newer technology. There are five Stakeholder Groups in the Technology Transfer Process.
Any transfer requires a transaction between two parties a producer and a consumer. We have five stakeholder groups, two involved with production, two involved with consumption, and one general resource provider group. Technologies have producers and consumers, and products have producers and consumers, and all rely on Resource Providers to facilitate the process. Each group is a vital stakeholder in the technology transfer process.
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