Sound Foundation for Development

Algeria was ranked 108th out of 127 in June 2017 in the Global Innovation Index, a global ranking of countries according to their abilities and results of economic innovation as published annually by Cornell University, the INSEAD and the UN’s World Intellectual Organization Property (WIPO). The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4FIR) is on us; this will be based on the generalised Knowledge and Technology Transfer throughout all endeavours. We should therefore not forget that the world is not waiting for Algeria to get on the band wagon.  This country is not isolated and its assessment from either the above GII 2017 as from official data shows the limits of the administratively bureaucratic approach that lead to that ranking.

This brief analysis is a synthesis, of Volume VI of the multidisciplinary audit, submitted to the Government in January 03, 2013 (1).

Technology Transfer

According to the WIPO, technology transfer is the process of designating the formal transfer to industry of discoveries resulting from University research and the commercialization of these discoveries in the form of new products and services.

As far as academic research is concerned, technology transfer is an operation that is to transfer a specific piece of knowledge from research, formalized or not in the form of patent(s) or deposited property rights, to another center of research, public or private, with the intended purpose to pursue for industrial development or to turn research into industrial innovation, by assigning any discoveries to an industrial enterprise.

If we limit ourselves to industry, technology transfer is the sale by contract of all rights of use of a technique, a process, a product (commodity) that it owns, as well as the know-how for its industrial production.

The technology owner remains the owner and the buyer is contractually limited to a market (for example geographical limits, customer type, volumes) and constraints of broadcast (the purchaser cannot transfer technology).

As one should not confuse technology transfer with an assignment of license, the transfer of technology including the disclosure of know-how adapted to the context of the purchaser whether in public or private law.

What are the different forms of technology transfer?

We can classify this in different forms also often complementary. First, the dissemination of knowledge, sometimes named dissemination and transfer of knowledge, which is a discipline practiced by research centres for the purpose of information of public bodies et enterprises.

This broadcast is practiced in conventions, through publications constituting one of the information sources of technological intelligence that monitors the evolution of knowledge, know-how and the feasibility of inventions in a certain field and its development environments.

Strictly speaking, technology watch is not a transfer of technology but facilitates the transfer. Then there is the technological slurping, i.e. digging up sleepy projects in research laboratories and universities that did not find industrial opportunities and promote them for purposes of enterprise creation.

Another method of transfer often used in industry to facilitate knowledge management is the recruitment of executives and specialists in a given technology. It is one of the activities of head-hunters, recruitment firms or sometimes this leads to industrial espionage if the beneficiaries of the information know how to exploit them.

There is no real training phase, unless the data transmission includes didactic elements. Also included as transfer facility in a first phase is reverse engineering as applied in technical education, the counterfeiting or piracy (often prohibited under the terms of the WTO)

Finally there is the partial transfer of technology through the granting of a  license to the purchaser production but excluding certain technologies (protection of know-how). Good management requires knowledge and skills.

Knowledge fundamentals to technology transfer

Facing up to the pressure of competition with innovation, development of tailor-made products and increasingly complex technologies geared for the production of more and more personalized services, the required work of employees has no immediacy. Increasingly, directions of companies request of employees to lay down knowledge of their own work thus the importance of continuous training.

This production of knowledge is based on commitment and involvement that make initiative, intuition, judgment (famous Japanese Toolbox source of innovation) play a central role but also on the abilities of the individuals and the wider “social knowledge” that is strategic for every company that wants to continue to succeed.

Knowledge management relies on the levers of success such as knowledge embedded in products and services; knowledge and skills within a company (human capital); knowledge contained in the process (internal structure); corporate memory; transactional memory and finally knowledge as intangible property (intellectual capital).

This openness reflects the necessary break with the forms of governance that are centralized, disciplinary and mutilating as inherited from the Ford era.  Capital also goes social in different techno-organisational devices influencing the rapport of individuals at work.

Surveys clearly show that this extension of social knowledge is accompanied by new forms of segmentation (qualified / not qualified; mobile / immobile; young / old; man / woman) and a sharing of activities and services that become more and more merchants (outsourcing computing to India electronics to Japan, South Korea, etc.)

This sociocultural approach that reflects the complexity of our societies with technology transfer being the apparent appearance owes much to the important work in terms of the approach to the economic anthropology of the Indian economist Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen whereby according to him, there cannot be any sustainable development without the introduction of the competitive market economy and of a real democracy that only allows both tolerance and confrontation of ideas and growth of renewable energy taking into account the cultural anthropologies of societies.

There is generally a dialectical link between technology transfer and culture

National culture being not static, but evolving as strongly characterised by the opening of a society onto environmental values, myths, rites and signs shared by the majority of the social body is an essential constituent of the culture of enterprise and technology transfer.

The successful experiences of Japan, emerging countries such as China and India show that we can assimilate technology without renouncing one’s culture. Moreover, the transfer is favoured where there is a better understanding of convergent and divergent values between two groups whereas trying to impose one’s own values could lead to a relationship of domination that in turn limits the transfer.

Corporate culture is also a by-product of a national culture and thus a set of values, myths, rites, taboos, and signs shared by the majority of employees and an essential element to explain the strategic choices by strengthening common values: example, regulations behaviour codes, job descriptions, as well as by the rewards and sanctions system so that employees are mobilised for the purpose of identification with their company and take over its history.

All this facilitates the transfer of technology that should not be limited to its technical, but to all managerial, organizational and commercial etc. aspects.  The index of human development or HDI developed in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian Economist, Nobel Prize in economics Amartya Sen reflects the importance of the development of human capital including education and health.

Change of legal framework blocking investment and technology transfer

It is useful to recall that from the political independence to the present day, the Algerian economy has experienced different forms of organization of public enterprises.

Prior to 1965, self-management was preferred; from 1965 to 1980, we had large national companies and from 1980 to 1988, we witnessed a first restructuring carving up the large national corporations. As a result of the crisis of 1986 that saw the oil price collapse, timid reforms have begun in 1988: the State creating 8 Fund that were responsible for managing the various State portfolios.

As a result of cessation of payments in 1994 (with the consequent rescheduling), in 1996, the State created 11 holdings in addition to the 5 regional ones with a national Council of privatization; in 2000, we are witnessing their merger in 5 mega holdings and the removal of the national Council of privatization; in 2001, a further reorganization created 28 companies of participative management (GSP) in addition to large companies considered as strategic and in 2004, these GSPs are grouped into 11 and 4 regional ones.

At the various Governments Councils held throughout year 2007, a new organization is proposed by the Department of the Promotion of Investment, (both large companies oil SONATRACH and SONELGAZ, governed by specific laws being not concerned), articulated around four major segments: from the economic development corporations that fall under the exclusive State Management; companies of promotion and development by promoting partnership with the private sector, national and international; called State companies to be eventually privatized ; and finally, a company responsible for the liquidation of structurally loss-making enterprises.

In February 2008, this organisation proposal that did not have unanimity within the various spheres of authorities is abandoned. A commission was instead created to define the typical organization of the public economic sector between 2011/2016 with differing industry groups.

Not forgetting this ambiguous 49 / 51% of company share ownership that was introduced in 2009 to all enterprises including banks in 2010, regardless of strategic and non-strategic sectors drove away foreign capital, Algeria supporting all additional costs.

These periodically recurring changes of organization discouraged managers in the public economic sector, as well as the local and foreign investors clearly showed the dominance of the administrative and bureaucratic approach at the expense of the economic operational approach resulting in a waste of financial resources, a strengthening of the rentier dynamics and blocking of any transfer of technology.

Because of the essential blocking of local and foreign investment being a bureaucratic machine that feeds on the lack of visibility and coherence in the overall reform this situation would require an approach with a comprehensive reform whereas lack of political consensus and neutralization of the balance of power has never addressed a clear way of the future role of the State in the face of both internal and international changes.

Indeed, the future stakes are essentially economic and as in all countries in transition the Algerian society is naturally facing two trends, with in the a majority “the swamp” in the middle not understanding the issues that are anticipated between 2017 and 2030 in essentially economic, between adverse actors and stakeholders favouring reforms where the importance of records eminently political as that of hydrocarbons, the production place of the rent, of the financial system, place of distribution of the rent, and that of the partnership-privatisation, coupled with that of a socio-educational system, rather than the production of added-value that skills will create new social forces either backward if we are moving towards a new private monopoly or carriers of progress if we set a total transparency for a truly competitive market economy.

Hence the rentier tendency to managing the reforms according to a vision bureaucratic as of administrative injunctions based on administrative relays – the office, necessary in any society, but in contrast to developed countries analyzed by Max Weber, a factor blocking that attends the blocking of useful investment for more than 60%.

What conclusion for the action of the Government?

Reconciling economic efficiency and a deep social justice in the context of an open economy, control of the time being the main challenge for Governments in the 21st century would at the end of the day constitute the real challenge of Algeria between 2017, 2020 and 2030.

It is clear that at the time when big businesses and SMIs/SMEs are organized into networks corresponding to a historic phase where the enterprise tends to focus on its core business by outsourcing a good number of secondary activities, and the manufacturing industry experiencing a crisis rarely matched globally, it is necessary to avoid theoretical experiments with huge costs for the country which can only lead to an impasse for lack of strategic vision.

It is the result of the new configuration of the international labour division, product of the evolution of the development of capitalism, an unfinished globalization historical process with the new technological ecological challenge.  Knowledge within the stability of the political environment, economic and social determinants according to international reports, would be a decisive factor in the development of Nations in the 21st century with good governance.

Any operational analysis would have to connect the process of technology transfer to both the new changes at the global level, in front of a profound change in geopolitical, socio-economic, managerial and technological at horizon 2017/2020/2030 as a future policy of the Government tossed between two social forces: the rentier logic supported by proponents of import, the unfortunately dominant informal sphere and the entrepreneurial logic.

In fact technology transfer should not be limited to the technical aspects only but to the organization of society in general on a par with both internal and global changes.  The passage of the status of ‘support against the pension’ to the rule of law “based on work and intelligence” is a major political gamble since it simply involves a new social contract and a new political contract between the Nation and the State.

(1) Three audits under the direction of Dr Abderrahmane Mebtoul for the Government including the observation and operational resolutions were conducted comprising:
Study carried out and assisted by officials from the Department of Energy, senior executives of SONATRACH and Ernst Young titled “For a policy of fuels including a policy of subsidies targeted in a competitive market.”