Problem Solving and Intermediation by Local Public Technology Centers in Regional Innovation Systems: The first report on a branch-level survey on technical consultation

Author Name FUKUGAWA Nobuya (Tohoku University) / GOTO Akira (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. March 2016 16-E-062
Research Project The Role of Public Research Institutions in the Japanese National Innovation System
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Local public technology centers (LPTCs) are technology transfer organizations administrated by local governments in Japan. LPTCs arrange various technology transfer channels mainly for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region. Although it has been recognized that technical consultation is the most important channel for technology transfer, there are virtually no reliable statistics that define and measure this. This study is the first to investigate such technical consultation, gathering information from surveys conducted at the branch level. The key findings can be summarized as follows. First, LPTCs solve various (technological and non-technological) problems through technical consultation. What is notable is that a non-negligible proportion of the problems have to do with design. Second, these problems are diverse in terms of complexity as well, with design problems requiring a longer time to solve. Third, technical consultation acts as a gateway to further technology transfer activities. Additional technical assistance triggered by technical consultation varies across technological fields. Fourth, LPTCs act as innovation intermediaries that connect SMEs to other sources of knowledge, such as universities, when the problems are too hard to solve internally. Fifth, LPTCs believe that technical consultation contributes to their researchers' better understanding of local firms' technological needs, which is salient for LPTCs that frequently deal with design problems.