• China-Germany DGF program “applicate technology: technology transfer from Germany to China”
  • Update Time: 2016-10-18

Technology transfer, especially the cross-region and cross-culture ones are the most important forms of tech spread and tech communication. Under the knowledge global vision, a throng of questions of development of global science and technology can be discussed in the framework of technology transfer. Ever since the nineties, foreign scholars consciously have carried out Chinese and western case study of technology transfer and made not a few achievements. In recent years, historical research of technology transfer has remained active, involved more diversity of ambit. In addition, it focused on dual plus multi- perspectives instead of one-way perspectives of the recipient or donor. Meanwhile, along with the convenience of obtaining documents literature domestic and overseas increasingly enhances new history data of different languages almost emerges in endlessly. Tangible and intangible technology heritage enrich day by day, so that the object, theory and method of research are continuously developing and the boundedness of scholars with single culture background are exposed as well. If an international team approach can be used, the respective superiority of different background scholars can be brought out, hopefully technology transfer will break new ground. 

In 2008 Prof. Baichun Zhang and Prof. Wolfgang König, the academician of Germany Academy of engineering from the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), came to an agreement to carry out transnational technology transfer history research. Two years later, the Institute for the history of natural sciences (IHNS) and the TUB officially established an international research team and applied for the fund support of DFG together. In 2011, under the leadership of professor König, with the conduction of DFG, the joint research project by Prof. Zhang and professor M. Flitsch ( The University of Zurich), the project of“Making Technology Appropriate: Technology Transfer from Germany to China (1860-1980)”started up on both Germany and China side. The TUB provided working condition and was in charge of organization and operation of the team. At the same time the project was supported by the 12th five-year plan of IHNS. The key members of the team were: Dr. Dirk Forschner, Dr. Lie Sun, Mr. Philipp Mahltig. 

The two cases study of the project were the transfer of ordnance manufacturing technology and steam locomotive technology from Germany to China during the 19th to 20th centuries, which involved manufacturing technology, military technology, traffic technique, engineering construction, etc. They are representative and typical areas in the history of both countries. It is explicit that the project’s core point is the mechanism and influence of appropriation and technology transfer. Simply speaking, the researchers focus on the different technique between both sides. According to the difference of the cases and objects, there are different dimensionality of analysis ways, such as the alteration of the technology itself, the change of the environment, the modifying the use of the new technology and the training of the personnel engaged in the new technology. Different analysis ways also integrate with globalization and comparative perspectives. 

During four years, the team members collected and investigated at more than 20 archives, libraries, museums, universities and institutes of Germany, China, Switzerland, and France. They also have valuable academic links with scholars of UK, Austria, USA, Czech and Poland for finding clues or discussion. By close cooperation of the team members and the approach of multiple evidences, a good foundation had been laid for researching and lucubrating. They have also held five workshops in China, Germany or Switzerland to summarize experience and sought for the solution for different problems at each stage. 

The research shows that the long-term technology transfer between China and Germany was not a matter of only two sides. The technology of recipient is not completely the counterpart of the donor, the appearance of appropriation technology is not an accidental phenomenon. The process was affected by technical gradient difference, different technical system and technical tradition. It indicates that the complex and changeable forms in different areas resulted from the interaction between technology and society. It also responded and criticized the traditional theory and method of technology transfer. The correlational achievement will be published with monograph “Technology Transfer of Ordnance technology from Germany to China”and “German steam locomotive in China”.