Modelling International Technology Transfer in Thai Construction Projects
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AbstractInternational technology transfer from developed to developing countries continues to stimulate rapid industrialisation and economic growth globally, particularly in the fast growing newly industrialised countries. Numerous researchers and practitioners have defined the term technology transfer (TT) differently, due largely to their individual fields of study. For the purpose of this research, international TT has been defined as when all types of knowledge relating to the construction field (e.g. design, construction process, material use, equipment utilisation, etc.) are transferred from a foreign party (transferor) to a host party (transferee) that arranges to receive it. Various academic and industry reports have stated that developing countries lack the technology and the eknow-how f for managing large, sophisticated, multi disciplinary construction projects. However, these deficiencies can be overcome by implementing TT initiatives on construction projects in developing countries, to enhance the local industry fs technical capabilities and knowledge. Such initiatives are in the interest of many developing countries because a strong construction industry is fundamental for creating the necessary buildings and infrastructure which underpin sustainable economic activity and ultimately improve living standards. Specifically, TT can add value to the host construction sector in the following three areas: (1) economic advancement; (2) knowledge advancement; and (3) project performance. However, there are numerous factors, which have an impact on the degree of success of international TT initiatives. This study identified four main categories of factors (enablers), which can impact on the TT process and its outcomes for the construction sector, namely, transfer environment, learning environment, transferor characteristics and transferee characteristics. The performance of, and interrelationship between, these enablers contributes to the degree of value added to the local industry through the TT process. Therefore, the objective of this research was to develop a model for international TT in construction projects, which includes appropriate and reliable enabling and outcome factors. Such a model is an essential first step to understanding the international TT process. Knowing the key factors and how they interact ensures that host government and industry can manipulate the TT process to derive the most value for their construction sector. To achieve the above mentioned objective, this research solicited industry input via two questionnaire surveys (Pilot Study, Primary Study) and follow up case studies. The pilot study was primarily used to test the validity and reliability of the data obtained and to facilitate the refinement of questionnaire items and scale prior to commencement of the primary study. The target group of respondents in the pilot study included design and construction professionals from construction projects involving TT initiatives. Statistical analysis techniques including, mean, standard deviation, correlation and regression were utilised for the analysis of the data received from the pilot study. Due to the small sample size the analysis results were mainly used as guidance for refining the research method and associated questionnaire survey for the primary study. In particular, minor modification to the wording of the enabler and outcome factor questions were undertaken for the new survey instrument, therefore improving respondents understanding of the various elements of the international TT process. The objective of the primary study was to examine the validity of the conceptual model factors and sub-factors, investigate causal paths and develop a statistically verified model for international TT in construction projects. In total, 300 surveys were distributed and 162 were returned, representing a response rate of 54 per cent. Statistical analysis techniques, including, exploratory factor analysis (EFA), confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modelling (SEM) were used to exploit the survey data in order to address all research questions. Analysis resulted in an international TT model consisting of four TT enabling factors, namely, government influence, relationship building, transferor characteristics and transferee characteristics in addition to one outcome factor named TT value added. Moreover, through the use of SEM (i.e. path analysis) the five significant interrelationships between the factors in the international TT model were discovered. These included government influence (GI) ¨ transferee characteristics (TE), government influence (GI) ¨ transferor characteristics (TR), transferee characteristics (TE) ¨ transferor characteristics (TR), transferor characteristics (TR) ¨ relationship building (RB) and relationship building (RB) ¨ TT value added (VA). Developing strong relationships between the transferor and transferee proved to be the strongest enabler of TT value creation in the construction context. The final international TT model derived from the primary study formed the foundations of a developed methodology for benchmarking construction TT performance in developing and newly industrialised countries. This methodology was utilised to provide a baseline benchmark index of TT performance in the Thai construction sector. A benchmark score of 71 per cent was determined, implying that todate (2005) construction TT ventures in Thailand have been operating at moderate to high effectiveness. Furthermore, the TT performance of individual transferor nationalities operating in Thailand was compared. The study provides some evidence that over the last couple of decades Japanese construction firms were not only the leading exporter of construction services to Thailand but also performed higher across all influenced TT performance perspectives. Case studies were employed for the purpose of validating the accuracy of the causal paths in the international TT model and application of the developed TT benchmarking methodology on individual large-scale construction projects in Thailand. In total, case studies on five foreign companies working with Thai companies, on four present and recently completed construction projects was conducted. Forty seven (47) respondents representing Thai construction and engineering professionals participated in an additional and extended questionnaire survey. The results obtained from the case studies supported the path model developed in the primary study and the associated structural equations. Moreover, the case studies provided the opportunity to establish baseline benchmarks of international TT performance (TT index) for individual projects. Amongst the five companies evaluated, Thai respondents working with the German firm (project 2, company 2) recorded the highest overall TT index score. This supports the findings of the primary study where German firms had the second highest overall TT index score. Surprisingly, the overall TT index scores for case study projects where Japanese companies (3 no.) were the foreign partner scored significantly lower than those from the primary study. Recent Thai construction projects typically adopt English as the common site language making Thai-Japanese communications more difficult. International TT has the potential to rapidly develop the construction sectors of developing countries. However, rates of international TT diffusion have typically been much lower than expectations prompting the author to undertake this study on modelling the TT process and its f outcomes for host construction sectors. Nevertheless, the final path model for international TT in construction projects and the associated TT benchmarking method reported herein require further development. Firstly, future research should more closely examine the impact of culture and training on the TT process and incorporate such enablers into the presented path model. Secondly, future research should attempt to further validate the formulated path model and benchmarking method by applying them in different contexts (i.e. different countries, different projects, etc.). Thirdly, future benchmarking investigations should include some quantitative TT performance indicators to provide a more accurate representation of them effectiveness/success of a TT process or outcome. Finally, a longitudinal study would better quantify the causal link between lagging and leading TT process enabling and outcome factors. Such a study could result in a robust systems dynamics model of the international TT process and the outcomes it can generate for the host construction sector.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Engineering