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TU Berlin

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Standardisation to Promote International Transfer of Sustainable Technologies:
The Roles of WTO, ISO and WIPO for the international Diffusion of Environmental Innovations

With regard to the global sustainability challenges, the growing economic weight of some newly industrialising countries, as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and their therewith connected higher share in global environmental pollution, demand for a rapid change of the local production methods. The provision of adequate technological knowledge and its broad application are therefore in the interest not only of these countries, but of the global community.

While a broad stream of academic literature is concerned with the effects of intellectual property right protection on international technology transfer, the importance of international standardisation within this context is widely ignored. The analysis of the role of international standardisation and its interplay with other supranational governance instruments in the promotion of sustainable technology transfer is the main research focus of this project.

In establishing international environmental standards lies the chance to provide economic incentives for the diffusion of sustainable innovations by linking environmental protection to the participation in global trade. Furthermore, the fixation of technical specifications in standard documents constitutes a codification of knowledge that may support technology diffusion, promote international trade relations and lead to the convergence of technological developments. The International Organization for Standardization ISO provides a functioning and appropriate forum, which is hardly utilised in this respect. One important reason is that the introduction of strict environmental standards goes against other politico-economic interests.

The WTO, as custodian of free trade, but also many newly industrialising and developing countries regard strict environmental standards as potential technical barriers to trade. This argument is particularly important in a post-TRIPS era, if conforming to the environmental standard requires the use of technologies whose applications are restricted by intellectual property rights.

Scientific and application-oriented objectives:

The study aims to analyse the significance of international standardisation activities for the international transfer of sustainable technologies in developing and particularly in newly industrialising countries (like Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) within the context of defining trade regimes and enforcing intellectual property rights by international organizations (like WTO, ISO, and WIPO), as well as the effects and the interplay of supranational regulations (as TRIPS) in regard to a sustainable development.

It shall suggest options for the design of supranational governance instruments that support the international transfer and broad diffusion of environmentally benign technologies. Thereby it shall also pay attention to their political feasibility by referring to potential reservations and conflicts of interests between developing and newly industrialising countries on the one side and industrialised countries on the other within the different international organisations. The study shall thus provide a basis for decision-making and arguments for a strategic positioning of German foreign and development policy striving for global sustainability goals. Method:

  • Empirical appraisal of international environmental standardisation and analysis of barriers
  • Empirical analysis of determining factors of the national environmental awareness and its effects on the national environmental regulation
  • Game theoretic analysis of strategic international standards setting options
  • Elaboration of options for action to promote the international transfer of environmental technologies through standardisation


Workshop Contributions


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Duration and budget:
July 2010 - June 2013 / ca. 110k €

Project team:
Prof. Dr. Knut Blind
Dipl.-Kfm. Jan Peuckert