16 May 2017

South Africa: Minister Naledi Pandor - Media Briefing Ahead of Science and Technology Budget Vote 2017-18

press release

Media Statement by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, ahead of the Science and Technology Budget Vote debate in Parliament on Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Members of the media

The theme

Our theme for this year's budget vote is "The Oliver Tambo legacy - positioning the national system of innovation for the future". Government announced the celebration of O.R Tambo this year, as it would have been his centenary had he lived.

OR Tambo wasn't just a luminary of our struggle for freedom; he was also an outstanding mathematics and science teacher. As part of honouring OR Tambo, we will, soon, be hosting a round-table discussion on Mathematics and Education, in the East Rand of Johannesburg.

Strategic overview

There is growing appreciation of the contribution of science, technology and innovation (STI) to socio-economic transformation and the achievement of government imperatives.

STI is acknowledged as an important contributor in government's Operation Phakisa and other initiatives. Further STI is recognised as a cross-cutter in government's Nine-Point Plan.

At a policy level, the importance of STI is highlighted in South Africa's National Development Plan (Vision 2030). The National Development Plan (NDP), notes that developments in STI fundamentally alter the way people live, communicate and transact, with profound effects on economic growth and development.

Science, technology and innovation are key to equitable economic growth, underpinning economic advances and improvements in health systems, education and infrastructure.

The NDP argues that countries that are able to tackle poverty effectively by growing their economies are characterised by strong capabilities in STI, and acknowledges the role that STI can play in addressing the interlinked challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Internationally, science, technology and related innovations are recognised as future sources of economic growth, with the potential to create new types of jobs, and provide new solutions to problems trapping people in poverty, such as poor health and water shortages.

The department has therefore sharpened its focus on the ways in which its work and the work of the broader national system of innovation can contribute to addressing South Africa's most pressing challenges.

The DST adds value to the efforts of the rest of government and industry to implement the NDP by providing cutting-edge science and technology to enable effective decision-making.

The department's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan identified the need to provide decision support to improve government services or functions, and an audit undertaken in 2016/17 identified at least 19 services or functions where the investments of the DST and its entities are providing decision support.

The 2017/18 financial year is the third year of implementation of the DST's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. The plan is dominated by several specific strategic interventions intended to increase the capacity of the national system of innovation and its contribution to South Africa's economic growth.

With the 2017/18 budget at R7,5 billion, the department will maintain a clear focus on human capital development and the continuous modernisation of research infrastructure. Already these efforts have resulted in enhanced knowledge production, growth and the transformation of the pool of knowledge workers, as well as the exploitation of knowledge for development.

This work relates directly to the Medium Term Strategic Framework's Outcome 5 (A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path).

A considerable degree of the work and research that the DST undertakes supports the Medium Term Strategic Framework's Outcome 2 (A long and healthy life for all South Africans) as well as Outcome 4 (Decent employment through inclusive growth).

The department also contributes directly to Outcome 6 (An efficient, competitive, and responsive economic infrastructure network) through its investments in research and development, promoting innovation, and building the country's knowledge economy to improve productivity, health systems, education and infrastructure.

This will include research infrastructure grants to researchers and institutions across the innovation value chain (e.g. for pilot plants, technology demonstrators and specialised facilities); the establishment of new technology service platforms, such as a bioinformatics service platform to service the life science sector; and agro-innovation hubs to connect researchers and rural communities.

Sustainable growth in South Africa will require a transformed and fully utilised human capital base. To this end the department will ensure that at least 80% of postgraduate students receiving support through the National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary programme are black, 55% are women and 4% are people with disabilities.

Guidelines are in place to achieve this through the bursary and research support programmes, and the efficacy of these guidelines will be monitored and evaluated annually to ensure the realisation of these goals.

Some key priorities in 2017/18

The Research Development and Support Programme will transfer R 693 million to the NRF to ensure the completion of the MeerKat, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) demonstrator project.

The SKA will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Key economic benefits from this investment will be the leveraging of foreign direct investment from the SKA Organisation for constructions costs of phase 1 of SKA.

The National Development Plan acknowledges that economic growth is a long-term project and that the role played by innovation should see an incremental increase. The department will focus on South African innovation for energy security, poverty alleviation and health care funded through the Technology Innovation Programme, which has been allocated R1.1 billion.

In line with the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act, 2008, the department will ensure greater economic and social returns from intellectual property generated from innovation activities using public funds.

The department will transfer R 36 million to the National Intellectual Property Management Office, to ensure that publicly funded intellectual property is used to create products, processes and services that contribute to quality of life in South Africa.

The department aims to position bio-innovation as a mechanism for achieving government's industrial and social development goals, guided by the department's 2013 Bio-economy Strategy. Under the Technology Innovation Programme, R156 million, is allocated for bio-innovation in the health, agricultural and industrial biotechnology sectors.

The budget

The DST's total budget for the 2017/18 financial year is R 7.5 billion, which is divided between the Department's five main Programmes. They represent various core focus areas, as follows;

Research Development and Support receives R 4.3 billion

The Programme plays a leading role in increasing knowledge generation and is a key source of research funding for higher education institutions. In 2015/16, 4 315 researchers were awarded research grants through programmes managed by the NRF/DST.

This figure is expected to increase to 4 500 in 2017/18. The Research Development and Support Programme is also the custodian of high-level human capital development.

In 2017/18, no fewer than 32 792 pipeline postgraduate students will be awarded bursaries through NRF/DST-managed programmes. Work will continue to ensure that South Africans have access to internationally comparable research and innovation infrastructure.

'Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, 90 new research infrastructure grants will be awarded in response to the needs across the innovation value chain (that is, from equipment for fundamental research to high-end technology infrastructure), and the total available broadband capacity provided through the South African National Research Network (SANReN) will be increased to 3 500 Gigabits per second (or 3.5 Terabits per second), which will assist in providing more efficient transmission of data to all research and academic institutions and national projects'.

Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships receives R1,6 billion

The programme will spend this allocation on supporting the development of science and technology-based innovations for tackling poverty, including the creation of sustainable jobs and sustainable human settlements, and the enhanced delivery of basic services.

The programme provides policy, strategy and direction setting for the research and development-led growth of strategic sectors of the economy, and support for the transition to a green economy.

It leads in and supports the development of indicators and instruments for monitoring investments in science and technology and the performance of the national system of innovation, as well as ways of strengthening policy in relation to the system.

Finally, this programme funds technology and innovation development programmes to advance strategic medium and long-term sustainable economic growth and sector development priorities, as well as public service delivery.

Technology Innovation receives an allocation of close to R1,1 billion

This will be spent on leading, informing and influencing policy development in strategic focus areas; coordinating and supporting research and skills development in space science, renewable energy and the bioeconomy; and promoting the development, commercialisation and legal protection of scientific research and development outputs, processes and services. Some of these objectives are carried out through the Technology Innovation Agency and the National Intellectual Property Management Office.

International Cooperation and Resources receives an allocation of R128,7 million

This allocation is to be used for increasing the flow of international resources into the country for science, technology and innovation-based socio-economic development; increasing the exposure of South African researchers and students to global knowledge and STI networks; supporting capacity development in Africa to develop the continent's knowledge-based economy; contributing to the global STI discourse and policy through regional, continental and global initiatives; and increasing the participation of South Africans in international human capital development opportunities.

Administration receives R383,7 million

It is responsible for the overall management of the department and to ensure that organisations funded by the DST comply with the standards of good corporate governance and align their activities with the strategic focus of the national system of innovation.

Parliamentary grants for entities reporting to the Minister of Science and Technology (In addition to the parliamentary grants, the DST entities implement additional projects using project funding.)

The National Research Foundation (R926 million) supports and promotes research through the funding of human resource development and the provision of facilities to enable the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge systems.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research receives R916 million to foster industrial and scientific development, particularly through multidisciplinary research and technological development, either by itself or in cooperation with public and private sector institutions.

The Human Sciences Research Council (R305 million) undertakes, promotes and coordinates policy-relevant, problem-oriented research in the human and social sciences, including research projects for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies in partnership with researchers all over the world, but particularly in Africa.

The Technology Innovation Agency (R397 million) stimulates and intensifies technological innovation in order to improve economic growth and the quality of life of all South Africans. The Agency is key to ensuring the translation of the research and development outcomes of higher education institutions, science councils and public entities into commercial technology products and services, thus intensifying the impact of innovation on the economy and society.

The Academy of Science of South Africa (R25 million) comprises an assembly of excellent scholars from many disciplines who are well networked both nationally and internationally and ASSAf has a mandate of promoting innovative and independent scientific thinking; promoting the optimum development of the intellectual capacity of all people; and providing effective advice and facilitating appropriate action in relation to the collective needs, opportunities and challenges of all South Africans.

The South African National Space Agency (R131 million) promotes the use of space and cooperation in space-related activities, while fostering research in space science, advancing scientific engineering through developing human capital, and providing support to industrial development in space technologies.

Today's Lunch Programme

Over the years, we have made it a tradition to invite prominent role-players within the National System of Innovation (NSI) to give a lecture on various aspects of our work.

I am pleased to announce that Prof Michael Kahn has agreed to be our guest speaker at our event today. Prof Kahn is a policy analyst and evaluator of research and innovation. He is currently Professor Extraordinaire at the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology at Stellenbosch University.

His lecture will be on the performance of the National System of Innovation and takes place at Iziko Museum at 11h00, this morning.

Exhibitions

We have also mounted an impressive display of our work at Iziko Museum. I invite all of you and members of the public to go and see for yourselves, some of the work my department produces. A particular focus in this year's exhibition, has been to profile grassroots innovations.

Issued by: Department of Science and Technology

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