South Africa: Political Intervention Must Drive SA's Science Innovation

opinion

The rebranded Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) joins the newly-created Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (MHEST). What might this new positioning and designation imply, and what might one expect of the emphasis on innovation?

The June Cabinet appointments created the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology (MHEST). This merger was originally recommended by the 1996-1998 Presidential Review Commission on the Public Service. The MHEST announcement saw the Department of Science and Technology join the MHEST as the rebranded Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). What might this new positioning and designation imply, and what might one expect of the emphasis on innovation?

Similar ministerial mergers have been forged in many countries to boost their innovation system performance - the European Union has a Directorate-General for Research and Innovation; New Zealand has a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; the UK a Ministry for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation; Brazil a Ministry for Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication.

In our case, the MHEST reminds of the De Klerk administration whose Ministry of National Education included budget responsibility for higher education, science councils, as well as white schooling, arts, culture, language, heritage, and sports. That conjuncture allowed for...

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