Department of Science and Innovation
Science, technology and innovation are key to unlocking people’s potential and creating improved social conditions, a competitive economy, and a workforce positioned to take the country into the future.
The science and innovation department declared this in a statement on making sure it is possible with science, technology and innovation.
The White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, approved by cabinet in 2019, laid out a “core policy for driving science, technology, and innovation that delivers positive socioeconomic outcomes through initiatives in fields including energy, health care, education, climate change, food security and manufacturing”.
Some of the issues contained in the White Paper include raising the profile of STI in South Africa, strengthening partnerships between business, government, academia and civil society, growing the human resource base of the national system of innovation and boosting investment in STI.
The department will adopt a leadership role in this drive, “acting as an enabler of innovations and scientific discoveries that will provide solutions needed to address a broad spectrum of societal needs today and in the future”.
Notable work carried out by the department over the past two decades includes:
• The Hydrogen SA programme – providing an alternative source of energy that is noiseless, effective and pollution-free;
• Mining innovations to modernise the sector;
• An additive manufacturing and titanium metal powder programme;
• The development of the world’s largest and fastest 3D printer;
• A range of new biotechnology solutions, including animal feed products and an injectable bone regeneration product; and
• The Square Kilometre Array – the world’s largest radio telescope and the largest scientific infrastructure on the African continent.
The department plans to roll out a brand campaign showcasing its work in various fields, including its contribution to the national response to COVID-19, in order to ensure that society is aware of the value of science in solving societal challenges.
The higher education, science and innovation minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, recently informed the media that the infrastructure required for South Africa to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one becomes available is already in place due to previous work by the department.
Government, through the department, owns a 47,5% stake in biopharmaceutical company Biovac, capable of manufacturing vaccines, as part of a joint venture with the private sector.