Department of Science and Technology
11 October 2019
The science and technology department holds the view that, if South Africa’s economy is to advance along the trajectory set out in the National Development Plan, a strong, coherent and effective national system of innovation (NSI) is crucial.
The department highlighted this during a briefing in parliament on its 2018/19 Annual Report.
Reference was made to the 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, approved by cabinet in March 2019.
In a statement released at the time, the department described the new White Paper, which identifies the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a key focus, as placing science, technology and innovation (STI) at the centre of South Africa’s development agenda.
Following its decision, Cabinet declared that “science and innovation often heralds a different way of doing things and allows us to deal with the longstanding challenges in a decisive and cost effective manner”.
Cabinet added that the proposals in the White Paper “seek to address policy coherence, development of human capabilities, knowledge expansion, innovation, performance and increased investment”.
The department holds the view that the White Paper sets down the long-term policy direction to boost economic development and inclusive growth.
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.
In the briefing, the department declared that the White Paper on STI represents a number of shifts in South African STI policy including a deliberate focus on inclusion such as involving civil society and industry in planning; elevating STI consultation to the level of the presidency to support strategic sectors; the use of publicly funded R&D and support for grassroots innovation to transform ownership of the local economy; institutionalised budget coordination for public STI and targeted internationalisation efforts to support innovation and commercialization.
Objectives of the White Paper include ensuring a whole-of-government approach to innovation via an Innovation Compact to drive coherence and coordination; elevating STI planning to the highest levels of government; increasing the spatial footprint of innovation to develop provincial and local innovation systems; expanding and transforming human capabilities for STI, including a focus on technical and new skills for the future and institutionalising systemic STI monitoring, evaluation and policy learning.
Strategic outcomes focused on in the briefing include a responsive, coordinated and efficient NSI; increased knowledge generation; human capital development; support for technology stations; using knowledge for economic development; knowledge utilization for inclusive development; international cooperation and resources; international resources and multilateral cooperation.
Meanwhile, the portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology recently approved the Convention Establishing the Square Kilometre Array Observatory.
In a statement, the committee pointed out that the Square Kilometre Array will “act as a catalyst for science, technology and engineering business opportunities, jobs and innovation, with the potential to put Africa on the map as a world Big Data and analytics hub”.
The committee chairperson, Philly Mapulane, declared that the “adoption by the committee of this Convention Establishing Square Kilometre Array Observatory represents a signification development in the process of formal ratification by Parliament of this important international protocol that will facilitate the biggest scientific collaboration the world has ever seen, and will further help to attract foreign direct investment into our country.”