Economic growth and job creation are among the top priorities for the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as it continues to support Government in achieving a better life for all South Africans.
The new year has begun in earnest at the DST, with staff looking forward to achieving the goals the Department has set for this year.
Minister Naledi Pandor in her annual address to staff thanked them for their hard work and urged everyone to remain committed to implementing the initiatives of the DST.
While the Department was among the best performing government entity nationally, the Minister reminded everyone that each year would be difficult than the last particularly in the economic conditions the country is facing currently.
“As you all know this year you are going to have to do more with less, more tasks with fewer resources, more projects with fewer staff. I want you all to stay committed to achieving the goals set out in the Annual Performanc e Plan,” said the Minister.
As South Africa is aspiring to be a preferred destination for foreign investment in research and development (R&D), the Minister said international companies should be encouraged to open R&D facilities in South Africa.
With foreign funding accounting for approximately 15% of South Africa’s total national R&D expenditure, increased foreign investment is essential if the country has to achieve the target of achieving 1.5% of GDP expenditure on R&D by 2019.
Among the work that still needs to be done, the Minister said the Department and its entities like the NRF should find ways to increase funding and international training opportunities for South African PhD students.
The Minister urged each programme in the Department to give thought to creative ideas on how it could work better to improve the country’s resources, contribute to economic development and to attract multinationals to support the Department’s projects.
As public science engagement is among the most important flagship projects of the Department as part of attracting more young people to science, the Minister called for a more vibrant communication strategy this year to have a lot more people “talking science” in society. Though the Department could be proud of the SKA as one of the major success stories, there is a major part of society that still doesn’t know of what the project is all about.
The Minister also said that the public sector alone cannot provide the required capital for the full commercialisation (i.e. upscale local and international deployment) of new technology products and services. In particular, this is the case for technologies that are aimed at accelerating national responses to global challenges (such as clean energy, climate change mitigation, food security, and human and animal health), as well as initiatives aimed at the creation and scaling up of new technology-based enterprises and industries as a catalyst for enhanced national economic growth and development.
“The support and more active participation of the private sector in the commercialisation process will assist not only in increasing the local pool of high-tech investment resources, but also address the scarcity of skilled individuals to take more products, processes and services to the market,” said Minister Pandor.
The Minister wished staff well for the coming year and urged them to do their best.