The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, challenged delegates attending the Prospects for Transformative Innovation Conference to talk action in the context of policy development.

 

Minister Pandor delivered opening remarks at the two-day conference, which is being held in Pretoria to explore ideas and identify new practices for science, technology and innovation policy. 

 

South Africa has joined a consortium of global players in advancing new thinking on innovation policy so that it can have a greater impact on addressing urgent socio-economic issues such as inequality, poverty and unemployment.

 

The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC) comprises Columbia, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and is aimed at re-thinking innovation theories and practices, as many research councils, governments and international organisations worldwide need innovation to address societal challenges. Other countries participating in the conference include Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Spain.

 

South Africa's participation in the TIPC is expected to add value to the implementation of the country's science policies, such as the new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation that Cabinet is expected to approve soon.

 

The Minister told the gathering that it was increasingly evident that, without transformative innovation, humanity was unlikely to achieve the many developmental commitments made by nation states, regions and continents, and the entire global community.

 

For transformative innovative policy to be effective, the Minister said policy should lead to action that would address the deep legacy of challenges currently faced by countries like South Africa. She called for research outcomes to have a significant impact on society, and for researchers and policy-makers to start engaging with those who needed change the most.

 

The Minister said the Sustainable Development Goals called for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income, to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.

 

"The science, technology and innovation community is now being called upon to help shape the content and form of the short, medium, and long-term action plans that will be required to deliver on the 17 goals and 169 targets," said the Minister.

 

She said South Africa was keen to learn from the experience of the global innovation policy community, urging delegates to strengthen the available set of indicators and metrics, with particular emphasis on measures that enabled a deeper understanding of outcomes and impacts.

 

The Minister added that more opportunities should be created for young researchers, women and experts in previously disadvantaged institutions to benefit from capacity-building programmes that are planned as part of the longer-term programme of work of the TIPC.

 

Prof. Johan Schot, Director of the Science Policy Research Unit of the University of Sussex, which conceptualised the TIPC, said that all countries in the world currently found themselves at a crucial juncture in dealing with challenges such as inequality, economic stagnation and reliance on fossil fuels.

 

He added that new approaches to development were needed in areas such as energy, mobility, health, finance and food systems.  This had to happen relatively swiftly.

 

The conference will include a presentation on the outcomes of pilot studies conducted in member countries, one of which is South Africa's Technology for Rural Education and Development initiative.

 

The research project is being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology in Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape with the aim contributing to the improvement of lives in rural communities through technology-led innovation.