Programme Director;

Acting CEO of the Technology Innovation Agency, Prof. Rivka Kfir;

Representatives of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation;

Representatives of the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa;

Representatives of the Global Environment Facility;

Innovators and finalists;

Ladies and gentleman:

Initiatives like tonight's are not only meaningful in their own right, but also act as strong attractors of talent to aid skills development.  While these awards recognise excellence in innovation and entrepreneurship, they also celebrate the ultimate goal behind using science, to address the real environmental challenges confronting us.

It is a privilege for me to join you here today at this prestigious event, as wecelebrate the achievements of our eight finalists, chosen out of 45 applicants, who, with the help of their mentors, have gone through the rigorous judging process and submitted strong business models after a great deal of validation with potential clients.

Through the Integrated Resource Plan, South Africa has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020, and 42% by 2030.  We can achieve this, and more, if we can make a decisive shift away from our current carbon-intensive, resource-based economy, and towards a more resilient low-carbon, knowledge-based economy, in which the use of cleaner sources of energy is dominant.

Clean energy solutions enable economies to deal with the transition to low-carbon systems, as well as improve energy security and access to modern energy services.  Depending on renewable energy resource endowments and the structuring of clean energy programmes, economies may also use clean energy technologies to address social challenges related to poverty, inequality and unemployment.

In addition to ensuring a supportive policy environment, the Department of Science and Technology is also responsible for setting up and providing strategic direction to the platforms that develop and commercialise innovative technology solutions to help achieve energy security in a way that contributes to economic growth, ensures access to modern energy services for all South Africans, and protects the environment.

Tonight, as we celebrate the achievements of our finalists, I wish to reflect on the importance of their achievements in the context of the National Development Plan (NDP), which explicitly states that "innovation is the primary driver of technological growth and drives higher living standards".  It also proposes that, as innovation "brings about economic growth … a larger, more effective innovation system, closely aligned with firms" is needed.

The NDP endorses the notion of innovation-led growth and suggests a strategy that goes beyond the normative roles of public research institutions, recommending that such institutions ensure the integration of knowledge and learning, and play a more active role in new product/service development.

The Department of Science and Technology therefore hopes that the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme will contribute in the building of a system to support our innovators.  In line with our mission, we also hope that the programme will enhance national efforts to develop human capital, sustain economic growth and improve every South African's quality of life.

Our partnerships with UNIDO, the Global Environment Facility and Cleantech Open allow us to contribute towards the development of global best practice in supporting clean technologies.  Most important is that South Africa learns, with developing nations like India and Pakistan, from its collaboration with the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme.

In emerging economies, such as South Africa, there are plenty of innovators and inventors, but they face many more barriers than their peers in the industrialised world in turning technological innovations into viable business ventures.

What is exciting to the Department of Science and Technologyis that the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme contributes to an innovation ecosystem in South Africa by assisting with the identification and early-stage nurturing of the most promising innovative local clean technology small and medium enterprises, and links the most promising companies with mentors and potential business partners, locally and abroad.

In support of government efforts to transition to a low-carbon economy, the programme adopts an interdisciplinary approach involving small and medium enterprise clusters, government departments, academia, industrial associations, financing institutions and venture capitalists in South Africa to promote innovative technologies for improved efficiency in energy, renewable energy, and waste-to-energy, among other areas.

South Africa intends maximising the clean energy technology benefit by stimulating local manufacturing, addressing energy access through distributed generation, and improving energy security.  This will gradually steer the country from consumption towards production-led economic growth. The Department of Science and Technologyseeks to facilitate the transition to low-carbon energy system by systematically introducing cleaner energy technologies into the national energy mix.

In closing, I would like to congratulate all our winners.  They have made us proud! We are confident that next year, the second year of the programme, even more entries will be attracted.  I would also like to thank all the sponsors for participating in such an important programme. To TIA, we hope that next year there will more women and young people among the participants, especially from previously disadvantaged groupings.

Thank you.