Department of Science and Technology

Thursday , 1 February 2018          

09:00

Gallagher Centre, Johannesburg, Gauteng

 

Building Innovative Technology Ecosystems for a Modernised City Region

 

Governments all over the world are targeting innovation within dynamic local spaces to create growth, employment and development in the digital economy being created by the 4th industrial revolution. Broadly speaking, governments in Europe drive growth, employment, and development through smart specialisation policies and strategies. In Asia, governments target growth, employment, and development through building high-tech zones.

 

Within our own dynamic continent, we are seeing developments in both directions.

 

Gauteng is well placed to become - much more than it is at the moment - the knowledge-economy hub of South Africa, because of its geography, history and location.

 

Over the past two years, key knowledge-based institutions in Gauteng have initiated several exciting research and innovation projects to take a leading-edge position in new technologies being created in the 4th industrial revolution.

 
Many of these projects are already being implemented or are at an advanced stage of implementation and are injecting much needed energy into RDI in Gauteng, or have great potential to do so.
 
For example:

     The CSIR has a ten-year R3 billion master plan to redesign its Pretoria campus to focus on supporting innovation-led industrial development. The CSIR has already put in place two industry development centres targeting industries of the future – nanotechnology and biotechnology - through funding support from the DST as part of the Economic Competitiveness programme as well as the Jobs Fund. A third centre, targeting photonics, is at at an advanced stage of readiness and will be launched in the next 12 months. The nanotechnology and bio-manufacturing centres have already facilitated the development and growth of 23 small and medium enterprises.

     Pretoria University is well underway to transforming its campus and the surrounding area into an innovation zone. Much of their focus is on the development of a centre (Future Africa) that will serve as a networking, knowledge and relationship hub in the area, including a focus on developing relationships with counterparts in Africa. Pretoria University is developing a site adjacent to the Future Africa site, to convert into leading-edge innovation, incubation, and technology development support facilities for transport and logistics, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and ICT. These facilities will be available to its students, research community, as well as the general public, through access directly from the N4 highway.

     Johannesburg and Wits universities have established the Tshimilogong Precinct, in partnership with DST, the DTI, CoJ and Gauteng. The precinct includes a shared space for innovators and technopreneurs, an IBM Research Centre and a host of initiatives aimed at supporting RDI in the area.

 

     The Mining Phakisa has kickstarted the revitalisation of mining RDI in South Africa. In this regard, the DST in partnership with the Chamber of Mines has finalised long-term development plans for establishing a mining RDI hub and precinct at Carlow Road in Melville, Johannesburg. It will use a hub and spoke approach with collaborative RDI networks. The Hub is now functional and will be formally launched in the next few months.

     The government, in partnership with the mining industry (Chamber of Mines, research and academic institutions), is implementing the South African Minerals Extraction Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) programme, which is aimed at materially improving the technological base of mining in South Africa. The DTI’s Mining Equipment Manufacturers of South Africa (MEMSA) will drive the mining equipment manufacturing cluster that is aligned to the mining RDI (SAMERDI) programme.

     The DST has provided funding to 5 technology stations located at universities of technology. The technology stations provide support in the areas of electronics, chemicals and advanced tooling at the Tshwane University of Technology, and in metal casting, and processing energy and environment at the University of Johannesburg. Over the last three years, these stations have supported more than 1,766 small and medium enterprises.

 

     The DST also supports Gauteng’s Innovation Hub. The Hub focuses on fostering innovation, skills and entrepreneurship in smart industries, green tech and bio tech. It offers a start-up seed fund in collaboration with the DST’s Technology Innovation Agency. Let me give you an idea of some of the startups - Memeza Shout, an affordable alarm system that has been successfully deployed in Diepsloot township; PortiaM Cosmetics that now employs over 30 young people at the Hub’s BioPark; Phambili Media whose animations were used in some of the scenes in the movie Kalushi about Solomon Mahlangu; Afrocentric IP that provides data-centre services and business continuity (disaster-recovery solutions); and the Water Hygiene Company that offers a leakless valve that has been retrofitted to toilets in Garankuwa township in Tshwane.

 

Entrepreneurship requires an environment that rewards risk-taking. Every year, many ventures fail. However, the successful entrepreneur sees failure as a learning experience. There is no shame in second, third or fourth tries. Entrepreneurs do not give up – not on their ideas, not on their teams, and not on themselves.

 

Start-ups should be the heartbeat of our economy. I’m inspired by the success of new entrepreneurs and innovators who have taken advantage of the booming tourism industry, the booming mobile industry, the growing market in renewable energy, and the evolving market in the cultural and creative industries. It’s local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow an inclusive economy.

 

What is urgently required is the consolidation of individual technology innovation initiatives into a coordinated intervention, strongly driven at all levels by Gauteng.

 

Such consolidation would assist in providing the essential enabling infrastructure that allow the various individual initiatives to blossom and grow.

 

In addition, there is a need for private actors, and the wide variety of agencies attending this conference, to tap into the bottom-up initiatives from the science, technology and innovation community.

 

The DST is ready to work with Gauteng to drive its investments in support of a consolidated initiative.

 

I congratulate the Province on creating a department to drive an e-government agenda and for the good progress that has already made in building systems for e-tendering and the more effective use of ICT in teaching and learning.

 

The DST has also started working with the province on how new locally-developed ICT solutions can be tested and further developed as part of the e-government roll-out of the province.

 

Since the adoption of the ICT Roadmap in 2013, the DST has managed to establish formal collaboration partnerships with ICT multinationals such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Cisco. However, we pay attention to bringing local companies on board.

 

Engagements have already started between the DST and Gauteng to identify opportunities and models where the procurement spend of the province in ICT can simultaneously meet provincial and national objectives. At the national level, this includes opportunities for enhancing the uptake and deployment of locally developed technologies and to strengthen niche technological capabilities where South Africa can be global leaders.

 

The opportunities can draw on the immense capabilities that we have started to develop in the fields of data science, cyber-infrastructure, data security, mobile applications, and data processing. These capabilities are growing significantly on the back of investment in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and a range of other complementary initiatives like the National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System, which promotes scientific and industrial development through the provision of high-performance computing capability, and the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enhancement programme, which meets the DST’s strategic objective of national human capability development within the field of data science.

 

I should add that economically the SKA represents the largest science-based capital injection into the African economy by far. The estimated total investment of the first phase is in the order of €1.5 billion or R15 billion. This investment will result in a number of immediate and long term socio-economic benefits accruing to the entire continent.

 

In addition to these high-impact opportunities, there are a range of other partnerships with Gauteng that are underway. They include a National Recordal System that supports communities and indigenous knowledge holders to document oral indigenous knowledge of traditional medicine and indigenous food that are closely associated with biodiversity.

 

Partnership opportunities are also developing with respect to the deployment of Hydrogen Fuel Cells and other alternative technologies as back-up power for the traffic lights as well as partnerships in waste and water technologies.

 

Finally, and most importantly, the DST is working with a number of Gauteng institutions (particularly CSIR, UP, WITS, TIH) to collaborate with the Chinese in RDI.

 

We’re currently investigating location options for an innovation centre in collaboration with the Chengdu High Tech Zone.

 

I believe that there is a significant opportunity to twin Chengdu with Gauteng.

 

In the medium to longer term, this could translate into a science and high technology zone to facilitate the transition from innovation prototypes to industrial and commercial manufacturing. There are on-going discussions between the DST, the DTI, and Gauteng Growth and Development Agency about such a development.

 

What I would expect to see in such a high tech zone are projects supporting our key flagship initiatives in the beneficiation of various minerals into products. This includes titanium powder, fuel cells, composites, fluorochemicals, nanoclays, and so on. The DST has invested in these flagship initiatives to advance the R&D and mature the technologies. In some instances, the investment has been over more than a decade. Most of these initiatives are now at the stage of commercialization and ready to enter the market. Greater intentional exposure of our capabilities including investors and commercialization partners would greatly assist these efforts. Similarly, I would prioritize the establishment of agri hubs to enhance government support for agro-processing.

 

Many of these initiatives in Gauteng are building an innovation-based city-region on a par with a number of emerging innovation city-regions in Asia and the Americas.

 

I’ve looked at the programme of the conference and note that several officials from my department as well as representatives of key entities have been included in the programme. I’m confident that they will provide greater detail on the significant opportunities that exist for a strategic and dynamic partnership between the province and my DST.

 

I wish you success in your deliberations and look forward to getting feedback on how to further build on the partnership that already exists between my department and the province.

 

I thank you.