The Directorate: Technology for Sustainable Livelihoods drives the implementation of the Department's Innovation for Local Economic Development (ILED) strategy.


The ILED strategy is anchored on the notion of local systems of innovation and production, emphasizing their importance in achieving inclusive Local Economic Development (LED) in South Africa. The strategy seeks to redefine LED policy and practice in the country by placing innovation at the centre of development, in pursuit of local economies that can support inclusive development and increase the prosperity of marginalised people, with a particular focus on distressed municipalities.


Accordingly, the ILED portfolio of programmes is specifically designed, considering the peculiarities of South Africa, to achieve three key objectives:


  1. To catalyse community-owned local industries and production value chains through the exploitation of technology and other forms of innovation to support small enterprise development and job creation.


  1. To strengthen local systems of innovation, i.e. to increase local capabilities and capacities; enhance local knowledge exchanges and networks (comprising Living Labs, private sector innovation centres, innovative businesses, universities, TVET, community colleges etc.); and increase local science and innovation activities that can create solutions to address poverty and exclusion from economic opportunities.


  1. To support local government and LED actors and agents in fostering innovation-driven LED through capacity building, decision-support tools and knowledge products.




Local Agricultural Systems of Innovation and Production


The DSI supports agriculture and agro-processing in rural and peri-urban areas. Sites are established in rural and peri-urban district municipalities to catalyse local value chains and clusters in essential oils (e.g. Rose Geranium, Lemon Balm, Yarrow, Pumpkin seed oil), medicinal plants (e.g. Devil's Claw, Sutherlandia, Pelargonium Sidoides, African Ginger), and aquaculture (e.g. Mozambique tilapia). The selected plant and fish species are all in demand, most are indigenous, some are rare and slow growing, and a few are highly prized.


The Directorate works with sector departments (e.g. Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries), financiers, grassroots innovators, and local government and implementers, to unlock the potential of local/priority value chains and clusters through the deployment of science, technology and innovation.


Stakeholders along the innovation value chain within local systems are empowered to contribute to the development of priority local sectors through knowledge generation, technology transfer and innovation.


Living Labs


The Living Labs programme is designed to increase the spatial footprint of innovation in South Africa through the establishment of community-based co-creation innovation labs and support programmes that enable the youth to become innovators and local stakeholders to co-create solutions specific to their contexts. These ICT-based facilities are set up in rural, peri-urban and township communities, with a bias towards rural communities.


Local Innovation and Assessment Toolbox


The Local Innovation and Assessment Toolbox (LIAT) is an evolving set of tools designed to help district municipalities and other LED actors and agents to understand their local innovation landscapes. LIAT can be used to facilitate interactions among various innovation actors and partners (i.e. innovative businesses, knowledge organisations, government and the non-profit sector) to ensure inclusive, focused development and optimal use of local resources for locally-driven development that has desirable social, economic and environmental outcomes.


LIAT helps LED actors and agents to understand the following regarding their local systems of innovation:


  • The actors involved and linkages within and across local innovation systems.
  • The main types of innovation activities and processes within local spaces.
  • The roles of economic sectors within local innovation systems.
  • The presence of networks and use of local resources in innovation activities.
  • The nature and potential of linkages to the national system of innovation (NSI).
  • The extent to which local government is ready to foster innovation-driven LED.
  • The extent of the existence and proximity to innovation infrastructure.


LIAT Community of Practice


The establishment of the LIAT Community of Practice (CoP) follows on the success of LIAT in a number of district municipalities. The DSI, the Human Sciences Research Council and other partners are deepening the work started through LIAT by establishing communities of practice in district municipalities that are linked to the national CoP. The objectives of the LIAT CoP are as follows:


  • To develop strong relationships, linkages and interactions among local actors (municipalities, communities, the private sector, civil society, universities, and TVET and community colleges) as well as actors in the
  • To improve knowledge co-generation, networking, sharing and co-learning among CoP members at local level.
  • To improve and customise the LIAT to suit local contexts, including the development of potentially new tools and techniques.
  • To identify, explore and activate potentially systemic innovative initiatives with the potential to contribute to LED through economic sector development, job creation and income-poverty alleviation.
  • To interface with existing LED structures, such as LED forums, in order to enhance LED efforts.
  • To document and share experiences and lessons learned from the CoP with other key stakeholders in LED and the NSI so as to influence the future trajectory of LED in South Africa.


Innovation Champions for LED

For municipalities to foster innovation-driven LED, they must be capacitated with skilled persons to carry out the tasks associated with this mandate. Through the Innovation Champions for LED programme, appropriately trained graduates are placed in district and local LED offices to perform the following tasks:


  • To coordinate the mapping of local innovation systems using LIAT.
  • To ensure and guide on the utilisation of LIAT in integrated development planning (IDP) processes.
  • To ensure that LED strategies incorporate innovation.
  • To create linkages among actors and agents within local innovation systems and ensure linkages between local systems and the NSI.
  • To source funding and expertise from the NSI to implement LED interventions.


ILED Research Network


The ILED Research Network is coordinated from the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI). The network comprises a transdisciplinary group of researchers, academics and scholars from knowledge organisations in the disciplines of innovation studies, public policy, LED, development studies and development economics. The network is tasked with supporting the advancement of the ILED agenda and policy formulation through knowledge generation and dissemination as well as human capital development.



  • Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
  • Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  • Agricultural Research Council (ARC)
  • Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
  • SEDA Essential Oils Business Incubator (SEOBI)
  • University of Venda (UniVen)
  • University of Limpopo
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
  • North-West University (NWU)
  • University of Mpumalanga
  • Walter Sisulu University (WSU)
  • Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)



Ms Busisiwe Ntuli

Director: Technology for Sustainable Livelihoods

012 843 6429

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



The Directorate: Sustainable Human Settlements is part of the Chief Directorate: Innovation for Inclusive Development of Programme 5: Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships.

The purpose of the directorate is to use knowledge, evidence and learning to inform and influence government policy on human settlements and technology choices for the creation of sustainable human settlements.


Innovation Partnership for Rural Development Programme

This Department of Science and Technology (DST) initiative is funded by the European Union's General Budget Support programme, through the National Treasury. It has demonstration projects in 27 priority district municipalities across the country. The projects all focus on the use of the latest appropriate technology to address the problems of South Africa's rural areas. Usually, the people in these areas are among the country's poorest and least advantaged citizens, often lacking the basic components of a dignified and healthy modern life such as potable water, effective sanitation and electricity. These projects all deal with water in various ways.

The DST, together with its implementing entities and project teams, in designing, adapting and implementing these projects, aims for social benefits beyond the provision of water, sanitation and electricity, and therefore considers, for example, each project's contribution to capacity building and to supporting SMEs and communities; the resolution of problems; the policy issues raised; the project's sustainability; and its potential for wider application.

Various technologies are currently being piloted.  These include the Corrective Action Requests Report System, which can be used by ordinary citizens to report incidents such as water leaks, water supply disruptions and water quality issues, so that problems can be dealt with before they escalate into major incidents.

Algae wastewater treatment technologies, a low-power solution to the wastewater problems of small rural towns, are also being piloted. Algal systems do not need highly qualified personnel to operate and maintain them. They use very little electricity and, by removing various substances from the effluent, contribute to maintaining the cleanliness of the river systems into which the effluent ultimately flows.

Another sanitation-related technology project involves low pour flush technology, which centres on the provision of decent toilets in rural areas without the waterborne sewage systems typical of better-off urban areas. The pit latrines generally used in such areas tend to smell and are visually unappealing; they fill relatively quickly; and they can be dangerous for small children. The low pour flush system addresses all these problems.

There is also a point-of-use water purification project, which promotes robust and easy-to-use domestic water filters as a solution to the health problems related to drinking water in rural areas, which is often drawn from rivers and other sources that may be polluted with pathogens.

It is difficult to provide remote rural areas with electricity from the national grid. The small-scale hydropower project is testing the use of small-scale hydroelectric plants in suitable locations, greatly improving the lives of local people and generating commercial opportunities for instance in tourism, which would otherwise be difficult to exploit. The DST is also piloting smart geysers, which harness modern digital technology to the patterns and requirements of a particular household, saving money and reducing the use of electricity.

Hydrogen fuel cells

The DST is funding a project at Poelano High School, near Ventersdorp in the North West, to demonstrate the technologies developed by the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) centres of competence. The centres have jointly undertaken a project to develop a 2,5 kW off-grid primary power hydrogen fuel cell prototype for rural applications.

ICT-enabled agricultural extension and advisory services

The DST, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have been piloting a model for ICT-enabled extension and advisory services since 2014/15.  A pilot project to explore business opportunities for young unemployed agriculture graduates in the provision of extension services is under way using a mobile app developed by the ARC. The graduates act as brokers between knowledge producers (e.g. researchers) and users (farmers). The project currently supports approximately 560 farmers through the provision of technical know-how, market insights and research updates to inform their decisions.

Technology for rural education and development

The DST has for some years been collaborating with the Department of Basic Education on a programme to showcase the application of technology to support rural education in South Africa. The programme tests the extent to which new technologies and technologies that have been applied in other contexts may improve education in a rural context. The initial pilot was demonstrated in the Eastern Cape, Cofimvaba District, in 26 schools. The technologies demonstrated were information and communication technologies, alternative sanitation technologies, renewable energy, e-health and nutrition. 

The DST, through the CSIR Meraka Institute, is providing technical support to ensure that the benefits of the project are ongoing at all 26 schools in the Cofimvaba School District.

South African Sanitation Technology Demonstration Programme

The South African Sanitation Technology Demonstration Programme is a partnership between the DST and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot various innovative and affordable sanitation technologies identified through the Bill & Melinda Gates global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

Spatial and Temporary Evidence for Planning in South Africa

Spatial and Temporary Evidence for Planning in South Africa (StepSA) is an initiative aimed at enhancing the national capability to profile and simulate the spatial implications of growth and development in cities and towns in support of high-impact and sustainable public investment and effective governance. The project aims to enhance South African metropolitan municipalities' access to urban modelling capability to support their infrastructure planning and investment processes.

Sustainable human settlements landscape survey

The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Landscape Study on Sustainable Human Settlements, which began in 2016, aims to develop an STI database for the collation of information on key small and medium enterprises (SMEs), that are involved in the creation of sustainable human settlements using various STI products or practice.  The database will be used to facilitate interaction between selected SMEs and potential support organisations.

System for collecting information on DST proxy indicators

The system developed by the CSIR Modelling and Digital Science Division makes it possible for information on proxy indicators to be extracted from a variety of documents, so that it can be analysed and interpreted to measure progress in achieving the goals specified in the DST's Strategic Plan (2015-2020).

Innovative building technology

The aim of the innovative building technology initiative, which the DST is implementing through the CSIR Built Environment Division, is to use building STI to improve quality of life. The initiative is demonstrating that STI can reduce the cost of utilities (water, electricity and waste removal) to the tenant, the municipality, and the nation as a whole, while also improving the environmental quality of the housing unit, the complex and the surrounding community.  STI are being used to create sustainable human settlements in the Germiston Social Housing Project in Gauteng.


Director: Sustainable Human Settlements
Tel.: 012 843 6466
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.