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

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