Department of Science and Technology

Saturday, 6 August 2016


University of the Western Cape, Bellville

"Science for sustainable development and improved quality of life".

In the DST our two key goals are to build a knowledge-intensive society and to build one that is sustainable.

Over the last twelve years, since its establishment as an independent Department in 2004, the DST has created a number of major initiativesto increase basic scientific knowledge. Research undertaken in the Centres of Excellence and the Research Chair initiative are examples of how new scientific knowledge supports our national and regional development objectives.

The DST focuses on promoting science in specific fields - astronomy, energy, bio economy - in which we intend to become world leaders. We aim to catalyse vibrant, knowledge-based activities in South Africa that will be driven by the quality of the scientists we train, the quality of our research and development infrastructure, and the enablers we have put in place to turn scientific research into technology.

Astronomy is the flagship science and technology success story of democratic South Africa. Our astronomy programme is making a major contribution to the development of science capacities across the African continent. These efforts have already been rewarded by the development of a new impressive cohort of young, talented African scientists and engineers.

The SKA project is well positioned to play a pathfinder role for a new generation of global-science partnerships. With its strong current footprint of initiatives on the continent, the SKA will play a dynamic role in harnessing Africa’s science and technology capacities to contribute to global growth and development.

All of these projects and programmes require decades of work and investment. Young people here today will also work on them, if your love of maths and science encourages you to study further at university so that you are able to help create a better Africa and a better world.

Over the last twelve years the DST has also invested in creating institutional structures to support innovation. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and National Intellectual Property Management Offices (NIPMO) are two of the important entities that were created to fulfil the mandate of funding and protecting intellectual property respectively.

Our innovation system consists of science councils, universities, research agencies and business R&D units. The growth of this system is central to protecting current employment and but also to creating new, sustainable jobs through the creation of new companies. International trends indicate that national growth increasingly depends on the creation of small and medium sized companies, particularly at a regional and local level, and its a priority in creating jobs.

This is true in South Africa as well. Small and medium-size companies contribute 40% of our GDP and account for 60% of all employment. So this is where we should be focusing. And yet we know - according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor - that our early-stage entrepreneurship is low in comparison with other similar countries.

That's why I'm pleased to launch today a new initiative the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) has established called “NextGen100”.

NextGen100 is designed to enable the progression of ideas from proof-of-concept stage through to pre-commercialisation.

Through the initiative, 100 talented young people at different educational levels will win an opportunity to be mentored and supported to establish technology based companies focusing on developing novel innovations.

Innovation is central to the DST’s endeavours to develop  the country’s economy. Innovation is not only a high-tech process: building cars or discovering vaccines or mapping the human genome. It's also tooling around in the school lab or the family garage or on your home wifi playing a video game.

Everyone knows the old saying “necessity is the mother of invention,” but its no longer true because so many of you youngsters are learning so much science so early and so fast.

I would like to invite TIA’s CEO, Mr Barlow Manilal, to join me and to explain how the NextGen 100 programme works.

In closing, it remains only for me to thank the Western Cape government for being part of the preparations for the launch event and facilitating the participation of learners, educators and the parents who are members of the schools governing bodies, UWC for hosting this event, the science centres community in the Western Cape for committing their staff to support the launch preparations, and the 80 exhibitors who voluntarily committed their precious time to communicate science to the people of the Western Cape.

This launch just marks the beginning of the NSW 2016 celebrations. Iencourage all to participate in the NSW organised activities.