New draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation


Science, technology and innovation enabling sustainable and inclusive development in a changing world


Twenty years after the adoption of the first White Paper on Science and Technology (DST) in 1996, the Department of Science and Technology began developing a new draft White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), which was approved by Cabinet last week. The new document will ensure a growing role for STI in building a more prosperous and inclusive society.  It focuses on using STI to accelerate inclusive economic growth, make the economy more competitive and improve people's everyday lives.


The review of the 1996 White Paper, which included broad consultation within the national system of innovation, showed that, while there has been good progress in the implementation of this document, South Africa has not yet fully benefited from the potential of STI to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan.  The STI institutional landscape is a case in point.  It has been expanded and there has been a threefold increase in publications, significant growth in the participation of black people and women in the research and development workforce, and a rise in doctoral graduation rates.  However, challenges remain, and the national system of innovation is still not fully inclusive.


Since the adoption of the 1996 White Paper, the world has changed. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is rapidly transforming the way people interact, transact and learn is already well advanced in the developing world.  To enable South Africa's effective participation in this new world order, which is bringing increasing automation and digitisation, the Department of Science and Technology has developed a new policy document.


The new draft policy focuses on two main goals, namely, to ensure that South Africa benefits from STI for economic growth, social development and transformation, and to respond to the risks and opportunities brought by rapid global technological advancement and other global changes.


With rapid change comes increasing uncertainty about the future, particularly for emerging markets like South Africa's. The new draft White Paper has considered a number of megatrends spanning the geopolitical, economic, social, technological and environmental spheres.


These megatrends include a growing population, increased consumption driven by an expanding middle class in emerging economies, the rise of China and India, and the impact on the natural environment.  The degree to which countries prepare for these changes will determine whether they thrive.  


Some of the megatrends are creating market opportunities. For example, the growth of a middle class in emerging economies, and the high proportion of young people in the total population in Africa – the so-called "youth bulge" – are stimulating manufacturing, widening markets for mobile telephones and creating job opportunities for ICT-enabled young entrepreneurs in the services sector.  South Africa can benefit from these opportunities by using technology to modernise sectors such as agriculture and mining and increase exports to growing markets.  Innovation is required to address needs arising from these megatrends, such as protecting the environment and improving service delivery.


Rapid technological change is driving some of these megatrends to shape a world that will soon look very different.  The lines between physical, digital and biological systems are becoming blurred, and governments around the world are planning for the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  In particular, it is necessary to prepare for the ways in which artificial intelligence and advances in ICT will change the way society and the economy function.


Already, traditional jobs are being lost due to automation and traditional commerce is being disrupted by the move to online, just-in-time personalised services and products. The role of cryptocurrencies in the digital economy is uncertain.  The possibilities are exciting and the implications vast.


STI lies at the heart of the preparation for this emerging future, and South Africa therefore needs to build on progress in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and ICT research and innovation. This White Paper proposes policy interventions to accelerate skills development, leverage ICT, commit to openness, and support inter- and transdisciplinary research.  It also puts in place mechanisms to institutionalise foresight capacity to assist collaborative planning across government for STI.


Overview of the new draft White Paper


The new draft White Paper focuses on the following:

  • Raising the profile of STI in South Africa by instilling an innovation culture in South African society and integrating STI into cross-cutting government planning at the highest levels.
  • Strengthening partnerships between business, government, academia and civil society, creating a more enabling environment for STI.
  • Focusing on innovation for social benefit and for fundamental economic transformation.
  • Expanding and transforming the human resource base of the national system of innovation.
  • Increasing investment, both public and private, in STI.


Raising the profile of STI in South Africa

  • South Africa needs to set its innovation agenda at the highest level of government and business so that all actors pursue the same objectives and pool resources where possible.  The Presidency will therefore chair an STI Plenary meeting, involving business leaders, academic experts in the field of STI, government departments that have a focus on STI, and leaders from civil society.  Among other matters, the STI Plenary will discuss STI priorities.
  • To ensure that STI is integrated into the planning of relevant government departments and that the STI programmes have sufficient funding, an Interministerial Committee on STI, chaired by the Minister of Science and Technology, will be formed.
  • To provide the necessary data on and analysis of STI progress and enablers, the National Advisory Council on Innovation will be strengthened.


Strengthening partnerships among business, government, academia and civil society


 While government has an important role to play in enabling and stimulating STI, it cannot do it alone. 


  • The White Paper therefore has a strong focus on including business in STI planning (at the level of the STI Plenary, but also at the level of, for example, the mining or agricultural sector level) and on support measures for business, for instance, by means of incentives for small and medium enterprises and the direct funding of research and development through Sector Innovation Funds.
  • The White Paper also draws civil society formally into STI planning and aims to empower civil society to distribute the benefits of technology to communities, as well as to help identify and support grassroots innovators.


Creating a more enabling environment for STI

  • All government departments working in areas that affect STI will embrace a national innovation compact to ensure that there is policy coherence across the national innovation system, and that immigration, education, trade, competition and procurement policies, to name a few, support innovation.
  • The various incentives offered by government for STI will be aligned to ensure synergy rather than duplication in using the available funding, and their administration will be improved to ensure effectiveness.
  • Government procurement will support locally developed technologies.
  • Local innovation systems will be stimulated by, for example, walk-in innovation centres for communities and more incubators, and encouraging the involvement of local universities.
  • Measures to create greater access to STI information such as solutions developed at universities will be created through an open science approach.


 Focusing on innovation for social benefit and for fundamental economic transformation

  • Civil society will be involved in high-level government planning for STI programmes and will be supported through training, funding and networks to play a stronger role.  
  • Support for grassroots and social innovation, when linked to provincial and local development strategies, will have significant transformative results.
  • The intellectual property regime for publicly funded research and development (R&D) will be reviewed to expand South Africa's patenting.  Intellectual property generated from publicly funded R&D will be used to help increase black and female ownership of new technology-based companies. 
  • Government itself will become more innovative in using digital information and innovative technologies for service delivery.  This will involve accelerated digitisation, establishing innovation units in STI-intensive departments, and increasing the movement of human resources between government, science councils and business, among other things.


Expanding and transforming the science and human resource base of the national system of innovation

  • A policy nexus will be developed to achieve collaboration, increased funding, and policy coherence to improve educational outcomes from early childhood and school level (to increase the number of Grade 12 university exemption passes with Science and Mathematics – the pipeline) and higher education (to further increase the number of PhDs produced, and improve the representation of blacks and women).


  • Internships and training opportunities abroad are to be expanded.


  •          The untapped potential of historically disadvantaged universities and universities of technology will be used.


  •          There will be increased support for research, both basic and transdisciplinary.


 Increasing investment, both public and private, in STI 


  • South Africa's gross expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP, which is currently about 0,76%, needs to be increased to 1,5% over the next decade.  This will be done through improved incentives for business R&D, contributions to public STI by provincial governments, and expanding measures to attract foreign funding for South African STI.


  •    An annual STI investment framework, linked to the national STI agenda, will be developed to direct the allocation of public funding to priority STI programmes.


 Implementing the White Paper


The White Paper sets the high-level, long-term policy direction for the next five to 15 years.  It will be implemented through regularly updated decadal plans, which will be based on performance evaluation and foresight, as well as collaborative planning with relevant business sectors and government departments.  The decadal plans will detail the deliverables, partnerships and funding required, as well as the indicators that will be used to measure progress.  To this end, the National Advisory Council on Innovation is currently undertaking a foresight exercise for South Africa.


The truest test of this White Paper will be the impact that it has in realising the potential of STI to support the achievement of the National Development Plan and to help change the reality of South African's lives over time.


The next steps


This is a draft White Paper released for public consultation.  Members of the public have 30 days to make inputs.  After the comments have been integrated, we intend to have a summit on 9 November 2018 to engage various stakeholders on the White Paper before taking the final document to Cabinet for approval.



For the full document visit 

For more information

Veronica Mohapeloa (083 400 5730)


Thabang Setlhare (072 659 9690) 

Media enquiries

Hlengiwe Nhlabathi


Media Liaison Officer


Ministry of Science and Technology

064 754 8426 

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.




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