The Department of Science and Innovation will place an increasing emphasis on the notion of public sector innovation for societal benefit, said its Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara.

 

Dr Mjwara opened the annual National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) symposium, held in Pretoria today under the theme "Policy coherence in a rapidly changing innovation landscape". The symposium included the release of the latest Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Indicators Report, and the results of a hackathon held before the event.

 

The report provides an analysis of the state of STI in South Africa and includes indicators that are critical in the monitoring and evaluation of the national system of innovation and its contribution to achieving the country's set national objectives.

 

The 2019 South African STI Indicators Report is based on a logic framework adopted by NACI in 2017, which was derived from the South African Innovation Scorecard.

 

Dr Mjwara told the audience, which included the business sector, representatives of science councils, academics and leaners, that the DSI was looking at working with other government departments to drive public sector innovation. 

 

The DG highlighted a tool called the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index, or MIMI.

 

"This is a decision-support tool intended to assess the level of maturity of municipalities and public sector institutions in implementing technology-based solutions for service delivery.  It zooms into the learning capabilities of officials and institutions to adopt efficient and innovative approaches to delivering basic public services, especially to marginalised communities, by employing a variety of water, sanitation and energy technologies.  The tool uses new thinking, evidence, concepts and tools specifically to strengthen the delivery capacity of municipalities," said the Dr Mjwara.

 

The MIMI was tested in a number of district municipalities that participated in the Department's Innovation Partnerships for Rural Development Programme – Ilembe, Amathole, Chris Hani, Gert Sibande, uMzinyathi and Capricorn District Municipalities.

 

"Equally pleasing is the fact that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements approached us for support in piloting and demonstrating how the use of airborne sensors and drones could be applied to monitor and manage informal settlements and the illegal occupation of vacant land.  The results of the project may also assist with formal human settlements projects," he added.

 

The main findings of the 2019 South African STI Indicators Report were presented by NACI council member Dhesigan Naidoo. He said the report covered a number of categories, including research and development (R&D) expenditure, STI human capital, STI funding and support, scientific publications and patents, innovation and entrepreneurship, and innovation for inclusiveness and social impact.

 

South Africa experienced an increase of 7% in the number of scientific publications per million inhabitants between 2008 and 2017. It also recorded the highest world share of scientific publications in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things – research areas related to the 4th industrial revolution.

 

While the set target of 1,5% of gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product has not been realised (it was 0,82% in 2016/17), government funding on R&D was more than its R&D budget during 2016/17.

 

At the same time, aggregate levels of gross private sector investment in R&D has declined in recent years. The largest proportion of R&D expenditure in 2016/17 was in Gauteng (46,0%), followed by the Western Cape (23,3%).

 

Under STI human capital development, South Africa matches other upper middle-income countries in terms of the production of human capital capacity (formal qualifications), but lags behind in the deployment, development and know-how of its human capital. The percentage of South African researchers employed in the business sector declined from 47,2% in 2008 to 36,1% in 2016, with a concerning projected further decline reaching 29,3% by 2019. The proportion of South African female researchers in 2015/16 was at 44,1%, which is higher than that of the world average for the same period (38,1%). 

 

South Africa has seen a consistent increase in the number of scientific publications per million inhabitants, from 192 in 2008 to 350 in 2017, which is higher than that of other upper middle-income countries (307) in the same year.

 

The report raises some key concerns including South Africa having lost its competitive advantage in terms of medium-technology exports when compared to the average of uppers middle-income countries. The full report can be found on the Department's website, www.dst.gov.za.

 

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