Launch of fieldwork for the 2019-2021 South African Business Innovation Survey

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has welcomed launch of the 2019-2021 South African Business Innovation Survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).


With innovation being identified as central to efforts to recover and reconstruct the country’s economy in the face of multiple challenges, the Minister said understanding how innovation is unfolding in South African businesses is important.


“To leverage the power of innovation, Government needs data to assess if enough is being done to support and encourage greater local innovation,” said the Minister.


The Minister also welcomed the inclusion of sections that focus on important policy issues that will steer government’s efforts in support of innovation.


These include among others, questions that require information regarding the business capabilities for innovation on artificial intelligence because of its relevance in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), alignment with government’s objective of inclusive economic growth, unpacking the impact of innovation on skilled/ unskilled labour, assessment of the usefulness of government initiatives to create linkages and networks between innovators,  and a section on the effects of COVID-19 on innovation to assess the impact of the pandemic on innovation activity and outcomes, this also included COVID-19 grants/ support packages in order to assess success of COVID support from government.


“On the basis of clear evidence, government will be in a better position to support, stimulate and encourage further innovation in support of increasing productivity and competitiveness,” said the Minister.


The statistics that are generated through the BIS are not only vital for government but are used by businesses globally to strengthen their business strategies. The BIS generates key indicators on business sector innovation performance.


The BIS indicators are considered among the best for measuring innovation processes, as they directly ask firms, the ‘performers’ of innovation, whether they engage in innovation activities (e.g. by performing research  & development [R&D], buying advanced machinery used for innovation, or training personnel involved in the development of new products or processes), whether they introduce specific innovations (product, process, marketing or organisational), what are perceived barriers to innovation, where do they source the information they require, and what is the nature of collaboration partners.


There is an urgent need for better innovation metrics to reflect today’s knowledge based, dynamic and globally networked economy and to ensure that the SA continues to be fertile and attractive environment for innovation in the world. At an international level, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Eurostat (the statistical agency of the European Commission) also finalized a process for the 4th version of the Oslo Manual (Oslo Manual 2018) with a view to enhance its relevance.

The Minister, also welcomed HSRC’s introduction of an electronic questionnaire/ online questionnaire for the first time to modernise the collection of survey data.


Over the next six months, the HSRC assisted by GeoScope will be reaching out to over 5,500 businesses to better understand how they innovated during the period 2019 – 2021, including the critical Covid-19 years.


The Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators (CeSTII), a unit at the HSRC conducts the survey on behalf of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The survey benefits from the support and assistance of Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) including sampling. To deal with the challenge of low response rates that impacted on previous surveys, GeoScope has been contracted to support the fieldwork.


The current survey is the seventh business innovation survey to be conducted in South Africa. The survey aligns with the methodology set out in the Oslo Manual published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but has been fully aligned and customised to the South African reality.


For further information on the Business Innovation Survey, please visit



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