Chairperson of the CSIR Board, Prof. Thokozani Majozi and Board members

CSIR CEO, Dr Thulani Dlamini and CSIR executives

Our partners from different sectors;

Representatives from universities and TVET colleges;

Members of the media;

Ladies and gentlemen;

A very good morning to you all.

It is an honour to address you today at the 7th CSIR Biennial Conference, which is a momentous occasion as the CSIR celebrates its 75th anniversary.

I believe that this conference not only presents an opportunity to engage on what are the latest interventions and innovations from the CSIR, but it also serves as an opportunity to engage in dialogues to see how far we have come as a country within the science, engineering and innovation domain, and come up with solutions on how to address the various challenges we are facing.

The merging of higher education, and science and technology provides an opportunity for an institution like the CSIR to become a conduit between higher education and industry.

As government, we have an important role to play in creating an enabling environment – through policy and regulations – for business and industry, and thus society, to thrive. Partnerships between departments, the private sector and with civil society should invariably create opportunities to provide scientific and technical support to enhance service delivery, create new industries, resuscitate declining ones and share complementary technologies, all with the aim of contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of South Africans.

So, I am very pleased with the diversity of stakeholders attending this conference, and the prospects of deepening formal partnerships and collaborations.

A key focus of the department and all its entities is the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) and associated government strategies. Entities such as the CSIR play a pivotal role in helping government to implement its various programmes and provide service delivery to its citizens.

There is overwhelming global evidence to support the link between a country’s investment in research and development and its social and economic development and prosperity. Science and technology is a sector that most developed nations promote to foster their development. As a result of an understanding of these links, South Africa, too, has promoted science, technology and innovation through investment in research and development. Over the last two decades, this has been an important part of government’s economic development strategy.

President Ramaphosa announced government’s economic recovery plan and Science, technology and innovation sector is directly linked to providing South Africans with jobs through strengthening the competitiveness of our various industrial sectors and by creating new industries. That’s why the CSIR’s new strategy on industry development is so key and relevant to both the public and private sector.

I have always said that there is no industrial development without innovation. Science and technology must ensure that the established parts of our economy continue to innovate in an increasingly competitive world, so that we can derive the greatest benefit from our geographic advantages and resources. Therefore, improved support for innovation is fundamental to sustainable economic growth, employment creation, improved service delivery and social development.

The fluctuation on the year-on-year growth of our economy during the last decade has presented us with both challenges and opportunities. Among these is a reflection that led to the timely and pertinent review of the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation.

Since the adoption of the White Paper on Science and Technology in 1996, significant progress has been made in advancing science, technology and innovation in South Africa. The current paper seeks to take advantage of opportunities presented by global megatrends, such as the emergence of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and additive manufacturing, among other things.

It seeks to take advantage of emerging trends in technology innovation, expand on what has been working and propose new approaches for what is not working.

This will include the strengthening and transforming of institutions, increasing research funding and expanding human capabilities.

Over the years, I have been observing, with great pride, the work that the CSIR does.

Our department has invested in various initiatives and programmes to provide support for the development and growth of industry in a variety of sectors. These include the Industry Innovation Partnerships Programme, which seeks to attract private sector investment in order to translate research and development outputs into commercial products.

This it does by providing specialised prototyping, piloting and upscaling infrastructure to bridge the gap between the lab and the market; through the Technology Localisation Implementation Unit, which was established to implement the deliverables of the department’s Technology Localisation Plan, which include increasing the productive capacity of local firms; the Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap to guide South Africa’s public and private sector investment in waste research, development and innovation over the next 10 years; as well as the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System, which promotes scientific and industrial development through the provision of a high-performance computing capability to provide seamless access to research and education.

These are but a few high-impact interventions with the potential to make an indelible mark and elevate our country’s contribution to an advanced society and make an impact, even globally.

The CSIR has managed these programmes well. The outputs have resulted in the creation of internship opportunities, new jobs, spin-out companies, as well as tangible products that are competitively placed in the market and making a contribution to our economy. The breadth of the research at the CSIR addressing the majority of the focus areas outlined in the NDP is encouraging.

According to the World Economic Forum Readiness Framework – Readiness for The Future of Production Report, 2018, South Africa is classified as a nascent country, and finds itself at a critical juncture. Will the country be ready for the future, or will it be left behind as other countries advance with the changes that the 4IR brings about?

The most vulnerable in this instance are the youth. What measures does the CSIR have in place to up-skill the youth and bridge the chasm in innovation? As we continue in our deliberations during this conference, we need to ensure that we keep this in mind.

The CSIR, in partnership with others, can be a game changer in the improvement of the lives of South Africans through its research and industrial development work. Harnessing the wealth of talent and commitment shown to make a positive and lasting contribution to South Africa and further afield, with an agile, market-responsive strategy, as well as a contemporary people management strategy, supported by the requisite development and maintenance of world-class infrastructure, will certainly go a long way in helping the CSIR achieve its mandate.

 

I can sense the excitement that you all feel about the new path that the CSIR is taking, which is forward looking and relevant, focusing on industrial development. I am confident that the new strategy will propel the organisation to even greater heights, while it continues to improve the quality of life of our people.

I wish you a productive conference. Thank you.