Programme Director;

 

Prof. Edward Kieswetter, President of the Da Vinci Institute;

 

Prof. Ben Anderson, CEO of the Da Vinci Institute;

 

Mr Barlow Manilal, CEO of the Technology Innovation Agency;

 

Deputy Director-General: Technology Innovation, Mr Mmboneni Muofhe;

 

Distinguished guests;

 

Ladies and gentlemen:

 

I would like to thank the organisers of this TT100 business innovation awards ceremony most sincerely for inviting me to join you this evening. It has been a hectic day, and I am very pleased to be here with my husband celebrating those who are doing great work in technology and innovation.

 

 

You have asked me to talk about creating an ecosystem to enhance the management of technology, innovation and people in a systemic context. All the components of this topic are critical for ensuring that companies in South Africa remain locally and internationally competitive. These awards are evidence that innovation is happening in our country, and that should be celebrated.

 

 

As you would know, a great many books have been written about the management of technology, management of innovation and management of people, and there are a number of contesting theories on how each can be achieved. With your permission, I took the liberty of changing the topic of my speech to "Creating ecosystem requirements to enhance the national system of innovation".

 

 

The choice of this topic was motivated by the fact that, for innovation to occur, there has to be a healthy and productive interaction between technology and people.

 

 

As a nation, we will need to develop the capabilities to manage technology, innovation and people so that we grow our national system of innovation. I am cognisant of the fact that tonight's awards are aimed at celebrating innovation within organisations. However, I think that how you manage innovation within your organisations is inextricably linked to the overall performance of our national system of innovation. 

 

 

Those of you who were able to join us last Friday at the Science, Technology and Innovation White Paper Summit would know that we, South Africa, through the DST, are in the process of developing a new White Paper to guide the national system of innovation for a good number of years. The people who attended the summit discussed how we could craft our policy to help the country to create the ecosystem requirements to enhance the national system of innovation?

 

 

How well we manage this ecosystem will determine how well we innovate as a country. As you know, there is a strong link between knowledge production and innovation. 

 

 

A large portion of the research, basic and applied, at universities and research institutions is funded from taxpayers' money. In South Africa we would like to increase our expenditure on research and development as a proportion of our GDP to 1,5% ‑ currently our spend is about 0,82%.  It is impossible for government to achieve this target on its own, especially given the low growth trajectory that we are currently experiencing.  It is our wish to crowd in the private sector to invest more in R&D.

 

 

In this regard, we have introduced an R&D tax incentive scheme for companies. The benefits of this scheme translate into a benefit of 14 cents per rand spent on research and development, thus reducing the cost of R&D to companies. I must stress this incentive does not exclude SMEs, and in fact the approval rates for applications received from small and medium enterprises has increased since the programme was introduced.

 

 

Government, over time, has been funding R&D, and as per our recently released survey, government remains the largest contributor to research funding. What would be desirable is for a large percentage of the outputs and intellectual property from this publicly funded research to be commercialised by young entrepreneurs.

 

 

Linked to this is the need for government to create a market for our locally developed innovations by ensuring that procurement is biased towards local technology companies, allowing them to grow stronger and have the ability to compete globally.

 

 

However, it emerged at the summit that the interaction between research institutions and industry is inadequate, and entrepreneurs and industry in general are consequently unaware of the kind of research undertaken at these institutions, and therefore also unaware of the outputs of the research. This means that we are failing to manage new ideas or relationships between researchers and entrepreneurs, and our institutions are not configured to manage innovation. As a result, the commercialisation of ideas in our country is way below the average as compared to other countries of our size.

 

 

However, we have, for instance, the Technology Innovation Agency, which is an entity under the Department of Science and Technology, aimed at assisting innovators to commercialise their products. Through TIA, we invest in people with ideas and we also invite private investors to partner with us in making a success of our technology innovation commercialisation efforts.

 

 

Technology is advancing very rapidly and, as has been the case with previous rapid technological advancements, these changes are disruptive to society. This is because the rapid advancement of technology is not always matched by the rapid advancement of skills, and it is evident now, with the rapid development of technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics and many other new technologies, that society will take time to adjust to developments. These changes are collectively referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To make this transition will require leadership, which is your theme for tonight.  It will require leadership in government and industry to guide both technology and people so that this revolution leads to a prosperous society.

 

 

I am sure we agree that all of us, government and industry, need to work together to develop the necessary skills that will enable our society to adjust to the technological changes that are altering the way we live.  I was very encouraged, when I was going through the exhibition, by the innovative technologies that are locally conceived and developed into products.  This is evidence that we are getting to grips with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, although we still have to do more.  Indeed, as a country, we should celebrate our successes more.

 

 

I am very pleased that the Da Vinci Institute is part of the human capital development effort that is contributing to the creation of skills in the science, technology and innovation sector.  The economy relies heavily on innovation.  It is important, therefore, for the policy framework to be comprehensive and allow for the creation of an ecosystem that includes research, innovation and the commercialisation of innovations.

 

For that we need the following:

  • Funding for research (public and private).
  • Improved interaction between research institutions and industry.
  • Management of new ideas.
  • A functioning funding mechanism for new ideas.
  • Development of skills.

 

I would like to reiterate that, as government, we invite you, as the private sector, to partner with us so that we can make science, technology and innovation the prime drivers of our economy.

 

Once again thank you for inviting me. Congratulations to all those nominated for the awards tonight.

 

 

I thank you.