Programme Director, Dr Mlungisi Cele;

Mr Tilson Manyoni, Chairperson of National Advisory Council on Innovation;

Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General of Science and Innovation;

Esteemed Heads of the BRICS Delegations;

Distinguished Representatives of the National System of System;

Distinguished Guests;

Members of the Media;

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning

Please allow me to begin by warmly welcoming you all to this gathering, which takes place in the context of accelerating technological changes, intersecting crises, and escalating global challenges.  Against this backdrop, we have chosen "The Future of Science, Technology and Innovation 2050" as our theme.

The historic transformation of BRICS into BRICS+ will have far-reaching implications for our future collaboration in science, technology and innovation (STI), one of our partnership's main strategic pillars.  In February 2024, South Africa will celebrate 10 years of STI cooperation under the framework of BRICS.

While the country joined BRICs in 2010, it was when South Africa had the honour of hosting the 1st BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting in Cape Town in 2014 that it was agreed that we would enter a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation. 

The memorandum of understanding, signed the following year in Brazil at the 2nd BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting, defined the vision and principles of the collaboration; the areas in which we would cooperate; and the instruments and mechanisms that would govern our cooperation. 

Since then, BRICS STI cooperation has grown into an impressive network of collaborative activities, including the BRICS STI Framework Programme funded by national agencies and institutions; 13 thematic and specialised working groups; work plans and action plans for innovation cooperation; the BRICS Young Scientists Forum; the BRICS Young Innovators Prize; and the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre.

However, notwithstanding the notable achievements of the BRICS STI platform over the past several years, we agreed at the 11th BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting in August this year that we needed a better alignment and clearer articulation of BRICS STI cooperation priorities. 

This means reorienting BRICS STI policymaking away from the predominantly science-push linear model to a new, inclusive and holistic approach. 

Of course, this has significant implications for STI policy, strategy, instruments, processes, mechanisms and governance. It requires recognition of the growing importance of policy coordination and strategic coherence between BRICS STI collaboration and related development policy fields.

I am pleased that this symposium brings BRICS policy makers, scholars, academics, young scientists and other stakeholders together for high-level presentations, panel discussions and inter-institutional engagements. 

I am also glad that the overarching objectives of the event are to examine the current BRICS STI policy space with a view to prescribing corrective interventions and defining new policy choices for BRICS STI. 

This approach, in my view, will greatly enhance the capacity of BRICS STI to address the problems of inclusive and sustainable development, and to respond optimally to contemporary societal challenges such as food security, poverty, health and environmental crises that affect every nation in the world.

I hope these matters and various perspectives will be addressed in the presentations that each BRICS country is giving on their national STI policy environment and foresight initiatives. 

I lam looking forward to hearing what each country thinks of the global transition away from the science-push linear model I referred to earlier, and the move to a comprehensive, integrated approach involving humanities, social sciences and indigenous knowledge systems. 

I am also interested in what the different BRICS nations consider strategic imperatives for BRICS STI cooperation in this time of global crises and conflicts.

I am sure that the symposium will benefit from the participation of key players in our national system of innovation – the university sector and science councils – because I believe that they have an integral and critical role to play in the BRICS STI policy discourse. 

However, despite the apparent convergence of priorities between actors in the system of innovation, their interface and engagements with BRICS STI partners are not yet optimal.  Policy compartmentalisation across the system is probably responsible for this state of affairs. 

A look at collaboration between the BRICS Network University and the BRICS STI Platform may prove useful in this regard. 

Established in November 2013, the Network University has been promoting academic mobility and training, with its research collaboration priorities mainly in areas related to socio-economic and sociopolitical development in BRICS countries; transnational relations and human and intercultural communication among BRICS countries; and how BRICS countries are dealing with global issues. 

There is a clear overlap between the priorities of the BRICS STI Platform and the BRICS Network University, but it seems that there have been few, if any, joint activities between the two platforms.

It would be important and necessary to get an overview of the activities and outcomes of the BRICS Network University over the past decade and a projection of future activities and partnerships.

This symposium will conclude with a session on strategic intelligence foresight exercises, which will help us to anticipate new challenges, imagine possible futures and identify STI development priorities and trends necessary for the reorientation of STI policy to meet societal challenges.

I firmly believe that we need to institutionalise BRICS STI policy discourse through the establishment of a dedicated mechanism, for example, a BRICS STI Working Group on Policy and Foresight, supported by relevant country experts. 

In my opinion, the working group's mandate and terms of reference should be finalised at the earliest opportunity, and we should aim to have the group's first meeting in the second quarter of 2024.

I would like to conclude by thanking the officials of the Department of Science and Innovation and the National Advisory Council on Innovation for organising this important symposium. 

I am sure that the constructive discussions you will have on the strategic challenges of STI policy in the framework of BRICS will be of value to all of us.

I thank you.


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