Excellencies – representatives of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

All participants in the Science Forum South Africa – Innovation Bridge 2019,

 

Good morning

 

It has been a very busy 48 hours since the opening session on Wednesday.   It is not my intention to provide a complete overview or summary of the rich and intense discussions, which took place over the last three days.  That would be impossible.    However, I am confident that we can proclaim that we have achieved our stated objective of Igniting Conversations about Science for Innovation with Impact.

 

You may recall, that during Minister Nzimande’s opening address he had set out three ambitions we at the Department of Science and Innovation had set for ourselves in the organisation of the Science Forum – Innovation Bridge.  I would like to offer a preliminary assessment of how we have fared in achieving these aspirations.

 

Firstly, we wanted to listen carefully to your views, to guide our future police work, especially with regard to the preparation of our Decadal Plan for science, technology and innovation in South Africa.  In this regard, the Forum’s debates, including this morning’s plenary session, have certainly provided us with much food for thought.

 

Our new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation adopted by the South African Cabinet in March 2019, introduced a number of strategy policy shifts in our orientation, to make science, technology and innovation work for a better South Africa.  These policy intents will be further elaborated in our Decadal Plan informed by discussions here. 

 

Relevant themes, which resonated during the Forum’s debates and confirmed our policy intents included:

  • The imperative need to increase the focus on inclusivity, transformation and linkages in the National System of Innovation;
  • The essential requirement, if we are to be successful in our objectives, to enhance the innovation culture in society and government; and
  • The urgency to enhance the enabling environment for innovation, especially with regard to developing local innovation systems and supporting grassroots and social innovation.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, our second objective was for the Forum and Bridge to continue to be fertile ground for the fostering of new science, technology and innovation partnerships.  I am informed that the Innovation Bridge was most successful in this regard, linking researchers, entrepreneurs, funders and business, in a diverse range of new collaborations.

 

The Forum and Innovation Bridge also achieved its science diplomacy objective, with both multilateral and bilateral cooperation being initiated or reinforced through various interactions.  Science truly knows no borders and many thanks again to all our international partners who have contributed to the success of our event.  

 

However, perhaps the most important types of partnerships supported by our event are the intangible ones: the bolstering of multilateralism, international friendship and global solidarity.  More than ever, we must work to strengthen these and I am proud of the role our Forum plays in this regard.

 

Dear friends, our last ambition was to prepare the ground for South Africa’s hosting of the World Science Forum 2021 – an important responsibility and a unique and exciting opportunity for African science, and indeed science in the global South.   We will take many lessons from these past three days to inform our planning both from a logistic and programme perspective for 2021.  Informed by these lessons, we are determined to present an even better event in 2020, and I very much look forward to see you there.

 

In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all who have contributed to the organisation of the Science Forum and the Innovation Bridge.  The staff from my Department, and especially the team at the National Intellectual Property Management Office but also of our entities: the CSIR, the National Research Foundation, the Technology Innovation Agency, the Academy of Science of South Africa and the Human Sciences Research Council, who all played their part.  Thank you for a truly team South Africa effort!

 

Minister Nzimande had ended his address on Wednesday morning with a quote from our former President, Mr Nelson Mandela.  I would like to leave you with the following words from Mr Mandela:  “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

 

We should indeed not settle for less, and should spare no effort to ensure that through science and innovation we contribute that all of society, especially the most vulnerable, are afforded the opportunity to lead the lives they are capable of living and deserve to live.

 

I thank you all for your contributions, your support and your commitment.  I wish, especially our international friends, safe homeward journeys, and to all an enjoyable and restful holiday season.

 

I thank you.