Cape Town – Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the South African economy is attracting investments in the research and development space.
The Minister also said that government has recognised that research-led innovation has immense potential to support job creation, new company formation and economic growth.
The Minister said this when she participated in a debate on the country’s economy under the theme “Building collective action for inclusive growth”.
“The Department of Science and Technology supports government’s efforts to make South Africa a preferred destination for foreign investment in science, technology and innovation.
“The work being done to encourage international companies to establish their research and development facilities in South Africa is achieving positive results,” she said.
The Minister lauded investments in the research and development, innovation and technology by the private sector.
General Electric investing R500 million in a customer innovation centre in Gauteng;
General Electric’s decision to invest a further R200 million to support South African SMMEs through technology transfer;
IBM investing R700 million over 10 years in ICT research and development; and
A R66 million investment by Cisco to increase the company’s research and development activities in South Africa.
“Government will continue to work hard to promote relationships with global partners and to leverage foreign investment in science and technology in South Africa.
“The department is working with science councils, universities and the private sector to ensure effective implementation or our research development and innovation contribution to growth,” she said.
She also said that next week, the National Advisory Council on Innovation is holding a symposium on Science, Technology and Innovation business investment in research and development.
CSIR investing in innovation
Minister Pandor said over the past four years, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) R300 million Technology Localisation Programme has assisted over 140 manufacturing companies. She said one of the examples of the success of this programme includes the R6.3 million Casting Simulation Network that was launched in 2015 at the Vaal University of Technology.
She said the majority of South African foundries are SMEs, which are often family-owned businesses.
“The cost of the simulation software is outside the means of most of these SMEs.
“The CSIR’s R500 million Industry Innovation Partnership encourages the private sector to invest more into research and development,” she said.
The Minister said that CSIR’s Industry Innovation Partnership also enables strategic partnerships with small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
She said Biotechnology SMMEs are using the recently launched R90 million bio manufacturing facilities at the CSIR.
“Support from CSIR scientists and engineers ensures that products meet the needs of the market. Examples of products developed are cosmetics incorporating natural extracts, magnetic microsphere technology used in life science applications, extracts from olives that are used in cosmetics and nutraceuticals, porridges that incorporate beneficial natural ingredients and cell culture reagents,” she said.
Forging international partnerships through the SKA project
The Minister said, meanwhile, that the Square Kilometre Array is a sterling example of the value of global science partnerships.
The SKA is a €1.5 billion collaboration between South Africa and Australia to build the world’s largest radio telescope.
She said that while 10 member countries are the cornerstone of the SKA, around 100 organisations across about 20 countries are participating in the design and development of the SKA.
“World leading scientists and engineers are designing and developing a system that will require supercomputers faster than any in existence, and network technology that will generate more data traffic than the entire Internet,” she said.
She said the funding for the SKA project in 2016-17 alone – most of which will go towards the construction of Meerkat – is R1 billion from the department’s budget.
The Minister also said that SKA works with international partners to build its dishes and develop its big data infrastructure.
“The R630 million tender for the manufacture of the 64 MeerKAT antennas was awarded in 2014 to Stratosat Datacom (Pty) Ltd, a South African company, in a joint venture with US firm General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies.
“Almost 75% of the contract value will be spent in South Africa, including qualification testing, tooling design, and virtually all of the manufacturing, resulting in benefits and opportunities for local industry,” she said.