Discovering tomorrow

Faculty of Science

01/06/2017

Speech by Minister of Science and Technology Introducing the Science and Technology Budget Vote, 16 May 2017, Naledi Pandor MP

http://www.dst.gov.za/index.php/media-room/media-room-speeches/budget-speech/2193-speech-by-minister-of-science-and-technology-introducing-the-science-and-technology-budget-vote-16-may-2017-naledi-pandor-mp 

Chairperson, honourable members, guests.

South Africa urgently needs to implement programmes and strategies that will create a more inclusive economy in which the benefits of growth are shared fairly and equitably. Our country must decisively respond to the needs and concerns of the marginalised and excluded. I firmly believe that science technology, and innovation can make a decisive contribution. 

We live in a rapidly changing world and many countries and people are being left behind as change accelerates and technologies become more complex and pervasive. Innovation policies are being reviewed and remodeled to ensure they are responsive to emerging ICT opportunities. We need to be as nimble as possible in our responses. 

Working with the support of NACI, the DST has concluded a review of our implementation of the 1996 White Paper on science technology and innovation. The review confirms commendable progress and we are drawing on it as we draft a new White Paper to guide the national innovation system over the next twenty years. We plan to present the White Paper to parliament in 2018.

The new White Paper positions us for the future. While acknowledging achievements, it focuses on the wide array of technological advancements that are currently unfolding before us, including big data, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and genome mapping. All these are part of the fourth industrial revolution that the global community is intently focussed upon. We must not be left behind.

Today, I intend to indicate how we plan to use the progress made in the first 23 years of democracy to prepare for the future. Our theme - 'The Oliver Tambo legacy - positioning the national system of innovation for the future', honours one of South Africa's political giants. The theme honours one of South Africa's giants, who would have turned 100 this year, and who was an outstanding maths and science teacher before leading Africa's oldest liberation movement, the ANC.

The DST is committed to playing a full role in implementing the National Development Plan by focussing on initiatives that will ensure that we make a profound impact on economic growth and development while assisting in the eradication of poverty, unemployment, and inequality.

The initiatives we will highlight today will be familiar to many of you, as you are aware science and successful innovation require long-term dedicated support.

Our budget programmes for 2016/17 outlined several initiatives aimed at increasing our knowledge production, promoting the growth and transformation of knowledge workers in our system, and supporting increased exploitation of knowledge for development. 

Through the work of our agencies, the National Research Foundation and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, we supported 3,239 doctoral students, as well as 9,353 honours and master’s students, 4,175 researchers received research grants, ensuring that we meet our commitment to expand the number of knowledge workers while continuing to provide effective support to emerging and established researchers. 

The National Research Foundation and the Academy of Sciences are currently undertaking investigations into human capital development that will inform future interventions in post-graduate development. We have also finalised an implementation plan for the Human Capital Development For Research and Innovation Strategy.

Last year we supported 915 graduate and postgraduate students through our workplace preparation programme, thus enhancing and easing graduate absorption into the job market and into research careers that provide the human capital that will develop the national system of innovation for the future.

The expansion of the mLab footprint that I announced last year has materialised. We have secured co-funding of R17.7 million over the next three years to expand the mLab to Kwazulu Natal, the Northern Cape, and Limpopo. We will provide at least 450 young people with mobile application development training and support. We also plan to support or strengthen 54 more start-ups and expand to other provinces.

We have continued our promised contribution to the operation Phakisa ocean economy initiative. Our earth systems, marine and polar sciences, are playing a key role through several projects. The Ocean and Coasts Management Information System is playing a significant role in protecting our 1.5 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone. It supports the detection and apprehension of illegal fishing vessels and plays a role in providing information on vessels in environmentally sensitive marine protected areas. 

The system is underpinned by space technology and provides real time monitoring of the country's ocean resources. This monitoring supports South Africa in rock lobster conservation, informs aquaculture farming decisions and helps to prevent economic challenges caused by fish stock losses.

Members of the team that developed the system, Raymond Molapo and Bryan McAlister are in the gallery.

Earth systems science and indigenous knowledge systems have the potential to unlock areas that will boost and diversify the economy through creating new business opportunities for SMMEs, cooperatives and rural enterprises in areas such as animal husbandry, local veterinary medicine, arts and crafts and traditional health remedies. The IKS bill currently before this house will support all these activities.

I now turn to this financial year. The 2017/18 budget is R7,5 billion, just slightly more than the R 7,4 billion of 2016/17. Government remains the largest investor in R&D, despite tight fiscal pressures and competing priorities. I don't need to repeat that we must invest more to be competitive. Money spent on science technology and innovation today will produce economic growth and improved quality of life in the long term. 

I will illustrate the importance of this by referring to our efforts in health innovation. Our department's Strategic Health Innovation Platform, housed at the Medical Research Council, is producing excellent work under the leadership of Professor Glenda Gray and her colleagues. Professor Gray was recently named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential persons due her cutting edge research in HIV/AIDS. 

The department is making good progress with our plan to ensure Biovac becomes a fully fledged vaccine manufacturer. The recently announced partnership with the U.S. PATH (Programme for Allied Technologies for Health) on the development of a Group B Streptococcus vaccine is a very welcome development. 

Research infrastructure

Honourable members know that South Africa has strategically invested in the enhanced development of astronomy sciences and infrastructure. We have several radio astronomy projects - the Hartebeesthook Radio Astronomy Observatory, the Meerkat, the Square Kilometre Array and the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network or AVN. I recently declared a new national facility bringing all these under one hub, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory or SARAO. This hub will position South Africa as a key hub of radio astronomy. 

I regard this hub as an important first step toward our long-term ambition to create in the medium to long term a national astronomy institute to house all aspects of astronomy. I have directed my department to explore the possibility of creating a South African Astronomy Observatory as a consolidated single national astronomy institute. I hope we can conclude this phase of our plans prior to the completion of SKA phase 1 in 2022.

Astronomy has also provided intrigue and challenge to curious and bright young people.

On this note I'm pleased to welcome in the gallery, Mpho Mthombeni from Lentheng Middle School in the North West the winner of an NRF competition to name SAAOs new 1 metre telescope. Now called 'Lesedi', this new telescope is the first remotely operated South African owned telescope since the establishment of observing locations in Sutherland in 1974.

With respect to the SKA, R2 billion will be transferred to the NRF over the MTEF period for the completion of the Meerkat project and for the acquisition of additional land for the SKA project. This financial year R693 million has been allocated for the SKA project. On Africa day 25 May we will mark five years since South Africa was named as co-host of the SKA. 

I'm pleased to report that we now have 45 antennas and 57 pedestals installed as part of Meerkat and we are on track to build the full complement of 64 by 31 March 2018. Meerkat has reached another milestone with the integration of the 32 antennas into a polarisation correlator or array. The next array release, AR2, is set for later this year. 

Furthermore, 75% of MeerKAT components have been sourced locally. To date MeerKAT has spent R134 million on local construction suppliers, and 351 people have been trained by major SKA contractors such as Stratcom. The SKA project has created 7 284 employment opportunities through the construction of the KAT-7, MeerKAT and related projects. 

In its 11th year, the SKA bursary initiative has funded 919 students, 133 of whom are from other African countries. The Department continues to provide extensive support to schools in Carnarvon. Nine learners from Carnarvon High School have received full-cost undergraduate bursaries. 

We look forward to the beginning of SKA phase 1 construction between 2018- 2022.

We congratulate Dr Rob Adam and the entire SKA team.

Our department has utilised these initiatives to contribute to government's goal to expand, modernize modernise and increase affordability of ICT infrastructure and electronic services through providing high speed broadband connectivity to all universities, science councils, national research facilities and public research performing institutions.

SANReN, linking 215 research sites, consists of 1,500 kilometres of dark fibre and 5,000 kilometres of managed bandwidth. This network is complemented by significant international broadband capacity on the West Africa Cable System and the east coast SEACOM system, ensuring that the Department's projects support competitive research and innovation as it prepares the national innovation system for the future.

The innovative design of the Data Skills Development programme and the DataIntensive Research Initiative of South Africa are also positioning South Africa to seize digital opportunities in the future.

There are student guests in the gallery. They will represent South Africa at the 2017 International Student Cluster competition during the International Supercomputing Conference in Germany in June, after winning the national student competition in East London last year. The team members are Mishka Mohamed, Kyle Jordaan, Tyrone Ruiters, Liam Doult, Lydia de Lange, Phillip Goosen, Emma Clark, and Ella Wilby. We wish them success.

The Centre for High Performance Computing, which is led by Dr Happy Sithole, provided high performance computing training to these students, as it did to last year’s team which won the International Student Cluster Competition against teams from all over the world. We are building key skills for the future through such initiatives.

Our youth into science efforts are also a vital part of our work. Our department and entities provide various economic and development opportunities. On 11 June we will host an inaugural youth Assembly on the knowledge economy.

The wonderful science centre project promised to Cofimvaba has ironed out teething problems and delays and will be complete by 31 March 2018. The centre will be called the OR Tambo Science Centre and will provide valuable assistance to teachers and learners in the area.

Last, in October last year we published South Africa’s first Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR). SARIR provides for the roll-out of 13 medium to large infrastructures over a five-year horizon, the first seven of which will already have been initiated by the end of the year.

Transforming the research enterprise

Honourable Members, expanding research capacity is the Department's main priority, and an amount of R4,3 billion is allocated to the Research Development and Support branch for 2017/18.

The NRF will spend R2,4 billion on student bursaries (13,800 honours, masters and doctoral students) and research grants (4,500 researchers).

The NRF has allocated R500 million for SARCHi (SA Research Chair Initiative). This will help to attract and retain established researchers who are recognised global experts. 

The NRF is strengthening its partnerships with other government departments. Last year, I approved a call to establish six research chairs in Post-School Education and Training. The DHET will invest R97 million over the next five years. This will bring the number of research chairs to 213 by the end of the 2017/18 financial year.

The NRF has also provided an opportunity for established researchers to collaborate in order to address identified problems. Nine SARChI chairs in the areas of poverty and inequality research have developed a joint funding proposal for strategies to overcome poverty and inequality under the community of practice initiative.

I'd like to welcome Dr Stephanie Fanucchi, in the gallery, a cell biologist at the CSIR, who recently received a 2016 L'Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science International Rising Talent Award. This award recognises the achievements of younger women who are in the early stages of their scientific careers, in addition to honouring distinguished women scientists.

Transformation of the research enterprise remains a core target. In this regard, R237 million is set aside for the NRF's emerging research areas initiatives such as the expanded Thuthuka Funding Framework that supports PhD and postdoctoral research, the expanded NRF postdoctoral placement programme, and the professional development programme, which places young researchers at the NRF and science councils.

The NRF is ramping up its efforts to meet the demands of the large emerging-researcher cohort. There are 3 500 research and teaching staff with doctoral degrees who are not supported by the NRF, of whom 38% are black and 41% women. 

We're not yet making adequate progress with transformation. I'm pleased that the NRF intends to devote increased attention to the development and mentoring of a new cohort of researchers and to implementing incentives and strategies designed to retain and reward black people and women in the national system of innovation. Particular attention must be given to issues of race and gender and programmes designed to ensure women are not disadvantaged by our systems and policies.

Over the MTEF, the NRF proposes to allocate R475 million to 15 centres of excellence. The centres support collaboration on long-term projects that are locally relevant and internationally competitive in order to enhance the pursuit of research excellence and capacity development. 

This year, at an investment of R68 million, the NRF will place at least 800 graduate and postgraduate students in work preparation programmes under the National Youth Service initiative. A total of 695 interns (45% of the participants in the programme) found employment, while 356 (23%) left the programme to further their studies. In terms of absorbing interns into employment, the programme has had a 68% success rate. It has been expanded it to include graduates from the humanities and social sciences. 

During this financial year, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity will launch its newest vessel, Phakisa, into service in the coastal regions of South Africa. 

The NRF supports a transdisciplinary research agenda at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences. This facility, which has developed a plan for the South African Isotope Facility, will support research in nuclear physics, materials sciences, radiobiology and the production of rare and exotic radio-isotopes for the medical industry.

Knowledge for economic development and competitiveness

For 2017/18, an amount of R2,6 billion has been allocated to technology innovation and socio-economic innovation partnerships.

Last year I announced several initiatives aimed at increasing our knowledge production, the growth and transformation of the pool of knowledge workers, and the exploitation of knowledge for development. 

One was the establishment of a sovereign innovation fund, which is a priority for public-private funding partnerships aimed at commercialising innovations from the public and the private sector. During this financial year, with the Departments of Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development and other interested parties, the Department will make a business case for the fund. 

The Department will make an investment of R137 million in the existing seven sector innovation funds. Of this amount, R84 million is in the agricultural sector and R51 million in the manufacturing sector.

Industry is currently providing new funding of R56 million for the sector innovation funds. The Department has made significant gains in building relevant innovation capacity. Through the initiative the Department has supported 189 students at honours, master's and doctoral levels, and 11 interns. The programme has also generated 20 innovation products and 19 journal publications. 

I'm pleased to announce a complementary initiative aimed at developing partnerships with industry, known as the Industry Innovation Partnership Programme. The programme is strengthening the strategic role of the CSIR in industrial development.

This financial year, I will launch two industrial development centres, one a bio-refinery and the other a photonics prototyping facility. 

The new bio-refinery facility, located at the CSIR's Durban Campus, will provide cutting-edge analytical and pilot-scale equipment for bio-refinery technology development, and for troubleshooting industrial biomass-processing challenges. 

The Photonics Prototyping Facility will provide world-class facilities, technical support, equipment and scarce skills to help industrialise photonics-based technologies. This could act as a catalyst to build a globally competitive photonics industry in South Africa, which currently has a tiny share of the global photonics market.

Sustainable mining activities require a substantial investment in research and technology. Over the next three years, R150 million will be invested in re-establishing mining and mining equipment R&D.

This investment will help to restore the old CSIR mining research facility in Carlow Road, Johannesburg. This facility, known as the Mining Precinct, will be launched during the second quarter of this financial year. A number of mining-related associations and mining equipment manufacturers clusters are already working in the facility. 

I expect two promising programmes to result in new industries in South Africa.

First, the Aeroswift project 3D printed an aircraft component last year. Airbus and Boeing are interested in using this technology and plans have been developed for structured parts, printed using the Aeroswift machine. 

Second, the manufacturing of titanium metal powder project is progressing well after an initial delay in getting the semi-batch processing plant operational. If this radical innovation is successful, South Africa will be well-positioned to develop an entirely new industry across the full titanium value chain, unlocking substantial new industrial opportunities in titanium powder sales.

This year the Technology Innovation Agency will help 2,800 small and medium enterprises use specialised equipment at institutions of higher learning and benefit from technical expertise to translate their technological innovations into products and prototypes at a cost of R105 million.

The Department also supported a number of innovators through the Global CleanTech Innovation Programme for small and medium enterprises in South Africa, at a cost of R3,8 million. Some of them are with us in the gallery, the innovators who designed the Thevia roof tile, comprising 90% waste materials. The tiles are twice as strong and 25% the weight of normal cement tiles with a similar manufacturing cost. Also in the gallery is André Nel, who has patented the Green Tower, a solar-powered heat pump for domestic hot water that uses 90% less energy than a conventional geyser.

The Department will disburse R153 million towards technology development and pre-commercialisation processes through TIA, while an amount of R228 million will be allocated for continued support for small and medium businesses and initiatives such as the Youth Technology Programme, the Technology Platform Programme, the Technology Stations Programme, and the Technology Innovation Programmes. 

The Department will deploy 25 hydrogen fuel-cell technologies using HySA technology before the end of the 2019/20 financial year. This will require financial commitments from the private sector and other government departments. 

The Department has raised close to R40 million in support of the 2020 target for hydrogen fuel-cell technologies. It will continue discussions with stakeholders across government and the private sector to leverage the remaining R60 million needed to support the deployment of the technology. 

Innovation for local economic development

The Department is also making strides in engaging local economic development actors to integrate innovation in local economic development.

The CSIR is to establish an integrated, multi-sectoral decision-support centre on the CSIR campus. This centre will have capabilities to deal with the collection, transmission, collation, storage and analysis of applicable data sets, as well as decision-support frameworks that transform this data into useful inputs for decision-makers. 

Last year I informed the House that about R2 million would be spent on a pilot to evolve a model that would allow grassroots innovators to leverage social and economic value from their innovations. The need for the pilot was informed by the many young and unemployed innovators who use local resources to develop promising technologies and solutions outside formal innovation institutions.

DST’s grassroots innovators’ initiative has enabled it to establish a database of grassroots innovations and identify support needs. So far, we have seen some excellent innovations, such as Phumlani Nthloko and Skhumbuzo Ndlovu's computer numerical control machine with milling and 3D printing capability, Nkosana Madi's motorised bicycle, and an electric engine being developed by Melusi Ntuli. The innovators are here in the gallery. You can see their innovations at our exhibition at the Iziko Museum. Also in the gallery is Nneile Nkholise, who won the National Youth Development Agency's 2017 first prize in the science, technology and innovation category.

Advancing international collaboration through science, technology and innovation

The International Cooperation and Resources branch receives R128 million for its work in support of regional, continental and international partnerships.

The Department supports Pan-African initiatives, such as the hosting of the African regional office of the Future Earth global change research initiative, and the hosting of the first African Open Science platform. The Department will also work hard to ensure a strong science and technology component in cooperation with Japan as part of the Tokyo International Conference on Africa's Development.

The Department's effective use of science diplomacy is receiving international accolades. The Director-General received the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment Highest Award of Excellence in recognition of his leading contribution to and support for the development of Earth observation and geospatial information in Africa, especially for the Group on Earth Observation and AfriGEOSS.

The Department's focus on strengthening South-South cooperation will continue. It will prepare for South Africa's 2018 Presidency of the BRICS partnership by promoting BRICS cooperation in areas such as water research, astronomy and big data. 

On 7 and 8 December 2017, the Department will host the third Science Forum South Africa, with the main focus on innovation for inclusive development. Last year more than 2,034 participants from 61 countries attended the forum, which provided a platform for vibrant debate on the science and society interface, including with regard to Pan-African cooperation and the role of the social sciences and humanities. 

I'm proud to recognise the achievements of Prof. George Philander, from Cape Town, now based at Princeton, who with Prof. Mark Cane received the 2017 Vetlesen Prize for untangling the complex forces that drive El Niño, the world's most powerful weather cycle.

In the gallery is Prof. Celia Abolnik, from the University of Pretoria, a research chair working on poultry diseases, whom I wish to congratulate on being among the winners of the 2016 Kwame Nkrumah African Union prizes for science excellence. I also acknowledge Tshwane University of Technology's Prof. Felix Dakora, a research chair working on soil chemistry and biology to improve agricultural output, another Kwame Nkrumah African Union prize winner.

I also wish to congratulate Dr Nomakholwa Stokwe of Stellenbosch University and Dr Wesley Doorsamy of the University of Johannesburg, who were among 22 exceptional early career scientists selected for the prestigious African Academy of Sciences Affiliates Programme. 

I thank the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, under the new leadership of the Honourable Lindiwe Maseko, and the members of parliament for their oversight of the Department and its entities. 

I'd also like to thank Deputy Minister kaMagwaza-Msibi, Dr Phil Mjwara, the Director-General of Science and Technology, and his deputy directors-general, the boards and CEOs of the science councils, and the staff of the Department and its entities, for their hard work in advancing the objectives of our country through science. 

To my family, who are here today, my thanks for your continued support.

Thank you.