The 2017 South African Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Indicators Report, which analyses the state of the country's innovation, shows both positive and negative trends.
Released on the 28th of June 2018 by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the report uses the new South African Innovation Scorecard Framework, which categorises STI activities into three components – the public sector's enabling activities, firm-level innovation activities, and the economic and social outputs of innovation.
The report, published by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), an entity of the Department of Science and Technology, was unveiled during NACI's annual symposium.
Science, technology and innovation are instrumental in support of government's short, medium and long-term plans for economic growth, as well as the reduction of unemployment and inequality.
The country's economy has not been growing at the desired pace and this has affected budgets.
"Over the past few years the country's funding for research has remained stagnant at about 0,7% of the GDP. This is way below the target of 1,5% of GDP that we wanted to achieve by 2020," said Minister Kubayi-Ngubane.
She added that resources invested in research and development (R&D) should be used effectively, and that the NACI report helped South Africa understand how this could be done. It also showed the impact science, technology and innovation was making in the lives of South Africans.
The Minister stated that the country had shown good progress in the implementation of the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, but had not yet fully realised the potential of STI to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP).
According to Minister Khubayi-Ngubane, the STI institutional landscape has expanded over the years, seeing a threefold increase in publications, significant growth in the participation of black people and women in the research and development workforce, and a rise in doctoral graduation rates. However, there are still challenges. The national system of innovation (NSI) is still not fully inclusive, and since 1996 South Africa's innovation performance (measured in patents and products) has been relatively flat.
"As the Department of Science and Technology, we are responsible for ensuring that the NSI improves its performance. This means that, together with all the stakeholders, we have to overcome all the constraints that are limiting our NSI performance," said the Minister.
- There are few black doctoral graduates in life sciences and engineering.
- South Africa ranks 18th in the world for scientific publications in social sciences, arts and humanities.
- Government's contribution to expenditure on research and development was low and there was no appropriate coordination mechanism for a coherent response by various government entities.
- Government contributes significantly to the South African venture capital industry.
- High-technology exports remain low, leaving the country very dependent on imported products.
- South Africa ranked high in the opportunity and foundations of well-being category of the Social Progress Index.
Despite the introduction of the R&D Tax Incentive Programme, gross expenditure on R&D remains low, at 0,7% of GDP. There is consensus that most of the increase in R&D expenditure should come from industry through instruments such as the Sector Innovation Fund. This is important if the country is to achieve an outcome of decent employment through inclusive economic growth.
South Africa's ranking on the Global Innovation Index (GII) dropped from 54th in 2016 (out of 128 countries) to 57th in 2017. The main categories contributing to the lower ranking are financial market development and goods market efficiency. The country's total early-stage entrepreneurship activity also declined, from 22nd in 2012 to 46th in 2016. Overall, the country is experiencing a slight deterioration in innovation, competitiveness and entrepreneurship.
However, South Africa's innovation and competitiveness are still the best among the African countries, most notably above Nigeria and Egypt.
In South Africa, 55,1% of new entrepreneurs and 53,2% of established entrepreneurs innovated with technology less than five years old in 2016.
Total early-stage entrepreneurship activity rate is higher for those with post-secondary education (11,9% in 2016) than those with low
levels of education.
The South African national system of innovation enables entrepreneurship and competitiveness for both new and established businesses.
The full report can be accessed here
Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.