President Kgalema Motlanthe has signed the Technology Innovation Agency Act into law.
The Department of Science and Technology this morning says Motlanthe signed the legislation on 17 November.
The law provides for the establishment of an agency to help stimulate scientific innovation in the country.
The DST says it will establish the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) early next year.
“This will be a new public entity envisaged to help bridge the innovation gap between the country`s local knowledge base and the productive economy,” the department says in a statement.
The law provides for the powers and functions of the agency to:
· stimulate the development of technology-based products and services ;
· stimulate the development of technology-based enterprises – both public and private;
· develop a significant technology base for the South African economy;
· facilitate the development of human capital for innovation; and provide the primary bridge between the formal knowledge base and the real economy.
The creation of the TIA is part of the Department of Science and Technology`s (DST) Ten-Year Plan Innovation Plan, and will allow the DST to fulfil its mandate with regard to technology more effectively.
The TIA concept is closely aligned with another government’s policy on intellectual property derived from publicly financed research and development, the DST adds.
National System of Innovation
The DST has spent the last few years creating a superstructure called the “national system of innovation” to improve the country’s capacity to translate local research and development into commercial products and services.
To do this, the department published a White Paper on Science and Technology in 1996, a Research and Development Strategy in 2002 and an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy in 2003.
The TIA Act seeks to turn those words into action. DST director-general Dr Phil Mjwara told Parliament during hearings on the need for the Act that local innovators face many challenges, including a lack of access to venture capital, poor management of intellectual property rights and poor business development skills.
The DG and other officials further added that the DST had consulted “a number of venture funds” and from this had ascertained that the TIA would not conflict with any other agency. On the contrary, they would be “delighted” to support the mooted agency by establishing a public-private venture capital partnership.
Tsietsi Maleho, corporate affairs manager at The Innovation Hub, supported Mjwara, saying it was well established that small and emerging companies based on technology, research and development were the drivers of a knowledge economy. The Innovation Hub is part of Blue IQ, a Gauteng government agency. The Hub is located near the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) campus, in Pretoria. The CSIR, in its briefing, also supported the establishment of the TIA.
Maleho touted Finland as a country that successfully managed to change its economy by creating an enabling environment for innovation and urged that the example be replicated.