Government wants to up R&D spend


The government is considering doubling the amount of money spent on research and development from the current aimpoint of 1% of GDP to 2% by 2018. Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the higher target is being considered because government “recognises that the strategic national objective of inclusive and diversified economic growth will not be achieved without increased levels of investment in research and development”.

Giving a written reply to a Parliamentary question from Peter Smith of the Inkatha Freedom Party, she added the revised targets came out of ministerial cluster meetings in the run-up to the January lekgotla, news service I-Net Bridge reports.
“The government has already committed to developing a strategy for a new economic growth path,” Pandor said. “This is being finalised by the economic development department and will be presented to cabinet. It is envisaged that the R&D expenditure targets will be one of the decision points.”

Meanwhile, Pandor has also appointed a ministerial committee to review the science, technology and innovation landscape and its readiness to meet the needs of South Africa. Her office in a statement says Professor Loyiso Nongxa, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand will chair the committee, with Professor Wieland Gevers, formerly Deputy Vice Chancellor at University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Academy of Science of South Africa as his deputy.

The other committee members are:

Mr Michael Spicer

Professor Brian Figaji

Dr Mamokgethi Setati

Professor Cheryl de la Rey

Dr Allyson Lawless

Dr Michael Kahn

Professor Phuti Ngoepe.

The minister has tasked the committee to develop a vision for science, technology and innovation for South Africa into the future. The committee will assess whether South Africa is making optimal use of its existing strengths and whether it is appropriately positioned to respond rapidly to a changing global context and thus meet the country’s needs in the next 10 to 30 years, her office says.

Pandor stressed the importance of reviewing the key policies and strategies that have shaped the system of innovation over the past 15 years. The minister also indicated that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review of South Africa’s Innovation Policy (2007) provides an important point of departure for the assessment of the system.

She further indicated that two considerations make the appointment of this ministerial committee most timely. “The first is that South Africa has one of the leading STI systems in Africa, is moving towards reaching its target of one percent of gross domestic product being allocated to research and development, and has moved that target to 1.5 percent of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by 2014,” the statement said. “The second is the challenge to the science technology and innovation system to both position South Africa globally as a knowledge based economy and ensuring that this investment pays dividends in improving the quality of life of South Africans.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it “fully supports” the move. “A review is long overdue,” DA higher education spokesman Dr Wilmot James said in a statement. “I have consistently put it to President Zuma in Parliament that our challenge is to position South Africa as a knowledge-based economy with the assurance that ordinary South Africans will benefit from the pay-off.”