Souuth Africa spends R18 bln on research and development

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A survey conducted by the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) shows that SA spent just over R18,6 billion on research and development (R&D) in 2007/08, an increase of R21 billion of the Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) compared to R16,5 billion in 2006/07.

During 2007, the South African economy performed favourably, attaining a GDP growth rate of around five percent. Clearly, the results indicate that investment in R&D grew much slower than gross domestic product (GDP). This observation needs to be carefully analysed to identify any emerging trends and to inform appropriate policy responses, especially if the country is to attain the target of one percent of GDP by 2008/09, CeSTII says.

Commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, the latest survey results indicate “a proportionate decline in the R&D intensity from 0,95% in 2006/07 to 0,93% in 2007/08.”

The survey indicates also that increased expenditure on R&D in relation to GDP is a good indication of the competitiveness of a country’s economy. Much like with the previous surveys, most R&D in South Africa is performed in the research field of the engineering sciences, which accounts for 22,5% of the total R&D, followed by the natural sciences with 20,4% and the medical and health sciences and information communication technology (ICTs), both at 14,0%.
“The proportion of business sector R&D has grown from 55,9% to 57,7%, and is still the major performer of R&D in the country. The government, which includes the science councils, performs 21,7% of the total R&D, followed by the higher education sector with 19.4% and the non-profit sector with 1,2%. About 10,7% of South Africa’s R&D is financed from abroad” the centre adds.

Highly competitive countries are found to spend more on R&D. With the R&D spending of 3,60% of GDP in 2006, Sweden is amongst the highest of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries with high R&D intensity. Other such countries are Korea with 3,47%, Japan with 3.44% and the United States of America with 2,68%.

The European Union has set a goal of achieving an average R&D expenditure of three percent of GDP by the year 2010. In 2007, the average for the 27 European Union member states was 1,77%. In comparison with other middle and lower-middle income countries, South Africa spends proportionately more on R&D than Argentina (0,51%) and India (0,80%) but less than China (1,49%) and the Russian Federation (1,12%).

With a total of 31 352 full-time equivalent (FTE) R&D personnel, there is a marginal growth to an already small quantity. This category comprises researchers, technicians and other support staff. About 62% of these personnel comprise the 19 320 FTE researchers or academically qualified people who perform, manage and guide the process of undertaking research that leads to new knowledge and novel research findings. This number has grown by four percent from 18 527 in 2006/07.

South Africa is amongst the countries with the highest proportion of women researchers. About 40,3% of the total researchers in South Africa are women, comparing favourably with countries such as Japan (13,0%) and Norway (33,3%). In developing countries Argentina leads the way with 51,5% women researchers.

This survey was carried out according to the guidelines provided by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Frascati Manual and in consultation with Statistics South Africa, and international experts in the field.

The more detailed reports on the 2006/07 survey will be hosted on the DST and HSRC websites http://www.dst.gov.za/publications-policies/r-d-reports and http: www.hsrc.ac.za/CCUP-RnD-7.phtml.



Notes to editors
1. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics recently (September 2009) published a Global Perspective on Research and Development that showed where researchers are, how many there are, how many women researchers there are, the global investment in R&D, and how R&D intensity has changed between 1996 and 2007.
2. Most developing countries invest less than one percent of GDP in R&D, but there are some notable exceptions such as China and Tunisia, which have significantly increased their R&D investment over this period.
3. South Africa is classed as one of the R&D-intensity-up countries.