Unabridged budget vote: Science & Technology: Minister Naledi Pandor

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Honourable Chairperson: Honourable Members and guests in the gallery: Our debate today will report on the progress we are making with our key strategic priorities, signal new directions and hopefully persuade Parliament and South Africa that Science and Technology sectors hold great promise for our development ambitions and need to be given far more attention and support than they currently receive.

We also intend to outline the competence and indeed excellence that exists in our sector and to argue that we should devote increased resource and policy support to strengthening excellence, particularly in disciplines and sectors that have the potential to make a contribution to improving our development status, expanding economic growth, and changing the quality of life of individuals and communities.

The funding of Science and Technology must be improved if we are to realize our ambitious national goal of building a knowledge based economy. One of the areas that must be addressed is increased support for post graduate study and for senior researchers plus a more stable funding model for all our research performing institutions.

The department was allocated R4.1 billion in the adjusted estimates of 2010/2011, we have spent 98% of our budget. Our biggest hurdle is vacancies due to the lack of appropriate skills. We will give this challenge more attention this year. In this financial year our allocation is R4.4 billion. We anticipate modest growth in the outer years of this MTEF to address human resource development and infrastructure renewal in our science councils.

In this financial year these are some of the allocations we intend to make:
* Over R200 million will be spent on expanding access to SANREN in order to ensure that all universities in South Africa are connected by December 2011
*62 new research chairs will be established with a total investment in Research Chairs of R914 million by 2013.
*An additional 25 post-doctoral fellowships each worth R180 000 per annum for three years will be created
* R433 million to TIA, R1.089 billion to NRF, R687 million to the CSIR, R206 million to HSRC, R93 million to the South African National Space Agency, R32 million to the Africa Institute of South Africa and R11 million to the Academy of Science of South Africa.

There are four key areas that we focused upon this past financial year. They are:
*creating a strong and responsive institutional framework to support the creation of a vibrant national system of innovation
*supporting fundamental research and development in all disciplines while also proactively responding to new opportunities that enhance our competitiveness and innovation
* developing our human resources in order to have the skills needed to work in a growing knowledge economy and utilizing these skills and RDI to contribute to economic growth and socio-economic change
* using our geographic advantage and international partnerships to build on our local strengths while maximizing African and global collaboration

The first of these four is a strong and responsive institutional framework to support a vibrant national system of innovation

The department intends to create an institutional and policy framework that advances and sustains a co-ordinated and responsive National System of Innovation. The Technology Innovation Agency is our key agency in this regard. TIA is now fully operational and has begun to add value to several investment opportunities. At present 26 investments have been identified. Eleven have a very strong likelihood of enhancing job creation and socio-economic development. Elven others have proceeded beyond proof of concept stage and 4 are ready for commercialisation. Over R400 million will be committed to this successful investment portfolio. We will strive to secure a much larger investment in TIA for 2012. We thank the board for their hard work and Dr Duma and his TIA team for the steps they have taken to enhance innovation success.

Honourable members, we have also established the interim structure of the National Intellectual Property Management Office in the department. R15 million will be allocated to NIPMO this year. We have used this interim route in order to allow the office to begin its operations with the full support of the department’s infrastructure. NIPMO works very closely with TIA as they work in areas that are complementary.

NIPMO has provided funding to support the establishment of the Eastern Cape Regional Office of Technology Transfer and the Kwazulu – Natal Regional Office. Furthermore, NIPMO supports staffing costs of offices of technology transfer at the University of Johannesburg, the Agricultural Research Council, Wits University, and the University of Cape Town. NIPMO also supports institutions in terms of a 50% rebate on costs incurred through patenting processes. In this financial year we will work closely with our rural based institutions to assess the forms of support we should provide through our regional Offices of Technology Transfer (OTT)s to strengthen their technology development and innovation potential.

We have also provided skills development training in IP management for a range of staff. Two summer schools have been held in South Africa with support from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). Further support from WIPO, Oxford University’s Isis Innovation, and Waikatolink of New Zealand’s University of Waikato will enhance our training this year. These are all institutes that have a credible intellectual property management record and we intend to use our partnership to incrementally grow our success in this area.

Recent research reports from our universities and science councils point to robust and growing research activity in a wide range of disciplines. We are committed to ensuring we build on this wealth of intellectual activity and intend to support our institutions and researchers much more vigorously. Our allocation of R1.089 billion for 2011/12, to the National Research Foundation(NRF) is a positive investment in our researchers and our national facilities.

We also launched the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in 2010. We congratulate the board on the appointment of Dr Malinga as CEO. R93 million has been allocated to SANSA in 2011/12. The agency has been working hard to smooth the migration of space related entities .We have also directed SANSA to assist the DST in ensuring the provision of support to Sunspace in our effort to convert it into a viable satellite manufacturing company. We remain convinced that we have the technological capability to develop a medium sized satellite industry, our plans have not received support this year but we will continue to argue for and work toward South Africa developing her own competence in satellite building. We look forward to SunSpace and SANSA producing plans for Sumbandila2 based on the prototype SumbandilaSat.

Centres of Excellence

We have also expanded the number of institutions that support researchers and our human resource development programme.

Honourable members are aware that our Centres of Excellence attract high level research and development skills, through providing substantial funding for equipment, for post graduate research opportunity, and places for focused research development and innovation. In 2010/11 we allocated R47 million to the seven centres of excellence.

We established an eighth Centre of excellence in 2010 with the creation of the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS). In 2011/12 we will allocate R50 million to the centres. A recent score card report of the NRF indicated that South Africa’s investment in the seven Centres has proven to be a very worthwhile intervention. The seven centres host 476 masters and doctoral candidates and have produced significant publications.

We intend to explore the creation of additional centres in this financial year in order to ensure that we do establish a sustainable platform for attracting and retaining scarce skills in South Africa. We also welcome and support efforts by scientists and universities to establish centres of research excellence. This year modest DST support will be provided to arrange of university based research centres. We will also continue to provide support to the excellent African Institute for Mathematical Studies(AIMS).

We are pleased to have in the gallery some of South Africa’s esteemed researchers. Professor Suprakas Sinha-Ray of the CSIR has been ranked 50th in a list of the top 100 chemists in the world by Thompson Reuters. The list celebrates the International Year of Chemistry and recognises excellence among chemists who publish widely and achieve high impact through their work.

We also welcome professors Quarraisha Abdool Karrim, and Salim Abdool Karrim both of the School of Medicine at the University of Kwazulu Natal. I am pleased that DST has played a part in supporting their groundbreaking CAPRISA led research into the Tenofovir microbicide gel. All members are familiar with the research which aims to support women in protecting themselves from HIV infection . Their work has attracted world wide acclaim and we are pleased that we will provide an additional R51.2 million over the next three years to support further research. The team will consist of a broad consortium of universities, the MRC and health institutes.

This is the kind of excellence we wish to expand and encourage in South Africa. DST is excited at the prospect of improved health support held out by tuberculosis focused research at the CSIR nanotechnology centre. We are also supporting a consortium of researchers in the South African Malaria Initiative and a range of other disciplines detailed in our annual report.

We are fully alert to the fact that attention should also be given to the character and condition of existing Science and technology infrastructure. This is why I established a Ministerial Committee on Science and Technology to advise us on the state of our science infrastructure and on what should be done to ensure South Africa strengthens, maintains and further develops the architecture devoted to research, development and innovation.

The phase one desk top analysis report confirms the progress made in the past few years and also signals the urgent need to attend to ageing infrastructure, inadequate human capital interventions, and the provision of more robust support to the co-ordination of a system that is fractured and incoherent, and performing below par due to these fault lines.

We need a government wide co-ordinating structure to support and direct research funding nationally. The President has supported my proposal that there should be a National Committee on Science Technology and Innovation (including relevant ministers and stakeholders), to ensure sustained political commitment and oversight of national Research and Development support. The department’s executive is drafting the proposed terms of reference and composition of the committee. We also believe serious consideration should be given to locating the budgets of Science Councils within the Science and Technology budget in order to ensure assured and improved resourcing of all our science councils . Sector departments would still have the right to direct policy but we would ensure resourcing and full attention to research, technology development and innovation.

The second key area of focus is developing the skills needed for a vibrant and productive knowledge economy

We have already begun to act on several areas that will strengthen our knowledge sectors. In 2010 over R100 million was provided via NRF for research equipment and emergency infrastructure for the national research facilities. In the next three years my Department will invest a further R1.426 billion in research equipment and infrastructure. One of our most important objectives is to ensure that by December this year all public university campuses will have broadband connectivity to SANREN. We have provided R74 million for this in addition to the R55 million awarded in 2010, Minister Nzimande has added a welcome R28 million, while the SKA project has designated a further R60million creating a sum of R217 million for broadband connectivity in higher education.
 

The Department has also provided expanded support for human capital development programmes. In 2010/11 an additional R100 million was allocated to improve the value of postgraduate bursaries awarded by the NRF. These funds are intended to increase the number and equity profile of postgraduate students, support emerging researchers and academics with an emphasis on black and women researchers and to retain and maximise the role of established researchers in increasing research productivity and supervising the next generation of researchers.

R42 million was allocated to provide more honours bursaries, R11 million toward more postdoctoral fellowships and R10 million to support masters and doctoral students who were close to graduation and a further R11,8 million for improving the academic qualifications of university academics.

In this financial year we will continue to expand support directed at growing the pool of active and productive researchers able to contribute to our NSI.

The Research Chairs initiative is an important part of our human capital interventions. We will establish 62 more research chairs this year to add to the current 92. The call for chairs will focus on six focus areas: technology missions, priority research areas, science and technology for poverty alleviation, engineering and applied technology and an open category focused on fundamental disciplines. We intend to have 154 research Chairs by 2014 .

We welcome the invited SARCHi chairs: Professors Phuti Ngoepe (UL); Murray Leibbrandt (UCT), Sue Harrison (UCT); Francesco Petruccione (UKZN); Rajend Mesthrie (UCT); Soraya Seedat (US)

More attention will also be given to increasing the number of technologists and technicians. We are considering a technology linked internship programme in which small and medium sized technology firms will provide internships for young people and work with our universities of technology to ensure we address this aspect of training. Furthermore increased attention will be given to skills focused innovation cabins that provide technology entrepreneurs with all the resources they require to generate new ideas and products.

The Third Focus area is providing support for fundamental research and responding to new opportunities:

Honourable members we have had a great deal of success in building African and international R and D partnerships. One example of success is BioFISA , our biotechnology partnership with the government of Finland. It is a national and regional collaboration implemented by the NEPAD agency and the Southern African Network for Biosciences . It includes 12 SADC member states with a hub at the CSIR.

Bilateral research cooperation with India, Italy, France and Switzerland was funded to the value of R43 million, and 158 students participated in these initiatives. Our access to the framework programmes of the EU has been of great benefit to our researchers. Our modest investment of around R17 million has resulted in partnership funding valued at over R250 million.

Support for the EU sector budget support programme for poverty alleviation through technology has added over R24 million to our programmes that are focused on using R&D to alter socio-economic conditions.

If we had more time we would be reporting on support for all the disciplines particularly work led by HSRC and AISA in the Humanities and Social Sciences. We would report on the initiatives you viewed today in Nanotechnology, Titanium powder development , Bioprospecting in indigenous knowledge systems and further  progress in our advanced materials strategy. You saw the wide range of work being done by hundreds of eminent scientists and technologists.

This brings me to the fourth focus area which is to make use of our geographic advantage and international partnerships to build on our local strengths while maximising African and global collaboration.

The scientists I mentioned previously are joined in their hard work by the team working on the SKA project. Work on the SKA is proceeding well. Our partner countries are fully committed to the SKA project and we are working to fulfill all the readiness report requirements  of  the global committee . I have been very encouraged by the strong support from Mozambique, Botswana, Ghana and all the other partner countries.

Astronomy has become a key area of research and development activity. I am pleased to inform the house that I have received the final report of the Astronomy Desk from Professor Helberg. I am studying the recommendations and will brief the committee on them soon. In the interim I intend to retain the Astronomy Desk and to draw on its expertise.

I hope that the debate today will outline the work we are doing in order to ensure that all the missions and sectors outlined in our policy instruments receive support and contribute to our overall performance. Geographic advantage research in areas such as paleontology and astronomy, and technology missions such as advanced manufacturing associated with our mineral wealth, the hydrogen economy, the bioeconomy, energy security and renewable sources of energy, space science and related industries, global change earth observation and climate effects, as well as human and social dynamics all continue to influence our work.

However, we have also recognised that the identification of five priority areas in our ten year plan may have implied or caused a neglect of a range of disciplines that have the potential to contribute significantly to increasing our Science competitiveness and our innovation performance.

We have agreed that, as is practice in other emerging systems, we need to set ourselves a much longer policy horizon and develop the practice of periodic policy statements on the strategic focus of the department. This will allow us to move from broad ambitious targets to much more measurable and realistic policy goals.

We hope to use this year to prepare for this approach and will also utilise the final report from the ministerial committee as the foundation for consolidating the current policy instruments into a coherent synthesis of policy and practice that sets out our focus on infrastructure for Science and Technology, Support for research and development, investment in human capital and the provision of modern infrastructure and an institutional architecture that supports research and expands innovation and business formation.

We believe these areas should be the basis of a performance oriented National System of Innovation.

Honourable members we have made advances in all the discipline and missions I referred to earlier. We have begun to build on our solid foundation of excellence and to invest in our strengths in order to significantly increase our research and innovation outputs and to use these to improve our socio economic profile .



In closing I wish to thank Deputy Minister Hanekom for his hard work and leadership. The director general, the DDGs and all ministerial and department officials, the board chairs, and CEOs of all science councils and Honourable members of the portfolio committee on Science and Technology led by Dr Ngcobo.