The Department of Science and Technology will invest hundreds of millions of rands on programmes to boost the number of knowledge workers in South Africa, stimulate economic growth, proved energy security and promote the country as a research and development destination. The Department’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, delivers her first Budget Vote debate in the portfolio today.
This year’s Budget Vote is held under the theme, “Advancing the legacy of Mama Albertina Sisulu through people-centred science and technology”. Government has declared this year the centenary of two struggle icons, former President Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu, in celebration of their contribution to democracy, charting a path for equality for all South Africans.
The 2018/19 budget is being presented as the Department finalises a new White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, while the National Advisory Council on Innovation works on a framework for a new decadal plan. The premise of the new White Paper is that science, technology and innovation are central to inclusive and sustainable development for shaping a different South Africa. More importantly, the White Paper recognises that inclusivity is central to the national system of innovation, both in terms of promoting social justice and of fostering a system in which creativity and learning can flourish.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) budget this financial year has modestly increased to R7,79 billion. The allocation will be used to address transformation, through key research, development and support initiatives.
The DST’s Research Development and Support Programme receives an allocation of R4,467 billion. The Programme aims to award 9 300 bursaries to PhD students and 32 400 bursaries to pipeline postgraduate (BTech, honours and master’s) students.
The Department’s support for Phase 1 of the global Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio astronomy project will continue over the next three years, with an amount of R2,2 billion set aside over the MTEF period. All 42 farm portions required for SKA Phase 1 have been secured. An allocation of R709 million is provided for the SKA this year.
Under the Socio-economic Innovation Partnerships Programme, R1,8 billion has been allocated. The Department will invest R186 million over the next three years – starting with R63 million this year – in targeted research and development to support the next generation of mining. The Mandela Mining Precinct in Carlow Road, Johannesburg, which was previously under-utilised, has been transformed into a space where researchers and the mining industry can generate the knowledge and technologies essential for next-generation mining. Industry has committed to a co-investment of R33 million in the initiative.
The Department’s Technology Innovation Programme receives an allocation of R1,1 billion to enable, among other things, research, development and innovation in space science and technology, energy security, the bioeconomy and indigenous knowledge systems, as well as to promote the protection and utilisation of intellectual property and technology transfer.
The Department will continue to support Initiatives such as the AgriProtein fly farm, which uses technology to convert waste into nutrients for animal feed The Department, through the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), invested R11,9 million to expand this facility from a tiny research site in Stellenbosch to a full-scale factory of about 10 000 m2 in the heart of Philippi.
Other initiatives include the DST’s Wheat Breeding project, in partnership with Stellenbosch University and GrainSA, an initiative that will help the country to reduce its reliance on imports. According to GrainSA, South Africa currently imports 40-50% of the wheat it consumes, to cover an annual average shortfall in production of 1,3 million tons. The Wheat Breeding project will contribute to reducing the country’s current account deficit.
Last month, the Department launched a 3 kW hydrogen fuel cell system at Poelano Secondary, a disadvantaged school on the farm Goedgevonden in Ventersdorp, North West. The DST invested R10 million in the project to provide the school with an alternative clean energy source.
The International Cooperation and Resources Programme receives R141 million to invest in initiatives that support international cooperation in science, technology and innovation. The allocation is used for increasing the flow of international resources into the country for among others STI-based socio-economic development; for increasing the exposure of South African researchers and students to global knowledge and STI networks; and for supporting capacity development in Africa to develop the continent’s knowledge-based economy/
Allocations to the Department’s entities are follows:
- The National Research Foundation receives R904,8 million
- The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research receives R963,2 million.
- The Human Sciences Research Council receives 303,7 million.
- The Academy of Science of South Africa receives R25,7 million.
- The South African National Space Agency receives R138 million.
- The South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions receives an allocation of R4,5 million
The Budget Vote is an opportunity for the Department to show stakeholders some of the work performed by the national system of innovation, and members of the public are welcome to visit an exhibition at the Iziko Museum, with exhibits covering everything from vaccine solutions to astronomy, as well as developments in mining.
Prof. Murray V Leibbrandt will be giving a lecture to invited guests at Iziko Museum. Prof. Leibbrandt is the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Poverty and Inequality, at the University of Cape Town.