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Increased funding for South African science and technology planned

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Treasury are cooperating to ensure that the country increases its research and development (R&D) spending over the next four years, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor told journalists at her recent departmental budget vote media briefing. “We continue to work very closely with the National Treasury to map out a process for ensuring that we reach the African National Congress’s, and now government’s, target of gross expenditure on R&D of 1.5% of [gross domestic product] by 2019,” she said. Print Send to Friend 1 0 var addthis_config = {"data_track_addressbar":false,"data_track_clickback":false}; The Department will also focus on developing international cooperation in order to obtain foreign funding. The aim is “to secure a strategic target of R380-million in foreign investments in the National System of Innovation during the year,” she affirmed. 

 
The DST’s budget for this financial year (2015/16) comes to R7.482-billion. Of this, 92.2% , or R6.9-billion, is assigned to agencies that report to the Minister. In turn, R2.534-billion of this R6.9-billion comes from Parliamentary grants. These Parliamentary grants are distributed as follows: R827.7-million to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, R885.9-million to the National Research Foundation (NRF), R228.7-million to the Human Sciences Research Council, R385.2-million to the Technology Innovation Agency (in an aside, Pandor noted that she thought this should be increased in future), R22.991-million to the Academy of Science of South Africa, and R124.4-million to the South African National Space Agency (Sansa). “[Sansa] is again an area in which I think we should also see a rapid upward movement [in funding],” she stated. “The remainder [of the funding] will be transferred to entities for various projects and programmes during the course of the year.” The department is also investing some R70-million into research on HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and noncommunicable diseases, including cardiac diseases and diabetes. “We are encouraging our researchers to look at new drugs, new diagnostics.” The intent is to ameliorate the “disease burden” afflicting South Africa, Africa and the wider world.
 
The DST’s priorities for this financial year are human capital development, the creation of new knowledge, investing in research and the required infrastructure, as well as stimulating innovation through financing marketable products developed through research and incubation. She pointed out that the National Development Plan had “set ambitious targets and we believe our recently completed Human Capital Development Strategy will help us meet those targets”. During this year, the DST will release funding to the NRF to support 14 880 postgraduate research students. This is being done to improve the country’s global competitiveness. Also during the course of this year. the department will initiate the Technology for Rural Education and Development project (this will be acronymed Tech4Red), at Cofimvaba, in the eastern Cape. This project, to be launched on June 12, also involves the Department of Basic Education, the Eastern Cape departments of Education and Rural Development and Land Reform. “It focuses on how best to integrate science, technology and innovation to contribute to improving the delivery of basic education and has six focus groups, namely information and communication technology, nutrition, sanitation technologies, energy, [a] science centre and health,” she explained.
 
Late this calendar year, there will also be two important science events. In November, the DST and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology will jointly host a high-tech exhibition in Johannesburg. This will promote opportunities for investment and business contacts between South Africa and China, as well as increase cooperation in high technology human capital development. In December, the DST will organise the Science Forum: South Africa. This will be “designed to ignite a vibrant national conversation on the role of science, technology and innovation in society”, elucidated Pandor.
 
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor





 

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