The Department of Science and Technology (DST) briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan. The presentation explained the vision and mission of the department, highlighted some key principles that were in line with government objectives, and explained the five strategic goals that governed the work of the department. The strategic overview was informed by the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, which introduced the concept of a National System of Innovation (NSI), which was regarded as an enabling framework for Science, Technology and Innovation. The NSI was described as a set of functioning institutions, organisations and policies that interacted constructively in the pursuit of a common set of social and economic goals and objectives, and sought to promote change through innovation.
The National Research and Development Strategy rested on pillars of innovation, human capital development, governance and coordination; aimed to increase research spending; and emphasised technology missions, and science missions. Success would be measured on the extent to which STI played a driving role in enhancing productivity, economic growth and socio-economic development. A number of important achievements in the last financial year, with comparisons also to the 2009/10 year, were outlined in relation to numbers of postgraduate students supported, research output, publications funded by the National Research Foundation. DST’s development of a fluorochemical manufacture plant, and the export of fluorine, and manufacturing of local active pharmaceutical ingredients for antiretroviral medication were emphasised. Both would create a substantial number of jobs, and the fluorine plant would boost beneficiation and increase exports by an estimated R1 billion.
DST said it aimed to support ongoing research and development, and would promote commercialisation of technology-based solutions. It cited the targets for 4 MeerKAT antennae designed and installed, noted that 15 technology solutions were targeted. Three guidelines and one Dispute Practice Note should be developed, approved and gazetted, in respect of the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act. DST aimed to secure R300 million of foreign STI funds for knowledge production, technology transfer, enhanced innovation, and STI human capital development in Africa. It wanted to have 855 postgraduate students in the next year, and to achieve proactive partnerships to optimise organisational performance and to improve levels of compliance with relevant policies, frameworks and legislative requirements. The DST Medium Term Budget for all programmes amounted to R6.19 billion. Although its current performance was regarded as satisfactory, DST also recognised the need to establish more innovation instruments, focus on human capital development, R&D and infrastructure, and put robust Monitoring and Evaluation systems in place.
Members asked the reasons why some of the targets for spending on research had not yet shifted, asked about engagements with the Department of Basic Education, and asked for more detail on the fluorochemicals and ARV projects. They questioned the budgets for foreign funding and wondered hw this differed from donor funding, and also asked how DST would fund companies. Members also asked if DST staff were poached by other institutions or countries, whether any programmes were run to assist people to understand the importance of science, asked if DST felt it could achieve world-class standards despite the shortcomings in the education system of the country, asked about job creation and interaction with other research councils in other sectors. More background was sought on the new Strategic Model, and how DST engaged with publications
Department of Science and Technology Annual Performance Plan 2013/14
Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General, Department of Science and Technology, said that the vision of this Department (DST or the Department) was to create a prosperous society that derived enduring and equitable benefits from science and technology. The mission statement, in brief, spoke to developing, coordinating and maintaining a national system of innovation, to maximise human capital, lead to sustainable economic growth and knowledge generation, and to position South Africa as a strategic international Research ad Development (R&D) partner and destination.
Dr Mjwara said that there were five strategic goals that governed the work of the Department in the five-year strategic plan (see attached presentation). The strategic overview was informed by the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology, which introduced the concept of a National System of Innovation (NSI). The NSI remained the ideal for which South Africa continued to strive, and would be the enabling framework for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI).The NSI could be understood as a set of functioning institutions, organisations and policies that interacted constructively in the pursuit of a common set of social and economic goals and objectives.
The DST, as the custodial coordinator for the development of the NSI, influenced this system through key strategies such as the National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS), which rested on three pillars of innovation, human capital development, and governance and coordination; 1% spending on science and research; technology missions, and science missions. The latter in particular would contribute to the transformation of the South African economy from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. The measure of success would be the extent to which STI played a driving role in enhancing productivity, economic growth and socio-economic development.
Dr Mjwara set out the most recent achievements of the DST. Human capital development (HCD) had increased as DST had supported 7 083 postgraduate students in the 2011/12 financial year, compared to 5 131 students in 2009/10. Increased publications by National Research Fund (NRF) had funded 4 777 researchers in 2011/12, an increase from the 2 753 funded in 2009/10. More than 20 new research chairs were awarded. About 1 918 Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMME) were supported through the Technology Stations Programme in 2011/12, an increase from 1 594 in 2009/10. About 632 livelihood job opportunities were created, sustained or improved, compared to 396 in 2009/10. The Multipurpose Fluorination Pilot Plant was established in June 2012. The development of local manufacturing capability of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) for ARVs was established through the Ketlaphela project.
Dr Mjwara explained the last two initiatives, saying that the purpose of the fluorination was to increase beneficiation from 5% to 25% of fluorspar, potentially creating 1 000 direct jobs. The envisaged R1 billion increase in value of exports would support about 103 students, 133 publications and conference papers and 7 patents. The rationale behind Ketlaphela was in line with Government’s aim to provide universal ARV access and coverage to all infected South Africans, and the demand for ARVs was expected to double. The plant should create 3 800 jobs during construction, and an estimated 2 200 jobs would be created during the first year of operation.
Dr Mjwara also spoke more on selected targets, which aimed to support ongoing research and development, and demonstration and commercialisation of technology-based solutions. There was a target of four MeerKAT antennae to be designed and installed by 31 March 2014. Another indicator was that by end March 2104, there should be 15 technology solutions either commercialised or used by the community in the areas of space science, energy or bioscience.
Dr Mjwara noted that the second objective was for DST to provide system-based leadership, including for regulatory and compliance functions, and support that would optimise the commercialisation and use of technology based solutions. There was a target of having three guidelines and one Dispute Practice Note developed, approved and gazetted, in respect of the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (IPR-PFRD Act).
The third objective was to secure South African and foreign funds for knowledge production, technology transfer, enhanced innovation, and STI human capital development in Africa. The target here was R300 million of foreign STI funds.
DST also aimed to increase the number of South African postgraduate students participating in international knowledge production, technology transfer and STI human capital development to support the NSI. It was hoped to have 855 postgraduate students by 31 March 2014.
Finally, DST hoped to achieve proactive partnerships to optimise organisational performance and to improve levels of compliance with relevant policies, frameworks and legislative requirements. Two enterprise architecture development lifecycle steps should be developed and implemented by 31 March 2014.
The DST Medium Term Budget for all programmes amounted to R6.19 billion, increasing in the ext two years to R6.6 and R7.64 billion respectively. He outlined the programme and line item breakdown.
Dr Mjwara concluded that the performance of the DST was satisfactory and that although there was steady growth in resources, more was required. There should be an establishment of innovation instruments. Continued focus on human capital development, R&D and infrastructure was essential. Public entities were aligned to implement government priorities. A robust Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system was being put in place.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked if the Department could clarify why it always quoted a 1% target on the GRED.
Mr Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General, DST, said that there was only one official Cabinet-endorsed target, which was the 1% by 2008. When the new Minister was appointed, the President had required that time lines be development for targets, but the latter were not specified. In the ten-year Innovation Plan DST talked about what would be an ideal level and what the country needed, to achieve the target, and this point was also under discussion in the delivery agreement, but nothing official had been formally endorsed and when it was established, it would be brought to Parliament. He reminded Members that it was not easy to establish a new target. Firstly, DST would look to the models of other countries, but it had to be realistic. The DST had re-modelled a number of times, trying to create longer timeframes. DST had not yet taken anything to Cabinet, but this was a moving process, affected by financial crisis, or new information, and in this regard he noted that the most recent R&D surveys were still coming out. Sometimes the investment targets were out of DST’s own control, as much of the investment did come from the private sector.
Mr Smith asked to what extent the engagement with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was providing a positive result in allowing the knowledge economy to grow, and whether there was anything that needed to change.
Mr Smith asked, both in respect of the fluorochemicals and ARV projects, what processes the DST followed and whether it was attending to these because the private sector had not done so.
Mr Patel explained that the flourochemicals extension initiative was being done at the moment in a state-linked company. Fluorine was something that not everyone was keen to become involved in, as it was dangerous, and highly specialised staff were needed. DST, however, had become involved in fluorochemicals because there was already state capacity with a mandate and institution. DST had looked into where the world was moving in the electronic sector. 50% of the global supply of fluorochemicals was sourced from South Africa, although this would change according to market forces. South Africa was well respected as one of the leading countries in fluorochemicals supply and technology. Government, through the sector programmes, had identified this as an area of growth, and DST had then looked at what it could do. Mr Patel reminded Members that Programme 5 was to enhance the growth and development of priorities of Government, and DST had therefore taken the signals of government in this area. However, each area where DST was working was chosen for different reasons. For instance, DST was also involved in titanium because the Science Council had developed knowledge technology, the project was Government funded project and there was a market opportunity. DST had drawn a road map in order to commercialise and take up opportunities. The road map also envisaged that at some stage the private sector would also become involved. For instance, in the titanium project, there were 3 phases for the five-tonne plant. Private investors would be needed to sustain the project, but in the current phases, DST was still working on making the project attractive to private investors.
Mr Smith also sought clarity on the R300 million budgeted for foreign funding for knowledge production and how this differed from the R845 million shown as donor funding for 2011/12.
Mr Patel referred to his previous comments on the initiatives, taking the fluorine as an example. Major international funding had been provided. DST had to produce “best scale samples” and send them out, and the proceeds of this would be banked with a private partner. He noted that DST had a very important word in its strategic objectives – “identify” what to fund, not just “fund”. DST did not always look only to the strategic advantage. It also had to look at the growth opportunities, locally ad internationally, for new technology.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) asked whether the DST faced any challenge in their students being poached by other countries after completing their studies, given that the DST said that the training was essentially increasing human capital for itself and the country.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, Chief Operations Officer: DST said there were number of opportunities that the DST had undertaken to recruit people who came from different fields of science to the bureaucratic environment and they needed to have quite a mindshift. DST exposed them to different training and public service orientation through Public Administration, Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) and other institutions.
He noted that many of the young people who were recruited for internships were absorbed into the Department after the completion of the internship programme.
Mr Mavuso also noted that DST had targets to ensure representivity of the work force. It had a 47% targets for women in senior management positions. There were shifts in the targets; for instance there had been ten appointments in the current financial year, but whilst meeting those appointments, some other people had moved on. The environment that DST offered was good and attracted those from other departments also.
DST was pleased to say that it had a young workforce, 50% of the staff between the ages of 30 and 39. DST was trying to ensure that its retention strategy and career growth would ensure that it was able to retain the young staff, and the current retention strategy and training, on which it had collaborated with institutions like Stellenbosch University, made sure that if had not lost too many of the staff it had.
Ms Dunjwa asked whether there was a programme in the DST that assisted ordinary people in learning about the importance of science and technology in their everyday life, and, if so, which entities were doing this.
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) asked the Department to elaborate on the words "world class infrastructure", how far the DST felt it was in reaching that goal and what it entailed. Ms Kloppers Lourens was also interested in knowing how the DST would position itself as an international partner, and how it would market itself, particularly since the country’s education system was in crisis. She wondered if the basis for promoting a world-class profile was sound.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked if the DST set any objectives or targets per year.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked for more explanation on how DST had managed to double its publications.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked how DST had managed to create 600 livelihood jobs in the past year, in comparison to the 396 in the previous years.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked about interaction between the DST, Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Water Research Commission (WRC) and wondered why these research entities did not fall under DST. Some of them were in trouble.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked DST to give some more background to the new Strategic Management Model that was referred in the document. She asked if the DST felt that it was obliged to attend to the needs of those councils. She also asked the Department to explain the Memoranda of Agreement that it had with certain other departments, and the Joint Commissions that were mentioned in the report, and how these would function.
Dr Mjwara explained in general how the new Strategic Management Model was drawn. In 2004 Cabinet approved the model, which was divided into three parts. The first part looked at basic signs as well as some emerging research areas in South Africa, such as bio-technology, and focused on building competencies and capacities in those areas to promote their use for socio-economic development, as well as lay the foundations for continued knowledge generation. DST had spent a lot of time developing its technology programmes, such as the analytical technology programme, geographic advantage infrastructure and provision of physical, laboratory and cyber-infrastructure. DST also had focused on getting the right numbers of students and researchers.
The second part of the model involved the ministries, and here DST had to address the problems and mandates of various Ministries. This was not so much about developing its own knowledge, as taking the disciplines and knowledge already developed and applying them, for instance, to the sectors of agriculture, water, medicine and health, and that was where the engagement with those entities came in.
Finally, the third part involved using well-known science and technology solutions to address services or to provide weather services. Whatever DST had been doing in Part 1 also had to fit in to the other two parts, and that was how the split came about and why DST had started collecting data to measure the performance in parts 2 and 3.
Ms S Molau-Plaatjie (ANC), as well as Ms J Terblanche (DA) asked how DST assisted companies with funding, whether they were invited to make application or did so themselves, and how they applied.
Ms H Line (ANC) asked how the companies that got technology assistance were identified.
Ms Terblanche asked how DST engaged with and monitored the number of documents delivered in seminars or congress and research spaces.
The meeting was adjourned.
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