Technology Innovation Agency was a three year old company that aims to improve economic growth and improve quality of life of South Africans through technological innovation. The audit opinion in 2012/13 was unqualified without emphasis of matter. The major factors affecting performance were staff turnover, limited number of projects ready for commercialisation that were still in technology development and their regional office lease.
A board member noted that there had been a ministerial review of TIA that had made certain recommendations regarding customer service, communication and ability of other parties to access TIA’s services. These were things that needed to be improved. An action plan had been presented to the board to deal with these. The National System of Innovation (NSI) was not happy engaging with TIA and it was probably due to some of these issues. As part of their future strategic direction, TIA had consulted the ministerial review report, their board strategic roadmap and it had engaged in a benchmarking exercise to identify gaps within the innovation value chain and evaluate its investment management framework. TIA had also engaged in a market research study to determine stakeholder perceptions. The entity would like to improve operational efficiencies, increase stakeholder engagement.
Members asked why staff members were resigning and if TIA had a plan to ensure that they retain their staff. The Committee Chairperson noted that he had been approached by staff members of TIA who had stated that they were very unhappy with management. How was this being resolved? Had TIA had measured the impact of achieving any of their targets and had the entity been able to track this? Members asked if TIA had followed up on stolen computers and asked if there was a plan to ensure that theft did not occur in the future. Members asked why TIA’s offices were in areas where the majority of ordinary people could not reach them. Did TIA have a plan to address this? Did TIA have a detailed report on fruitless and wasteful expenditure? Why did TIA fail to open a new regional office in Upington and what was the impact of this failure? Members asked about the investigation of allegations of nepotism. Did TIA have a report on this? What was next after the electrical vehicle launch? What steps had TIA taken to ensure that irregular spending did not occur in the future? Members asked what areas TIA need to improve in. What was the national benchmark for staff retention? Was there proper oversight over meeting the obligations of laws and regulations? Members asked how TIA’s client base related to its target market. What percentage of TIA’s business comes from each sector and what was TIA’s relationship with these sector institutions? How did TIA’s staff complement relate to their offerings and was it aligned with their areas of activities? Did TIA’s technology platform only consist of biotechnology or did it include other technologies? Members asked happened that resulted in investment impairments. Why did TIA have an indicator of investments commercialised when the target was 0? What action had been taken to recover irregular expenditure money?
CSIR’s mandate was to package multi-discipline research and technology innovation and to use science and technology to improve the quality of life of South African citizens. CSIR achieves this, in support of national priorities, by researching core technologies and doing research in certain impact areas. This creates new industries, improves competitiveness of current industries and supports service delivery among other things. CSIR had focused on selected sectors to include industry, health, energy, defence/security and the environment. SET staff target was 1540 and actual size was 1578 despite 45 SET staff leaving CSIR for the South African National Space Agency in 2011/2012. CSIR had graduated 25 PhDs this year. It had aimed to have 310 staff members with PhDs and currently they had 301. CSIR focuses on technology demonstrators and the entity takes basic knowledge of a developing prototype and then applies it in the work environment to assess its performance. CSIR received an unqualified audit report. CSIR’s balance sheet remains strong and it gained a modest profit. CSIR outlined some of its project highlights.
Members had visited a CSIR project at Kwanobuhle in Uitenhage where a number of challenges had been raised about trustees and in-fighting. Is there a follow up? What was CSIR doing to address the complaints there? Is there anything CSIR could do to help workers who walk 12km a day from home to the project and back again? What was CSIR’s relationship with business communities? Members asked whether the number of black staff comprised South African citizens only or if it included the total number of black staff at CSIR. Did the SANSA migration affect the number of staff with doctorates? How conscious was CSIR in commercialising? Did CSIR have a measure of publications per researcher? What was the norm there? Where did CSIR choose to patent and why? What about global patents? Did CSIR see a point where they could be self-sustaining on the contract side or was there always going to be a need for other funding? Was CSIR’s target for energy consumption reduction appropriate? Where was CSIR in this process? What did CSIR mean by “health and security flagship programs were currently under formulation” and where was CSIR in this process?
ASSAf’s dual mandate was to honour distinguished scholars in all fields of scientific enquiry and to generate evidence based solutions to national and global challenges. ASSAf had 18 full time staff members, two interns and two part time editors. The entity had implemented evidence based projects such as studies on improving nutrition, creating technology for a low carbon society, a nuclear energy safety proceedings report and a report of the future of HIV/AIDS in Africa. With respect to movement of finances, the entity had a deficit of R80000. ASSAf’s baseline for 2013 was increased by R7.1m.
Members asked for comments because while ASSAf was talking about nuclear energy safety, shale gas extraction was a more current topic. What had ASSAf done with respect to shale gas extraction? The Committee asked about the investigation on academic staff that would not be made public or published. Members stated that the Committee should be entitled to see it. How did one become an academy member? Members asked if the agency could share some challenges they had come across while trying to achieve their mandate. The Chairperson noted that the role of the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) and ASSAf were indivisible, so why were they separate entities if there was some redundancy between their respective operations?
NRF had five major strategic goals including competitive research, human capital development, evaluation and grant-making systems, research and innovation platforms as well as a vibrant NSI. In 2013, the NRF had met four of the targets of the NRF Vision 2015. NRF had four main programmes: Corporate, Research and Innovation Support and Advancement, Science Advancement and National Research Facilities. The NRF received R159m for investment in the national equipment programme and National Research Facilities received additions infrastructure funding of R91m. 62 Research Chairs were awarded and the Paleosciences Centre of Excellence was also launched. It explained in what fields of study it had invested in. PhD graduations per million of population per year had steadily increased since 2002 and last year 32.56 were graduated. The South African PhD project was spearheaded in 2008 and annual outputs of PhDs had increased by 40%. NRF had achieved an unqualified audit report. There were significant improvements from the prior year. Examining the NRF Income Trend over time designated income to total income increased from 44% in 2009 to 61% in 2013. The NRF supported a large number of students at various levels from 3rd and 4th year all the way to post doctoral. In terms of National Research facilities funding, SKA and IThemba had received the most funding over the past four years. NRF had had major achievements in astronomy.
Members asked the reason for staff turnover was and if the NRF had done anything to address this. Members asked for clarification on NRF’s strategy for demystifying science including teaching parents first. What schools were the NRF referring to in their presentation? What was being done about students who did not pursue studies after NRF funding and was this NRF’s responsibility? Are there incentives based in the grant system for students who perform well? There were questions about SKA and how far was it with the SA programme forum. On the topic of 30 research chairs that had not been filled, what impact had this had? What were the details on the review of the Centres of Excellence? Members asked for background on the establishment of an astronomy advisory council. When it comes to prioritising the needs of communities, were the communities involved in this prioritisation? What was going on with the PhD project? Where did the NRF require more funding: the research career grant or the PhD project?
Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
Mr Mkhululi Mazibuko, TIA Acting CEO, said TIA was a three year old company proud of its achievements. It aimed to improve economic growth and improve quality of life of South Africans through technological innovation. They supported innovators across all spectrums of society, to make South Africa a globally competitive company in the technological sector. TIA had a lot of intellectual property (IP) in both the public and private sector. TIA’s role was to transform this intellectual property into commercially viable products. The cost of converting such projects into commercially viable propositions was high and there was generally not enough financial support or funding to bridge these products into the market. TIA’s goal was to support these projects. TIA’s mission was linked to the DST ten year plan and it had a strong biotechnology portfolio and program on energy and climate change.
When TIA looked at players such as the NRF or CSIR or other instruments used by the DTI, the entity maintained that its work was a bit different – its role was around developing prototypes and making them market ready so they could be picked up by IDC or venture capitalist endeavours. When TIA examined its target market, it defined it as technology innovators which could be found at higher education institutions, science councils, state owned entities, private companies and the community at large. The entity recognized that it did not exist in a vacuum and there were different role players. It viewed itself more as a connector and collaborator with stakeholders and its programs were for the benefit of the public. TIA was therefore at the confluence of the needs and aspirations of innovators, investors and citizens. It had a number of service offerings and products such as funding programmes, business support and strategic partnerships, technology development infrastructure and innovation skills development. The entity had a range of funding such as an Intellectual Property (IP) Fund and a seed fund and aimed to provide customer centric solutions along the innovation value chain. With respect to technology development infrastructure, TIA had technology platforms mainly in biotechnology, technology stations, research that was based at universities and industry clusters. With respect to business support, TIA engage in IP management, financial management, legal services, marketing, business plan development, governance and networking. The entity was supporting the government to commercialise their projects. TIA partners, both locally and internationally, would like to develop strategic capital and generate stakeholder buy-in and support TIA’s strategy. TIA also promoted regional innovation and had partnered largely with IDC in conjunction with Innovation Hub to finance and commercialise these technologies. TIA aimed to enhance education through technology and was involved in stimulating economic growth through entrepreneurial skills development.
The financial performance component of the presentation was handed over to Werner Van Der Merwe, Senior General Manager: Finance, TIA. The consolidated audited AFS was submitted to the National Treasury, Auditor General and DST on 31 July, 2013. TIA’s audit history was outlined, and it was explained that in 2010/11 the audit was adverse as there were no investments or financial information available as this was not previously enforced. The audit opinion in 2011/12 was unqualified with emphasis of matter and then in 2012/13 it was unqualified without emphasis of matter. The consolidated financial results from investee companies was summarised by 10 subsidiaries where TIA had 50% or more shareholding, 30 associates where TIA had between 20% and 50% shareholding and 4 minority investments with less than 20% shareholding. Out of the 10 subsidiaries consolidated, 9 received unqualified audit opinion and 1 received a qualified audit opinion. There had been significant progress since 2010/11 but there were areas that need TIA’s attention. For example, administrative matters jumped from 2 in 2011/12 to 27 in 2012/13. In terms of revenue generated, TIA had earned significantly more interest in 2012/13 (R32.7m) as compared to 2011/12 (R13.3m). Other income grew from R3.6m in 2011/12 to R9.0m in 2012/13. With regards to expenditures, project funding had significantly increased from R179.9m in 2011/12 to R300.9m in 2012/13. Impairments decreased significantly in 2012/13 but operating expenditure and employee related costs had increased since 2011/12. Possible future impairments totalled R70m but the auditors were happy with this number. Irregular expenditure significantly decreased in 2012/13 as compared to the previous year and unfortunately some of this amount was associated with a renewed contract from the previous year where the tender process was not correctly followed. The continuation of this contract made it irregular and TIA had since followed the correct process. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure was significantly higher in 2012/13 (from R57 000 in 2011/12 to R371 000 in 2012/13) but this could be explained by a transaction from 2011 that carried over and it was now paid but interest and penalties had accrued since 2010/11 (the first 3 months of TIA’s existence). It was only picked up during a reconciliation that was performed this year in 2012/13.
The presentation was then picked up by Mkhululi Mazibuko, TIA CFO, and moved on to operational performance breakdowns. Breaking down TIA’s investment funds, 21% went to commercial rollouts, 24% went to applied research and 56% went to development. In terms of portfolio distribution, 50% was in Gauteng, 31% was in Western cape, 12% was in KwaZulu-Natal and 7% in Eastern Cape. No portfolio investments were in North West Province. TIA rated its overall performance as 84% and most of their strategic objectives for the fiscal year were met. The major factors affecting performance were staff turnover, limited number of projects ready for commercialisation that were still in technology development and their regional office lease.
TIA then went on to outline some of its operations starting with their role in enabling the innovation ecosystem with projects like the Animal Health Cluster, the E-mobility programme and the Seed Fund programme. TIA highlighted their goals to enhance education through technology, including their CHUMA Commercialisation programme which was a two-year investment internship programme in conjunction with higher education institutes and provided dedicated mentor support for 10 selected candidates. TIA’s work was linked to government outcomes such as handing over science kits on Mandela Day and Electric vehicle launch awareness. A youth innovation fund was established in 2011/12 and 19 prototypes were being developed, two of which were functional and were being tested. TIA was bridging the innovation chasm with their Kapa Biosystems, Varibox CVT technologies and IBatech product.
Mr W Van Der Merwe elaborated on Quarter 2 2013/14 results and stated that total income was R505.2m and expenses were R195m. He explained that there was a significant surplus to date but expenses would continue for the rest of the year and shave away most of this surplus. There was an investment spend lagging compared to the budget, and plans were in place to catch up on investment spending. Operational expenses were lagging by 19%. There was an active drive to reach at least 5% cost saving target which was R9m and TIA was on track for this target. TIA had embarked on a new amended travel policy and a contract with SAA which allowed for reduced airfares and flexibility. Consulting fees had also been reduced. Last year TIA had a deficit of R54m and this year they would exceed the budget by R60m. MTEF allocation had been reduced by R100m for 2014/15.
There was a review report on TIA that made certain recommendations. Some of these recommendations were related to the TIA mandate, specifically TIA’s role as a hub or grant giving entity so as a result, TIA was reviewing their strategy. It was also in the process of defining a regionalisation plan. It had performed a benchmarking study and based on the results, it had taken into account some considerations with regards to improving efficiency. TIA was developing a stakeholder engagement plan. As part of the future strategic direction, it had consulted the ministerial review report, their board strategic roadmap and it had engaged in a benchmarking exercise to identify gaps within the innovation value chain and evaluate its investment management framework. It had also engaged in a market research study to determine stakeholder perceptions. The proposed blueprint going forward was that it would like to play a connector role. Secondly, TIA's core business was to make opportunities market ready and so it wanted to be a hunting ground for investors so they could come to TIA who would have made projects investment ready. In conclusion, it acknowledged that there were certain areas that required improvement. It was happy with the audit and that project funding had increased, but it was disappointed with staff turnover. TIA would like to improve operational efficiencies, increase stakeholder engagement and the organisation was ready to embrace new challenges and opportunities.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) mentioned TIA’s staff turnover problem and asked why they were resigning and if TIA had a plan to ensure that they retain their staff. She asked if TIA had measured the impact of achieving any of their targets and whether they had been able to monitor and track this. Referring to Page 111 of the Annual Report, she asked if TIA had followed up on stolen computers and asked if there was a plan to ensure that theft did not occur in the future. Under what circumstances were these computers stolen? She said it was important that communities must be empowered, and asked if TIA was communicating with any communities in Port Elizabeth. Did TIA have a program for this? Why were TIA’s offices in areas where the majority of ordinary people could not reach them? Are people aware of this? Is letting people know the DST or TIA’s responsibility?
Ms J Kloppers-Lourens (DA) referred to a partnership with HSRC that TIA had engaged in to measure output and asked why this was not being done in house. Did TIA have a detailed report on fruitless and wasteful expenditure? The Committee would like an in depth look into this matter. With respect to staff turnover, what were the reasons for this? She mentioned TIA’s staff retention program and commented that there was one in place last year to prevent high staff turnover. TIA failed to open a new regional office and she asked the reasons for this failure. She asked about investigations on allegations of nepotism. There was mention that a report should have been produced by the end of September. Did TIA have the report?
Ms S Plaatjie (COPE) mentioned the electrical vehicle launch and asked what was next. What steps TIA had taken to ensure that irregular spending did not occur in the future?
Ms P Mocumi (ANC) stated that TIA said that there were still areas that need attention for improvement. What areas was TIA referring to? Where was the planned location for a new regional office and what impact did failing to open a new regional office have on the agency? With respect to issues of staff retention, TIA mentioned that they were above the national benchmark. What was the national benchmark for staff retention? She asked for the name of the schools involved in TIA’s school innovation program and which province they were located in. Referring to page 58 of the TIA Annual Report, she commented that performance indicators relevant to facilitating the development of innovation skills were not well defined and were not clear – definitions were ambiguous. She asked why there was not proper oversight over laws and regulations for performance and what TIA plans to do to ensure that there was proper oversight in these matters.
Mr P Smith (IFP) asked how TIA’s client base related to its target market. What percent of TIA’s business comes from each sector listed on slide 8 of the presentation and what was TIA’s relationship with these institutions? Referring to slide 10, Mr Smith asked how TIA’s staff complement relates to their offerings and if it was aligned with their areas of activities. Did TIA’s technology platform only consist of biotechnology or did it include other technologies? With respect to 27 administrative matters, what were they? What precisely happened that resulted in investment impairments? Did investments go sour? Why was a cost carried over and picked up in a later year? Why did TIA have an indicator of investments commercialised when the target was 0? On Slide 43, several products were mentioned, but what did they do? Mr Smith requested details on what was going to market. He was interested in successful investments that TIA plans on exiting and asked what the exit strategy was and when would it happen. Would a caretaker take over?
Mr N Ngcobo (ANC) commented on the irregular expenditure of R26m since companies were given this money using an incorrect procedure. What action had been taken to recover this money? How would it be recovered?
Mr Mazibuko replied that with respect to staff turnover, the context was important. TIA manages seven entities and during TIA’s existence there had been a lot of consolidation and certain staff resigned. TIA conducted exit interviews and staff had been leaving because of management issues. TIA had launched a performance management system to train managers and deal with performance related issues. TIA had conducted a staff culture survey to find out issues that their staff was currently dealing with. In the past, TIA did not have a staff retention plan in place. The new plan would be presented to the board for approval because staff loss had created an impact. Most of the staff that had left TIA were lost to TIA but have not been lost to the science system in South Africa.
Mr Ngcobo intervened and mentioned that he had been approached by staff members of TIA who had stated that they were very unhappy with management. Problems like this should be reported to the board and then subsequently to the Director General and then to Parliament. Staff members were coming directly to the Committee.
Dr Boni Mehlomakulu, TIA Board member, responded to these concerns. The new board was formed in May and upon creation the board received complaints from staff within TIA. The employees that have engaged with the DST or with the Committee through the chair took the opportunity of the new board coming in to pass those complaints directly to the Committee. The initial process of the new board in fixing these matters was to verify that allegations were properly founded. The process supported a forensic investigation into these matters. TIA appointed Deloittes to do this investigation. It had started and most of the issues that were being probed have been finalised and TIA had a final report. There was one issue that related to the payment to a community trust that was still being investigated, but all the other issues were finalised. TIA could not at this stage talk about the details of these allegations because there was an internal process to deal with the implications of the findings. Where issues affect the board, those issues go to the Ministry so the Minister could deal with them. TIA was committed to following every process to ensure that what needs to reported to the authorities would be reported and what needs to be recovered would be recovered. The CEO was currently on leave because he wanted to step away from the investigation and the board accepted this. TIA maintained that they were not in a position to say what would ensue – TIA had a legal team and investigators and these parties were currently steering the process and TIA was waiting for a report.
Mr Ngcobo stated that the Committee would like to see this report to evaluate how TIA was proceeding.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked how many staff members constituted 18% and what the nature of the allegations is. How many staff members went ‘back into the science system’? She stated that retention of intellectual capital and knowledge of the agency was important.
Ms Dunjwa stated that when a new board comes in there was normally a process of handing over. Was there a process of handing over in TIA’s case?
Dr Mehlomakulu said that through the DST there was a process of handing over and the Minister of Science and Technology held an inaugural meeting with the board and took them through a review process, handed them a report and put forward his expectations of where he wanted TIA to go. TIA stated that in their opinion, this was a proper hand over. With respect to the allegations, TIA thought that the legal process should conclude before making any other comments or decisions on the matter. Once the legal processes have taken place, then there would be full transparency in terms of reporting to the Committee. As the process was currently underway, TIA did not want to comment. TIA had findings related to issues of unfair labour practices, nepotism and these would be investigated. Auditor and ‘whistle blowing’ channels have notified the board to challenges within the organisation and TIA was committed to solving them.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked when the Committee could expect to see the report on these allegations.
Dr Mehlomakulu replied that there were certain individuals involved in verifying the allegations and that there were timelines associated with the legal process. Verifying these allegations regarding the community trust transaction depended on other parties’ engagement with the issue. There may come a time where a response would not be received and TIA would have to pass on these issues as unattested allegations. Depending on the weight of the issues TIA would take them to the Hawks or a different entity to deal with them. The TIA Board would give a progress report to the Minister and the department would finalise this report. The board would like to finalise their internal processes by the end of the year.
The Chairperson commented on the lack of meeting time and encouraged the delegation to answer the remaining questions but in a summarised format.
Mr Mazibuko went on the wrap up questions regarding staff. In the last fiscal year, there were 48 terminations and 56 new appointments so although TIA lost staff, staff was replaced with similar or more qualified candidates.
Mr Van Der Merwe stated that a breakdown of irregular expenditures could be circulated to the Committee. A figured R26m was mostly contracts from entities that were rolled over and these transactions were condoned by the board. The board, however, did not condone the R2.6m of irregular expenditures from the past year. Regarding computers that were lost, TIA would investigate this and open a case with SAPS. There was a staff member involved who was subsequently dismissed. Since dismissal, security had been increased in the building to mitigate theft.
The Chairperson asked if there was value in expelling a person without recovering what was stolen.
Mr Van Der Merwe stated that they had recovered part of the worker’s salary and TIA would follow suit with the other computers.
The Chairperson stated that the Office of the Public Protector had said that the time had come where departments need to take responsibility for irregular expenditure. People need to be penalised instead of recycling issues to other departments. If things go wrong and irregular expenditures were made, people should be accountable.
Mr Mazibuko went on to say that TIA was redefining their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and they had employed someone to help them. With respect to a list of schools and provinces, TIA could provide this to the Committee. The regional office that TIA did not open was planned to be in Upington and the reason for the choice of location was to follow activities around the SKA. There were negotiations with the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) to open a campus in this area but it did not happen and was simply because of a timing issue. TIA had a relationship with CSIR and other science councils and wants to build on this relationship. The difference between platforms and technology stations was that platforms were generally for biotechnology companies.
Dr Mehlomakulu then explained that the ministerial review on TIA highlighted issues of relationships and perceptions of TIA regarding customer service, communication and ability of other parties to access TIA’s services and these were things that needed to be improved. An action plan had been presented to the board to deal with these. The national system of innovation (NSI) was not happy engaging with TIA and it was probably due to some of these issues.
Mr Mazibuko stated that TIA had a number of community outreach programs. With respect to exit strategies, TIA had exited investments because they had failed and they were currently developing a plan to exit others.
The Chairperson commented that there were many issues with TIA. The Committee was looking forward to receiving a report about TIA’s internal issues and their irregular expenditures.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Report 2012/13
Prof Francis Petersen, Chairperson of CSIR, said the presentation would focus on three sections: the role of CSIR and its mandate, key performance indicators and how CSIR had performed based on these and highlights of certain projects that CSIR had been working on.
Dr Rachel Chiwamba, Group Executive: Strategic Alliances and Communication at CSIR, said that CSIR’s mandate, unravelled, was to package multi-discipline research and technology innovation. CSIR’s goal was to use science and technology to improve the quality of life of South African citizens. CSIR achieves this, in support of national priorities, by researching core technologies and doing research in certain impact areas. This creates new industries, improves competitiveness of current industries and supports service delivery among other things.
CSIR focused on selected sectors to include industry, health, energy, defence/security and the environment. The work involves sensors, robots, photonics and other technologies. CSIR aims to make an economic and social impact such as creating new industries around titanium and creating a wireless mesh network for rural access to broadband. Taking a glance at key performance indicators, CSIR would look at HR management, Research and Development outputs and Research and Development outcomes. CSIR requires contract Research and Development over and above what budget they receive from Parliament to support their activities. Financial sustainability was key for CSIR and the entity values corporate governance and citizenship.
The Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) staff target was 1540 and actual size was 1578 despite 45 SET staff leaving CSIR for the South African National Space Agency in 2011/12. With respect to % black SET staff, the target was 48% and CSIR currently had 48.6%. CSIR had graduated 25 PhDs this year. CSIR had aimed to have 310 staff members with PhDs and currently they had 301. CSIR focuses on technology demonstrators and the entity takes basic knowledge of a developing prototype and then applies it in the work environment to assess its performance. CSIR aimed for 25 and reached 33 new technology demonstrators. CSIR did not measure just the number of publications produced, but also the quality of the publications. Scientific work was shown in peer reviewed periodicals and CSIR scientists had had 135 publications with an impact factor of 2 or higher (some in Nature, Science and Accounts of Chemical Research). The invention of a digital laser by CSIR researchers was a milestone in laser technology and would affect a whole range of technologies involving lasers. The publication target was 575 and the actual publication amount was 503. CSIR explained that falling short in publications could be explained by the need to protect the information associated with new discoveries. CSIR patents and protects their research and holds back on publication so only after patents were secured was their work published. When patents went up, publications went down. CSIR had a target of 15 patents and had reached 35 patents. CSIR’s royalty and licence income target was R10.5m and actual amount was R14.8m. This amount had been up and down since 2005/06, but was up since 2011/12. CSIR said that their trends were very similar to CSIR-like organisations across the world and explained that where technologies were successful, licensing and money comes but when technologies lapse, royalties decrease.
Mr Chris Sturdy, CFO at CSIR, presented on financial sustainability and corporate governance. CSIR received an unqualified report. CSIR’s balance sheet remains strong. CSIR gained a modest profit. Total Research and development income was R2.02b and the target was R1.88b. Contract R&D income was R1403.1m and the target was R1275.8m. This represents an increasing trend in contract R&D since 2005/2006 and CSIR had grown since last year. CSIR’s safety target was exceeded and the entity’s BBBEE target was exceeded as CSIR obtained a level 2 BBBEE rating. In terms of CSIR’s energy efficiency target, they had an increase in consumption (Target was 1.2% reduction but CSIR showed a 0.98% increase). CSIR had energy saving initiatives but business grew during this time leading to an increase in consumption.
Dr Chikwamba commented that the work of CSIR could not be reduced to numbers and KPIs. CSIR outlined some project highlights such as their Eskom campaign project, integrative border safeguarding program, development of high resolution microscopes for studying cells and CSIR’s addressing of inadequate waste water infrastructure planning. Other projects involve global climate and the Southern Ocean carbon cycle, conservation plans that turned Prince Edward Island into a marine protected area and new tools to help authorities address road degradation among many others.
Ms Dunjwa mentioned that the Committee visited a project in Kwanobuhle which was very good but a number of challenges were raised such as trustees and in-fighting. Has this been reported on? Is there a follow up? What was CSIR doing to address these issues? Is there anything CSIR could do to help workers who walk 12km a day from home to the project and back again? She commented that CSIR’s marketing strategy was weak and the entity had not been marketing itself to municipalities and provinces. What was CSIR’s relationship with business communities?
Mr Smith congratulated the delegation on their enthusiasm and passion. He asked for clarification if the number on slide 13 was for South African black staff comprised of South African citizens only or if it included the total number of black staff at CSIR. Did the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) migration affect the number of staff with doctorates? Mr Smith commented that he knows CSIR was not driven by commercialisation, but it seems that CSIR had many technologies that could be commercialised. How conscious was CSIR about commercialising? Did CSIR have a measure of publications per researcher? What was the norm there? Where did CSIR choose to patent and why? What about global patents? Mr Smith asked for clarification on the entire topic of patents. Did CSIR see a point where they could be self-sustaining on the contract side or was there always going to be a need for other funding? Was CSIR’s target for energy consumption reduction appropriate?
Ms Kloppers-Lourens had one question regarding flagship programs, and that there was mention made on health and security flagship programs and that they were “currently under formulation”. What did CSIR mean by this and where was CSIR in this process?
Prof Petersen referred answering of questions to the executive.
Dr Chikwamba explained that there were indeed issues of tensions between trustees and farm workers. CSIR worked with the community to get enterprise underway but there were many problems. CSIR was committed to ensure they scale up production of oil so the enterprise could be self sustaining in terms of income. Once production was expanded, the possibility to increase the wages of the workers in this area becomes a reality which could increase the services and may reduce current tensions. Other technologies could be integrated to improve the situation but the human element of the conflict was the main issue. CSIR plans to leave a workable situation so the community could thrive before they exit the project. CSIR was currently working on this.
Mr Sturdy explained that in terms of commercialisation, CSIR had a licensing and ventures office. They had details on licences signed. CSIR had seen a signifcant increase in licences signed, and they had a number of startup companies such as RySen and Tuluntulu. There was a drive to create companies and jobs, but it needs to be a platform technology. CSIR may fail in this space, but the entity did not want to do it solely for profit – CSIR would like to do it for impact. CSIR was happy to license a technology to companies and get a share back in terms of royalties. CSIR had strategic relations that would facilitate this such as its partnership with the IDC. There was a shortage of entrepreneurs in SA, but there were people who had made money, and would like to give back to the country. CSIR had three entrepreneurs involved in their organisation and this was in alignment with best practice as found in the UK and the US and was paying big dividends. In terms of CSIR patents, a global patent was extremely expensive. CSIR looked at whether a technology would be relevant for a country before it would patent. With respect to why their broadband patent was registered in the UK, CSIR explained that the researcher that brought the technology to CSIR was based in UK and the patent was registered there. In South Africa, there was an issue with broadband and the patent was done earlier in UK so CSIR could not register it in South Africa, however, CSIR now owns the patent. One of the companies that CSIR had started up (Tuluntulu) was looking at broadband solutions. If an entity was wholly dependent on royalties, then what drives its research agenda? If money was coming from clients, then research was based on the needs of those clients. CSIR was a nationally important entity and CSIR’s research agenda should be driven by the country.
Dr Molefi Motuku, Group Executive: R&D, responded to questions on contract income. He stated that CSIR could be reliant on contract R&D but research would be dictated by funders if this was the case. CSIR could not continue on this path because at some point it would need to help replenishing the scientific base. With respect to PhD issues and training, it was not possible to take money from contract R&D to support these programs. Government funding was required. CSIR had engaged with international organisations to benchmark themselves and compare themselves internationally. Most of these organisations funding was 80% government funding and these organisations were therefore able to pursue their own research agendas, whereas CSIR faced issues based on their current funding setup. The system employed by CSIR to classify technology was developed by NASA (technology readiness level 1-9). There were many stages before something goes to market. CSIR had 36 technology demonstrators but they were not ready to go to the market. With respect to flagship programs, CSIR had seen a lot of delays and technology was not the only issue – engagements with local leaders could cause problems too.
Prof Petersen took over to comment on the reporting on South African black staff at CSIR. They had made the distinction in these numbers related to South African blacks and blacks from elsewhere and CSIR had captured other numbers too. With respect to CSIR’s marketing and communication strategy, the board had had many deliberations to communicate broadly what CSIR had been doing. The problem was to decide how to present this work to different audiences and the CSIR executive had developed a multi-layer strategy to engage with different audiences. The board was quite comfortable that this was being dealt with effectively and CSIR was confident that they were moving in the right direction in terms of promoting research as well as their products and services. CSIR had a suite of engagements and said they would circulate a list of companies. If CSIR were to only provide a consulting service, the list would triple, but this was not the primary focus of CSIR. CSIR’s goal was to catalyse and engage new industry processes and engage in joint collaboration research projects. CSIR had identified multi-national organisations that it would like to work with. CSIR had taken note of the industry’s structure and the entity had not only focused on consulting work.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee had always had the view that CSIR had not communicated their achievements robustly. It had also been known to the Committee that there were many good things in CSIR that were not known by the citizens of South Africa. The laser achievement should be hailed in all corners of the country, for example. The Auditor-General was very pleased with CSIR, which was an example to other entities in SA. CSIR was known for good governance, good finance and good implementation. CSIR complies 100% with reporting requirements and that was very good. The Chairperson welcomed CSIR for their presentation.
The Chairperson announced that everyone should leave the room so the Committee could deal with some internal business.
[Meeting reopened to the public]
ASSAf Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
The Chairperson explained that both the chairperson of the board and the CEO of ASSAf were overseas. ASSAf had a great record with the Office of the Auditor-General’s. ASSAf was not governed by Public Finance Management Acc (PFMA) and there was not as much expected of them as there was for other entities governed by PMFA. Introductions were then made and the delegation began the presentation.
Dr Xola Mati, COO of ASSAf, outlined the dual mandate of the academy which was to honour
distinguished scholars in all fields of scientific enquiry and to generate evidence based solutions to national and global challenges. ASSAf had identified goals which were aligned with government goals and included recognition and reward of excellence, the promotion of innovation and scholarly activity and promotion of effective, evidence based scientific advice among other things which would help strengthen the countries skills and resource base, regional development, African advancement and international cooperation. ASSAf also aims to improve the health profile of society and improve rural development and food security. ASSAf’s programmes demonstrate the academy’s structure and include Governance and Administration, Communications and Publications, Liaison Activities, a Scholarly Publishing Programme and a Policy Advisory Programme.
With respect to governance and administration, ASSAf promotes good governance, promotes recognition of members and participation in all ASSAf activities. This section pursues closer alignment of ASSAf activities and DST Goals and coordinates discussions on ASSAf’s Strategic Goals. The Governance structure was composed of a Council that meets 5 times a year and members. ASSAf’s members come from all scientific disciplines. ASSAf had 18 full time staff members, two interns and two part time editors.
The Policy Advisory Programme initiated and implemented evidence based projects such as studies on improving nutrition, creating technology for a low carbon society, a nuclear energy safety proceedings report and a report of the future of HIV/AIDS in Africa. It also reconceptualised ASSAf Forum Studies, conducted commentaries on government policies and performed localisation and domestication of evidence based reports. The Scholarly Publishing programme was composed of an open access platform that had 26 journals available including the Web of Knowledge, a National Scholarly Book Publishers’ Forum and a Peer Review of South African Scholarly Journals. The programme also includes a National Scholarly Editors’ Forum, an Online Scientific Writing Service and a Memorandum of Agreement between ASSAf, DST and DHET. ASSAf published the South African Journal of Science which had an average ISI impact factor of 0.78 in 2011.
With regards to the Liaison Program, ASSAf had international Liaison Activities, such as membership with IAP, G-Science, NASAC, IAC and IAMP. ASSAf had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian National Science Academy, was the IAP executive body among other international liaison activities. With regards to Communication and Publication, ASSAf had produced and disseminated 5 policy advisory reports, 6 SAJS articles, 4 Quest articles as well as held 7 outreach events and put out 22 media statements. ASSAf explained that Quest: Science for South Africa was a magazine that presents science to learners in an easy and understandable format and that it had been distributed to over 100 000 learners.
Mr Movokeng Chiloane, Financial Manager of ASSAf, presented ASSAf’s statement of financial position. He explained that ASSAf was a PFMA 3B entity. ASSAf was aware of PFMA and had used it as the agency’s guiding document. With respect to acquisitions, there was no movement in the previous fiscal year, especially with regards to fixed assets. ASSAf’s biggest acquisition was in 2010. Without DST’s contribution of R2.7m, ASSAf would be operating in the red and the organisation was thankful to the Department for their support. With respect to liabilities, ASSAf had covered trade and other payables among other liabilities. The statement of comprehensive income shown in the presentation was an abridged version and the full version had been circulated to the Committee. With respect to movement of finances, the entity had a deficit of R80 000. ASSAf’s baseline for 2013 was increased by R7.1m. ASSAf had ensured spending within their needs during the previous fiscal years. In the coming year, the entity would not find themselves in a predicament where the DST would have to bail them out.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens commented on energy, water and environmental studies, specifically Africa water week and a policy makers’ booklet. Referring to the Annual Report on page 25, ASSAf mentioned a booklet on the topic of the agriculture, industrial and mining sectors. She asked for comments on this because while ASSAf was talking about nuclear energy safety, shale gas extraction was a more current topic. What had ASSAf done with respect to shale gas extraction? With regards to a report on the investigation on the chronic needs of academic staff that would not be made public or published, she stated that the Committee should be entitled to it, and asked for comment on this. How did one become an academy member?
Ms Mocumi asked if the agency could share some challenges they had come across while trying to achieve their mandate.
The Chairperson asked why ASSAf chose to do work on nuclear energy safety. What attracted the entity to that area of study?
Dr Mati stated that he would like Professor Iqbal Barker, Director of Cape Town component of International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB)/ASSAf to answer the question on membership.
Mr Barker explained that members of the academy were nominated by existing members. They must be active scientists and must be recognised by experts internationally and locally. The process of selection was outlined in the Academy legislation and a new member must be seconded by four members of the academy after which all members get a chance to vote either for or against. On the topic of studies, many of the studies performed were mandated and paid for by the DST or other organisations. Currently, biosafety and biosecurity studies were funded externally. ASSAf was looking at a study on shale gas exploitation so there was a need to bring in experts for and against to obtain a mutual and factual opinion.
Dr Mati said these were studies the academy did not initiate by itself and that they were commissioned. There would be new studies in the next financial year that the academy would be commissioned to undertake. With regards to energy and water issues, these were really pertinent. The academy was supposed to respond to national key challenges so ASSAf assembled a panel of experts who looked into how these challenges could be addressed. Some of the studies were performed in partnership with key stakeholders. The studies were not randomly selected – they were a combination in terms of demand and what critically confronted the country at the time. ASSAf had been stretched in terms of resources to undertake every critical study.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on nuclear safety specifically.
Dr Mati explained that there were committees in the academy which deliberate on issues and on funding available and they were tasked with the responsibility to investigate the issue and then decide to undertake the study or not.
Mr Barker added that the nuclear safety study arose out of the disaster in Japan in wake of the tsunami and it was important to assess nuclear safety at the time in the event of a national disaster of similar magnitude. ASSAf organised a meeting with representatives from Japan as part of preparing a document on nuclear safety. This study was self initiated.
The Chairperson commented that ASSAf just said that their studies were commissioned.
Mr Barker explained that some studies were self selected.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens said that the issue of shale gas extraction was on the table and asked if ASSAf had planned to initiate such a study. She mentioned that there was a monitoring committee regarding this issue and asked if ASSAf had interacted with them or if they plan to initiate interaction. Study on this topic was required in South Africa and that the farmers were up in arms.
Dr Mati stated that the vice president would take it to council and it would be considered there.
Mr Barker said that it was an issue that should be discussed. He elaborated that a number of people had been looking at the issue and ASSAf must work together with them. It was not efficient to have six different groups working on the same thing and so ASSAf must verify that there was a role and space for them to work on this. At the time, ASSAf had no formal decision on initiating a shale gas extraction study.
Dr Mati mentioned that there were two outstanding questions about the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) and the ASSAf mandate. With respect to NACI, they advise the Minister, and ASSAf had been discussing with them to make sure that the work they had been doing was closely aligned with the department because it really speaks to policy advisory issues in the country. NACI and ASSAf were working together to achieve this.
The Chairperson said that NACI (in yesterday’s Committee meeting) suggested that there was an ongoing conversation between ASSAf and NACI because there was an overlap in role between the organisations. This had been a long-term feeling of the Committee – the role of NACI and ASSAf were indivisible, so why were they separate entities? The Chairperson stated that the Committee was aware that both organisations would like to perform their own separate roles, but it seems there was some redundancy between their respective operations.
Mr Barker replied that there was an ongoing discussion between NACI and ASSAf. Both organisations realise the overlap in the work that they were doing and had been discussing the possibility of streamlining or merging in the future.
Dr Mati stated that there was no perfect life - there were achievements and challenges and ASSAf had had its fair share. Some of these challenges were with respect to members who participate in ASSAf activities but only on a voluntary basis so this causes difficulty in terms of commitment. Another challenge faced by ASSAf was with regards to finance. ASSAf had introduced austerity measures to ensure they do not engage in projects or studies they could not cover financially.
Ms Mocumi asked how the organisation mitigates the issue with volunteer commitment.
Mr Barker responded that most academies function in this manner. The US National Academy had hundreds of thousands of members so they had a large pool. South Africa was not at this level but the academy was doing well and South Africa was doing well, compared to other countries in the developing world. ASSAf had a good core of members that contribute.
Dr Mati stated that one of the critical factors about the academy was that they attracted people with expertise to become involved. The academy also attracts people who were not members but were interested in contributing. ASSAf said that growing the membership was important, but they were bound to be confronted with issues related to voluntary commitment because it was the nature of the academy.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation for their views and inputs and stated that he would be happy to hear in future how ASSAf resolves their role overlap with NACI.
National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Performance Report 2012/13 presentation
Dr Albert S Van Jaarsveld, CEO of NRF, said the NRF had five major strategic goals including competitive research, human capital development, evaluation and grantmaking systems, research and innovation platforms as well as a vibrant National System of Innovation (NSI). The CEO introduced the NRF Vision 2015 which was targets set by the NRF. The NRF had met some of the targets but was still working on others and a summary was shown in slide 4 of its presentation. Four of the targets had been achieved in 2013. It demonstrated the growth of NRF systems. NRF had four main programmes: Corporate, Research and Innovation Support and Advancement, Science Advancement and National Research Facilities. The NRF received R159m for investment in the national equipment programme and National Research Facilities received additions infrastructure funding of R91m. 62 Research Chairs were awarded and the Paleosciences Centre of Excellence was also launched. In terms of investment in the areas of geographic advantage (excluding astronomy), most of the investment had gone into biodiversity with some investment in paleosciences, Antarctic research and the indigenous knowledge systems. The fifth area of geographic advantage was astronomy and investment had been made in the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) excluding SALT, Astronomy Research Chairs, the National Astronomy and Space Science Program (NASSP) and Human Capital Development (HCD) for multi-wavelength astronomy.
With respect to SKA (Square Kilometre Array), investment had increased steadily since 2008. NRF had invested in DST grand challenges and had made sure that investment had been into areas that were in line with the goals of the department. Investment had been in the areas of Bio-economy, energy security, global change and human and social dynamics. PhD graduations per million of population per year had steadily increased since 2002 and last year 32.56 were graduated. The South African PhD project was spearheaded in 2008 and annual outputs of PhDs had increased by 40%. By next year, the PhD project would have reached every province in South Africa and NRF was looking to drive this work in the future. With respect to Research Infrastructure Expenditure, investment in high-end research platforms was the highest, followed by SKA investment (which included construction of MeerKAT and KAT-7) and then cutting-edge research equipment investments.
NRF achieved an unqualified audit report, with no material findings by the Auditor General. There were significant improvements from the prior year on the AG dashboard report with one exception with respect to the collation of performance information but this had been addressed. There had been general overall compliance with the PFMA and other relevant legislation including National Treasury prescripts. NRF had continued their efforts in cost saving initiatives and full cost recovery as well as elimination of duplication of efforts. Examining the NRF Income Trend over time designated income to total income increased from 44% in 2009 to 61% in 2013. With respect to NRF expenditure trends, there was a general upwards trend. Overhead ratio trends for Research and Innovation Support and Advancement (RISA) had declined to below 6%, National facilities were just below 20%, the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) was around 15%. Both of these were operational environments. Special projects were below 6% because it was a grant making area primarily. Overall overhead ratio trends were below 9% and the NRF corporate overhead was 1.5% allocated across its divisions which gives some idea of the cost to run the NRF.
With respect to human resources and transformation, the NRF had an employment sustainability strategy and was committed to the principles of gender equity. The effective staff retention and succession plan had resulted in improved recruitment, turnover below the national average (currently 9%) and the launch of the NRF’s Management Development Programme (MDP). The NRF had a total staff of 1236, 58% of which were male and 42% of which were female. 68% of NRF employees were black and 32% were white. With respect to the growth rate of RISA funding streams, the trend was positive and in the right direction. On the topic of human capacity development instruments, all areas show increasing positive trends except for cross cutting instruments. Two areas were underfunded here, specifically, emerging researchers and established researchers. Funds were flowing in this direction in the current fiscal year, but the next generation was important so the NRF had to keep the ecosystem healthy and moving forward. The RISA Human Capacity Development Excellence Pipeline had certain areas that were underfunded and the NRF asserts that it needs a balanced investment portfolio into the future. The NRF had free-standing scholarships, grant holder linked bursaries, other development grants and the Thuthuka PhD track and most investment towards supporting next generation researchers goes towards grant holder linked bursaries and free standing scholarships. The NRF supports a large number of students at various levels from 3rd and 4th year all the way to post doctoral. The NRF had analysed the race demographics of students it supports and found that total black percentages at every level were going upwards in the right direction but slowly. The NRF said it needed to figure out how to improve this. 84% were South African blacks and 12% were from Africa while less than 4% were from abroad. The NRF had been tracking graduation of students that they had funded and the numbers had grown substantially. The NRF was getting a closer handle on the students that they had funded. As mentioned, emerging researchers were underfunded but the NRF was busy improving this because it was an important field. Established researchers were doing well in terms of investment level but the NRF could improve in this regard, despite the high risk nature of these investments.
With respect to outputs by RISA funded researchers, there had been an increase in funding, book chapters and conferences but patents did not follow this trend. In terms of investment towards strategic programmes, 62 additional chairs were awarded, and all Centres of Excellence were reviewed. 59% of awarded chairs were in the domain of natural sciences, 20% in social sciences, 11% in humanities and 10% in engineering. As part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Student Support, the SARChI chairs supported 989 students last year across all levels of education which shows nice growth, although the NRF would like to see an increase in black women in this area. This support had had an overall impact, but specifically, Kelly Chibale had discovered a new compound that could become part of a single dose cure for all strains of malaria and might be able to block transmission of the parasite from person to person.
Investment in Centres of Excellence totaled R68.5m and resulted in the production of 488 peer reviewed articles. The NRF exceeded annual targets for rated researchers in the previous fiscal year in terms of the number of rated researchers, the number of black related researchers and the number of women rated researchers. The growth had been surprising to the NRF. The NRF was awarding 150 Research Career Awards to grow research community and support selected candidates’ research agendas. The Research Information Management System (RIMS) project made significant progress with the customisation of InfoEd modules and the project team continued to engage all relevant stakeholders to ensure a sustainable future for this unique system.
The DST/NRF Internship project showed an increase and almost double the number of interns were placed in 2012/13 as compared to 2011/12. The number of interns employed had increased four fold since its inception in 2005/06. The internship project was hosted by 73 institutions nationally and was expanded to include graduates studying in the social sciences and humanities field. 45% of the interns were absorbed into the NSI and 23% chose to further their studies. NRF adopted a RISA Renewal Strategy in 2012/13 to increase client centricity, introduce a matrix management structure and to ensure products and services were informed by stakeholder needs.
Through SAASTA and the National Research facilities, awareness of SET and science advancement was raised through science education, science communication and science awareness platforms. To assess impact, SET careers were tracked and of 1 386 students that were tracked, 612 were not currently studying but 774 were furthering studies. Through the different initiatives, SAASTA reached 334 674 learners, 15 243 educators, 2 112 visitors to science awareness platforms and 143 394 participants in science festivals. Science festivals were held all over the country in the past year. Through the different initiatives, the National Research Facilities reached 180 115 learners, 26 479 educators, 738 371 visitors to science awareness platform and 21 community projects. SAASTA income had seen an increasing positive trend and SAASTA expenditure had stayed relatively stagnant with one exception of an increased positive trend on spending in the domain of education but it should be noted that the expenditure was not as balanced as the NRF wanted. The NRF understood that in terms of science advancement, a more strategic approach was required as opposed to ad hoc advancement that had occurred in the past. The science advancement strategy at NRF was based on repositioning the NRF to a more strategic role across business units, introducing a framework for a public engagement strategy, strengthening of science communication initiatives in partnership with higher education institutions, science councils and industry and sorting out issues with the contract funding base.
On the topic of national research facilities, an astronomy sub-agency was planned to be created within the NRF and this was in line with the strategic objective to provide world class research platforms. This amounted to a strategic infrastructure investment of R91m. The SKA SA project infrastructure development was in progress and R409m was spent on assets over the reporting period. The human capacity development at national research facilities had been progressing well and the numbers were positive although not all targets had been met. With respect to competitive research at these facilities, the growth in the number of peer reviewed journal articles published by the national research facilities increased by 50.5% between 2008/09 and 2012/13. In terms of national research facilities funding, SKA and IThemba had received the most funding over the past 4 years. NRF had had major achievements in astronomy. The SAOO had produced 49 publications and HartRAO commissioned the new 15m XDM telescope. The NZG had produced 17 ISI papers, 14 of which principal authors were NZG staff or students. SAEON entered into 53 collaborations. SAIAB (South Africa Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity) used their ROV 57 times for maritime research, and the Phuhlisa Programme, which aims to build human capacity among black and female students, had 12 honours students. iThemba LABS was currently producing gallium 68 nuclides and had been accredited as a producer for Europe and North America in order to be positioned as a preferred supplier. This shows the impact of SA in the global sale of isotopes and this was featured in the Wall Street Journal.
These kinds of scientific activities could produce economic activities. There was a presidential visit to the SKA SA site. Activities for this project included construction of roads, buildings and IT infrastructure. The SKA SA international task team had been established. The SKA project would involve the manufacturing of 64 meerKAT dishes, the first to be delivered in December 2013. The meerKAT dishes were being manufactured locally, and R121M had been spent on infrastructure to establish an instrument that was truly world class over the next couple of years. Funding trends and investments were gradually transforming the number of graduates. Infrastructure investments had enhanced existing research platforms and provided new competitive platforms and ensured adequate investment in established researchers across the system. The new RISA structure would improve client-centric service, delivery and responsiveness.
Ms Dunjwa referred to page 98 in the Annual Report on staff turnover, and asked what the reason for staff turnover was and if the NRF had done anything to address this. She asked if demystifying science was possible in South Africa and asked for clarification on NRF’s strategy for demystifying science including teaching parents first. On page 104 of the Annual Report, she asked for the list of schools that the NRF was referring to. She asked what was being done about students who did not pursue studies after NRF funding and if it was the NRF’s responsibility. If not, who’s responsibility was it? On page 187 of the Annual Report, there were comments on deviation, and she asked how the Committee could be sure that the NRF was managing these deviations. Is the NRF able to track the attendance of educators and ordinary members of the community in areas where there were science centres?
Ms Kloppers-Lourens stated that the NRF touched on energy security and asked what the entity meant by “it needs a bit more”. With reference to PhD numbers, one got the impression that the NRF was chasing numbers for the sake of more PhDs. She stated that maturity and work experience was important when it comes to PhDs. Are there incentives based in the grant system for students who perform well? With respect to the NRF receiving 75% of the tender on the building of 64 meerKAT dishes and the need for 3 000 SKA dishes and the nine countries involved, were the other dishes part of the tender? On the topic of the 30 research chairs that had not been filled, what impact had this had on the National System of Innovation? What were the details on the review of the Centres of Excellence in terms of the national competitors of the research output and in terms of human capital development? The NRF referred to establishment of an advisory council – could they provide some background on this? How far were they with the SKA SA programme forum? What were the exact areas of the SKA programme that were applicable to SA industry?
Ms Plaatjie stated that the NRF mentioned that they involved communities in identifying their needs, but when it came to prioritising their needs were communities involved in this prioritisation?
The Chairperson mentioned that Parliament had recently legislated the power of Parliament to influence money bills. The Committee had attended a seminar on how to help departments and their entities. The Chairperson asked for the status of the PhD project with NACI. Is it still an initiative of the NRF and, if so, where did it stand now? There should be a workshop on BRRR, and how Parliament could assist in advancing or influencing the size of the budget. A clean record with the National Treasury would be required to gain this funding. The Auditor-General’s records show that NFR had made improvement – with a lot of green and one yellow. Sometimes an entity had unqualified reports with findings, but it depends what the findings were. What was going on with the PhD project? What was the competition between the research career award and the PhD project? How did the Committee know, in terms of its Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR), to support the NRF on the research career grant or the PhD project? What was the difference? One of NACI’s concern was that there were very few PhD graduates and they did not see the trend changing because it was based on funding. Most of the PhDs produced come from students with viable parents who were able to support their children. Very few had come from NRF. So as long as the status quo was how it is, then there would never be any significant changes. The Committee supports this. The Chairperson said that the PhD project was important for this reason. How were you going to address these challenges in terms of funding so that this money could reach all people, including the poor?
Dr Beveley Damonse, Group Executive: Science Engagement and Corporate Relations for NRF, spoke on the topic of the science centre training program and said that even though some staff were trained, there was a high turnover in science centres. There were a limited number of them in the network, and people that were trained would move from a small one to a large one. Science centre employees were generally in part time positions so when the funding increases or decreases they had to make adjustments. The NRF believes that it was not a loss to the system when a staff member moves from one centre to another. With respect to demystifying science in Kenya as opposed to demystifying science in SA, the partnership with Kenya comes from bilateral agreements from international relations through the DST. In terms of capacity development, the NRF had science week and so the NRF was trying to establish something similar in Kenya. Demystifying science in relation to teaching parents first, historically, festivals and centres had been focused on learners and educators, but science communication in general should be aimed to the whole family in order to change science culture. This way parents could motivate their kids to become involved in science. Public participation in the festivals was important and bringing festivals to the communities was important. There were festivals running in almost every province and they were much closer to the communities with mobile exhibits. The names of the schools that were requested could be circulated to the Committee. With respect to the tracking system, we do not have a national tracking system. We had attendance systems which could give some tracking numbers. Comparisons were possible using these numbers but there was a not a universal tracking on a large scale across the system. In higher education institutes (HEIs), it was easier to track students using ID numbers, where as for children it was not as easy to track.
Dr Jaarsveld responded with respect to deviations and stated that the NRF was acutely aware of this problem and went on to say that historically, the NRF fell into the trap of turning everything into a KPI – some of these were controllable and some of these were distant. The NRF needed to re-rationalise their KPIs and reduce the number the entity takes responsibility for in terms what they could control or improve.
The Chairperson explained that NACI was of the same view as NRF – for proper rating an entity should choose KPIs that had relevance. It was important, however, to not completely localise KPIs as they were important for international competitiveness.
Dr Jaarsveld agreed and explained that there were 52 KPIs in the NRF Annual Report which was far too many, but stated that it was important to report on the broad statistics. It was important that everything measured should not be a KPI. With regards to energy security, it was a historical coincidence meaning that the DST and NRF had certain grant challenges and one that had rolled out slower than the rest was energy security but there was no particular reason for this. The NRF had many collaborations and the entity was confident that the Committee would see a rapid response in that area. With respect to PhD numbers and ‘stretching the numbers’, the NRF would be very concerned if they were to fall into the ‘China trap’ of churning out PhDs that were not of high quality. This would cause serious problems, but the NRF had to increase numbers five-fold to compete with what was happening in other economies which in same cases had 100 PhDs/million people. The NRF had been working very hard to produce top quality PhDs, increasing the number of collaborative PhDs where the candidates do not just stay at the university but also work in industry. To make sure these people were integrated into industry, the NRF had been working internationally with some of the best institutions and had sent a number of candidates to the Netherlands through the University of Amsterdam. The quality issue had been very pertinent for the NRF and it was very important because otherwise the numbers were meaningless. To address issues of incentives for students who perform well, the NRF had not offered any financial incentives, although it was possible for candidates to qualify for further bursaries and funding. Performance drives success in terms of securing funding. The SKA international project would not be just South Africa, it would be international and would follow an international procurement process. Whether it would be governed by a treaty based organisation or a company had not been determined. With regards to an industry forum, the NRF said that as many industries as possible in SA should be engaged so when the 3 000 dishes were being produced, South African entities could be successful in securing bids to produce the dishes. The NRF had supported some local companies already that were likely to be competitive in the future bidding of these dishes regardless of whether it was IT, construction or other industries. It really depended on where these companies want to compete in a broader sense. The forum would give the NRF a good sense of industry’s thinking on the topic of dish construction. Not filling the 30 Research Chairs would have an impact in terms of delivery.
Dr Dorsamy Gansen Pillay, NFR Deputy CEO of RISA, spoke on the topic of Research Chairs that had not been filled. There were two hurdles to pass when awarding the Chairs – there were issues of quality of the proposals and quality of the candidate. The figures had been reviewed and there were now 16 chairs that had not been filled. Of the 16, nine were currently under review and of the remaining seven, two were under appeal and they were awaiting four re-submissions. If the chairs were not successfully filled by the end of the year, they would be forced to re-send and re-allocate them. Context was important on the topic. The NRF assured the Committee that the PhD project was very much alive. The NRF was trying to propel the project from all angles to increase the number of PhDs to 6000PhDs/annum. The NRF had co-invested with SanTrust an Irish aid, where they had identified the average age of nursing professionals at the university was 54 years old. Over 3 years, 90 would have a PhD. Given that Ireland was the best country in the world for the training of nursing professionals, NRF funded PhD students to spend time in Irish hospitals for their internships and this ensured high quality training. The Desmond Tutu Doctoral Training Program was another initiative with 60 PhDs. The energy sector was now putting more money into what was called energy and human capital and knowledge generation development program to propel the PhDs in the energy sector which the NRF was managing. There was also the Research Technology Fund which was a new instrument that directly spoke to increasing the number of PhDs. The NRF had provincial level support for PhDs also. The NRF had decided that the PhD project should be taken to every province in the country – by next year every province would have had a PhD fair. The NRF had introduced PhD scholarships and extension 4th year bursary program for PhD programs for students who had not completed their PhDs but were in the final stages. The NRF had also signed an agreement with the World Academy of Sciences for world mobility of students who were coming from the African continent. The Department of Home Affairs recognised this agreement and would give out-of-country students a residence status that would allow them to qualify for bursaries. The NRF had a number of programs with the African Association of Commonwealth Universities and a program in the US that finds appropriate universities where the students do not have to pay fees. The NRF could be doing more but the PhD project was different from the Research Career Awards.
Dr Jaarsveld added that the NRF supported 2 000 doctoral students last year. At the honours level of the 3000 they support, NRF supports less than 5% of all honours students registered around the country which was a very small percentage of the total enrollment. At the masters level, that crept up to 7% which was also a small percentage. At the PhD level, NRF only funded about 16% of all the registered PhDs around the country. With such small proportions that it could support, could it make an impact? The answer was no. Realistically the NRF could not anticipate to shape the size and outcome of the South African science workforce unless it was funding about 30% of PhD students and at the lower levels as well. Strategic planning was important to determine what kind of investments were required to change our science workforce fundamentally and aggressively.
The Chairperson said that the concept of the PhD program was to help students or people from poor communities and to allow a student to provide for his or her family and study at the same time, there must be incentives or bursaries. This could not happen without additional funding. If the funding was there, the numbers could be doubled. There was no other way to achieve this goal.
Dr Jaarsveld said this speaks to the bursary amounts. The DST was in the final phase of putting together a human capacity development strategy that would go to Treasury and would look at both the numbers, the stipend and size of the bursary and how to grow it.
Ms Kloppers-Lourens asked if all PhD students should study full time.
Dr Jaarsveld responded that an advanced stipend should be supplied to people who were studying full time but people with employment do not require the same support. However, those options should be available to people who were employed. With respect to the Astronomy Advisors Panel, it would contain local, regional, national and international members so that any decisions made by DST would have direction and there would be a strategic plan in terms of making astronomy based decisions. With regards to needs prioritisation, the NRF was referring to research communities at universities. There would be a discussion where the NRF identifies certain research agenda challenges, then the NRF would respond with priorities and then there would be an agreement on research direction. The NRF was having a very serious conversation with the DST and all the science councils to identify what they must be doing in the context of demystifying science and technology. The NRF was working on a national campaign to demystify science. What it would entail was currently unknown, but the idea was that around every dinner table in South Africa, when a family sat down and talked about career options for their children, that the concept of science study and work was on the table. At the moment, the NRF did not think this conversation was happening. The NRF was working with the Minister of Science and Technology to see how the NRF could launch a campaign that would change the hearts and minds of South Africans in terms of the domain of Science.
- National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Report 2012/13
- Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Annual Report 2012/13
- National Research Foundation (NRF) Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
- Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Report 2012/13
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
- Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Annual Report 2012/13 presentation
- Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) Annual Report 2012/13
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