The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology was briefed on the Annual Performance Plans of the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).
Regarding the CSIR Strategic and Annual Performance Plan for 2017/18, its mandate was directed to research and technological innovation and targeted to have the impact of both scientific and industrial development. It sought to grow in Energy research by giving a more holistic approach. Its objective was to boost research on renewable forms of energy, enhance the understanding of energy systems as well as creating a test platform to evaluate different technologies. It also sought to empower local industries and companies by creating enterprise support platforms. It partnered up with government departments and agencies to establish the necessary support infrastructure. It had human capital development programmes to ensure that marginalized groups were represented in top research positions and black owned business in the defense sector among other areas were thriving.
Members of the Committee were concerned about the organization’s procurement policy and whether it gave opportunity to local enterprises as opposed to having a large affinity to foreign companies. It also expressed concerns on the lack of racial diversity and representation in the top research position.
Regarding the NRF Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 to 2019/20, the NRF registered an increase in the number of graduates who were being funded by the organization. However, it mainly targeted masters to doctoral students in Higher Education Institutions. Despite its efforts, if faced financial challenges as the demand for support continued to increase and the availability of finances decreased. The NRF would have to come up with new innovative ways of raising funds in collaboration with the Government as it could not do so on its own.
The NRF partnered up with other organizations, government agencies and the private sector to solve the issue of funding but the solution would most likely be realized in the long term. It was noted that the impact in terms of outputs could only be seen once the graduates had graduated and was absorbed into the job market.
The Committee inquired on whether statistical data existed in terms of the racial disbursements of the funds and whether there was another research funding institution other than the NRF, to cater for unsuccessful applicants. It was noted that universities and other statutory bodies had financial aid schemes but also faced similar budgetary constraints.
Regarding the TIA’s Annual Performance Plan 2017/18, it was noted that none of the board members were present in the meeting as the organization was going through a transition period whereby the former board’s tenure had ended and the new board was transitioning in. TIA managed to overcome its previous negative publicity through the restructuring of its operational and governance structure and practices. It’s recorded significant growth in terms of its investment projects. It minimized its operational cost and optimized its budget to serving its mandate.
The Committee inquired on whether TIA received a return on its investment on the various research and technological inventions it supported. It was noted that, TIA had royalty agreements with the funded innovators as a means of getting a return on investment and at times TIA took a stake in the companies’ equity whereby it later sold out once the company was stable.
The Chairperson welcomed and congratulated Dr Thulani Dlamini on his appointment as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR) and asked the Members of the Committee and the delegation from CSIR to introduce themselves before the Committee proceeded with the presentations.
CSIR Strategic and Annual Performance Plan for 2017/18
Dr Thulani Dlamini, CEO, CSIR, said that the medium plan strategy of the CSIR was to create a balance between scientific development and industrial development which was a major focus of the organization in its growth going forward which would be evidenced by the set performance indicators. The presentation would encompass on the mandate, the performance indicators, and strategic objectives and how they achieved the national development objectives.
The objective of CSIR was to make a meaningful impact by improving the quality of life of the people of South Africa. Its work was directed to research and technological innovation and targeted to have the impact of both scientific and industrial development. The strategic objective was structured into three parts; to conduct high-quality research that fostered scientific innovation, building on transformative human capital by hiring highly qualified staff and to maintain financial sustainability through good governance. The CSIR 2017/18 Annual Plan was to increase scientific development in sectors such as energy, health and natural resources. It fostered industrial development through the localization of procurement of resources and support infrastructure. It would also build on human capital development by bringing on board more PhDs as chief researchers giving regard to the demographic and academic profiles of the country. Finally, it would pursue infrastructural investment through the ‘Campus Master Plan’.
The performance indicators for the NTF period, was poised on the output of the research activities, human capital development as well as financial and governance related indicators. There were plans to grow their publication by 18% over the period and grow the quarterly income by 48%. However, such growth in the research base should be in a sustainable manner. The research base was targeted to grow sustainably by 18% over the NTF period. The growth would be set to bring up gender representation and also marginalized race empowerment.
Internal Research on institutions similar to the CSIR showed that CSIR needed to improve on its qualification profiles. Since then, there was a 30% staff with PhDs target set for the ICT sector during the NTF period. The human capital development programme would be geared towards getting skilled employees to work in the organization and ensure that the CSIR had a comprehensive and appealing employee value proposition for all the CSIR staff.
The CSIR made a direct contribution to national interests by supporting seven of the 11 National Development Agendas. This was in line with their core objective of pursuing quality research that had actual transformative impact on industrial development. The CSIR was uniquely qualified to give value based proposition for service delivery as it had a multi-disciplinary project run by dedicated teams of highly qualified staff and access to good infrastructure deployed for support. It was also well positioned in partnering with high education institutions (HEIs) and the private sector. This made it possible to give cutting-edge research in the areas of nano-science technology, synthetic biology and mobile intelligent autonomous systems.
This was translated to the establishment of a Biomedical Research Translation Institute, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, the development of facilities with such capabilities in nano-technology, biology and robotics. These output’s performance could be indicated by the increase of journal articles, registered intellectual property, PhD graduates and spin-out companies.
Over the 10 year existence of the programme, approximately R450 million was invested. The organization budgeted for R45 million for the 2017/18 period with the expected output of the shift from synthetic biology to bio-mimetics and bio engineering among other expectations. CSIR sought to grow in Energy research by giving a more holistic approach. Its objective would be to boost research on renewable forms of energy, enhance the understanding of energy systems as well as creating a test platform to evaluate different technologies. In the last year (2016/17), the programme managed to enhance significant progress in new energy research infrastructure in solar PV testing, wind measurement and real time digital stimulation of power system operations.
Regarding Fostering Technological Development, CSIR in collaboration with stakeholders identified local, national and regional level problems and needs. It addressed these problems through its Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) capabilities. This regional integration enabled the transfer of knowledge and technologies and has enhanced its relationships with the private sector.
Dr Molefi Motuku, Executive Director, CSIR, said that the Enterprise Development and Support Programmes were geared towards industrial development and addressing the challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. They were centered on job creation, supporting SMEs, developing new industries and supporting existing and declining industries through collaboration with other institutions including the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Regarding the industry innovation program, it was specifically geared to address industrial development through new programmes established in the last three years. It focused on the existing companies by providing new technology to improve efficiency. The manufacturing industry development programme was launched by the Minister last year and it was geared to the bio-economy. Despite being new in South Africa, it was thriving globally. The nanomaterial facility industry was developed two years ago by the Minister. It focused on mineral beneficiation. The program came with the expectation of increasing the number of black owned enterprises in the defense industry and partnering with organizations such as the South African Planning Institute (SAPI) and multinational corporations. The bio refinery industry was developed in KZN and CSIR was looking at the pulp and paper industry. The facility would be launched around July by the Minister.
He said that regarding adding value, there was a development programme that was launched by the Minister of Science and Technology which brought about the nano-material industry development facility that looked into the sector of nano technology. On the outputs of the Enterprise support programme, there was job creation, an increase in the number of companies being supported and growth of product data in the market which included products that were being tested in the market or at the labs. It should be noted that majority of the Supported SMEs were black owned enterprises spread across the whole country. Despite the challenges in partnering up with the private sector, it remained an avenue that CSIR was aggressively pursuing.
Regarding the financial planning of this year, with an investment of R35 million CSIR partnered with The Jobs fund, DST and small businesses. These partnerships remained critical as they supported CSIR’s role in technology development. At least R150 million was targeted to be raised to achieve the outputs outlined in the submitted proposal.
Regarding industrial development, it lied on seven pillars, one of which was to create enterprise support programmes in the existing industries. Some of these were supported by DTS and Eskom in enterprise creation. The Technology Localization Implementation Unit (TLIU) specifically came on board to try and localize these developed technologies. In partnership with DTI, CSIR had programmes that supported Registered Service Providers (RSPs) as well as the National Cleaner Production Center (NCP-SA) whereby it assisted in assessing efficiency across industries.
The Department of Defence (DoD) partnered up with CSIR and invested about R365 million for the next five years to develop a transformative defense industry program. A consequent result of such partnership was the radar electronic warfare technology. The Defence programme targeted black owned enterprises and provided technical support such as the provision of a 5 year incubation in the CSIR and diversifying their technology base so that they could be competitive.
On the Flagship programs, CSIR partnered with South Africa National Parks (SANparks) to provide anti-Rhino poaching technology at Skukuza in Kruger National Park. Also, in the Umbiflow programme, in partnership with the Department of Health (DoH) and the Gates Foundation, CSIR was able to come up with a health registry system which was rolled out to more than 1000 clinics with nationwide reach target. The system helped to provide technological integration of hospitals around the country using the system, in effect giving them the ability to share information. It saved the government money by increasing the turn-around time of service delivery for patients. The programme also targeted to give situational awareness capabilities to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Dr Dlamini noted that the success of CSIR depended on their ability to partner as it could not innovate in isolation, since its research needed to be meaningful. CSIR’s stakeholders were HEIs, state owned entities, government departments as well as the private sector. CSIR came up with several future stakeholder engagement opportunities such as the CSIR conference on 5 to 6 October 2017. There were also several infrastructure launches and technology showcases planned for the organization. One example was the launch of the Biorefinery Industry Development Facility in Durban and the Photonics Prototyping Facility in Pretoria. There would be public and community engagements to try and improve the public’s understanding of careers in science and encourage the youth to take them up.
He said that regarding the CSIR strategic objectives, it was geared to build and transform human capital through demographic profiling and qualification criteria. It would ensure that as an employer it would have an appealing employment welfare program. This transformative programme had many challenges. Some of these included transforming SET staff in the affected designated groups, the low number of qualified staff with PhDs and declining numbers of chief researchers through resignations and retirement among others. Programmes were launched in response to the above, such as bursary programmes, career ladders, young researchers Establishment Fund and the Senior Research Acceleration Program.
In the 2017/18 period, there was a target to increase the number of PhD staff, chief researchers and also to accelerate the development of black and women representation as senior and principal researchers. In efforts to maintain top employer status, there would be a more elaborate human resource programme for attraction and retention of key skills in the organization. This would be achieved through rewards and recognition policies, talent and succession management as well as employee wellness programmes. It would be effected through conducting employee moral surveys, enhanced staff engagement platforms and the implementation of a women empowerment program.
Mr Chris Sturdy, CFO, CSIR, said that on the CSIR strategic objective pertaining to financial sustainability and good governance, in the present year, 2017/18, it was targeting an 8% growth in total income. In the last 7 years, there was steady growth in parliamentary grants thanks to the intervention of the DST, the public-sector contract income, the private sector income and royalty incomes. An investment of R108 million would be invested in the property plant and equipment, as well as increased clean audits and efforts to reach Level 2 Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BEE) status to maintain good governance status.
Renewable and upgrading of the CSIR Campuses was necessary as the current buildings were old and built according to old science campuses’ models. This necessitated the designing of the campus master plan. However, due to budget constraints, CSIR could only afford R100 million whereas the project required R3-5 billion investment for the Pretoria campus.
The campus master plan would encompass state of the art public science interface and engagement facilities, modern mega shared research laboratories, dedicated pre-manufacturing plans amongst other facilities. The plan had three developmental phases, the first, from 2016-2017, the second, from 2021-2031 and the last one would be for the long term.
Dr Dlamini thanked the Committee for the opportunity and apologized for the pace of the presentation as it was in consideration of the time they were allocated so as to allow time for an interactive session at the end.
Mr G Koornhof (ANC) inquired on the company’s policy on localization in the procurement of resources and whether the organization had figures on the number of local companies they used. He also inquired, in terms of percentage, how many of the companies sought out for procurement were South African companies and how many were international or foreign.
Mr C Mathale (ANC) welcomed the new CEO to CSIR and expressed his hope that the organization would be more efficient. On issues of financial constraints, the Committee previously inquired why the CSIR could not run on a profit objective. He noted that the Committee was informed that despite the possibility of operating on a profit motive, profit was not its primary objective. However, to be sustainable, an entity needed to generate some form of revenue. A profit objective could solve most of the financial problems CSIR was currently facing. He also inquired on the discussions of CSIR, DST and National Treasury. He wanted to know to what end or objective they were in discussions and what the financial priorities in the campus master plan were in the different developmental phases.
He noted that on the government’s initiative to create employment opportunities for Afrikaans in particular and blacks in general, the programmes that the Committee got to see during its oversight visit, was a Germany company with a black empowerment programme that subsequently collapsed since it was selling at a premium. He noted that government was funding the company so to keep it afloat since it supported black empowerment yet it retailed its products at high prices. He suggested that the CSIR should use its leverage and demand that such companies should trade at market price since the government supported them.
The Chairperson noted that such companies’ conduct raised a great concern. She questioned whether the 8% according to the growth projections indicated by CSIR was still sufficient. She also inquired on the potential effect of partnering with international companies in order to solve the CSIR’s current financial problems. On where the CSIR offered incubation, whether there was a process where small enterprises could have an open and direct engagement with DST so as to ensure transparency of the system.
Dr Dlamini said that the CSIR’s procurement policy guided how the organization received services and goods that they needed. At this time, it could not provide the exact figures in terms of local and foreign investment. However, in many instances, for the high-end tech products that were procured, CSIR often relied on overseas supplies, since there was a lack of local capability to supply and the local market was limited. However, for the other services, CSIR worked with local enterprises. CSIR faced several financial constraints since its income resources were very much dependent on the public funding which at this time was very constrained. There was a need to diversify the development activity as 30% of CSIR’s income stream was raised through parliamentary grants while the rest of the 70% was raised through contract incomes.
Mr Sturdy said that the CSIR’s profit was extremely modest. An increase in profits might come at a cost of funding infrastructural projects. At this time international contracts were the organization’s main revenue stream and could be the solution to increasing profit. In example, one of its biggest international contracts was with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. However, due to the fall in oil prices, the war in Yemen and their king dying the profits declined significantly.
Regarding the Campus Master Plan, CSIR was a Level 3 B-BEE organization and that allowed it to retain some profits which was re-invested in the property plant and equipment. The discussions with National Treasury was so that its proposed budget of R2 billion could be considered since the CSIR could not otherwise raise these funds alone. On localization of technology, he noted that CSIR’s imported infrastructure mainly came from USA and Germany but there was a policy in place that gave opportunity to local companies.
The Chairperson noted that localization of the product available locally could be beneficial to CSIR as opposed to procuring them from foreign countries.
Dr Matuku replied that on the question of localization of technology, using the Autonomous Campus Program as an example, the specifications were set so high in order to attain the gold standard. However, opportunity was given to local companies that didn’t meet the set criteria, to keep measuring their specs to the standards to help them to become competitive. To this end, a testing facility was established so as to test the local products and improve on their efficiency. On the issue of supporting SMEs, CSIR held discussions with DTS and also the Minister to get political support. Jobs fund also engaged CSIR again to submit a proposal that would enhance the existing support structure for SMEs. However, despite the promise of good returns, the engagement process was taking longer than anticipated.
Professor Thokozani Majozi, Chairman of the Board, CSIR, noted that there was big room for improvement in the Nail Systems International (NSI) and that CSIR was isolated. This isolation posed the risk of duplication with other research organization since there was yet to be an established means of collaboration not only in the procurement of resources from suppliers but also with other entities. For CSIR to be strong, it had to capitalize on their strength and not try do everything but prioritize on the best they could deliver.
The Chairperson thanked the CSIR delegation for the presentation and the response. Any further information needed and inquiries would be communicated at a later time. She noted that the Committee was sympathetic to CSIR and would strive to get it more access to resources than just enough to meet its planning objectives.
Presentation by National Research Fund (NRF) on Annual performance plan 2017/18-2019/20
Mr Loyiso Nongxa, Board Chairman, NRF, congratulated Ms Maseko for her appointment as the Chair of the Committee on behalf of the NRF. He noted that the board of NRF oversaw and approved all projects ventured by the Executive and the presentation gave an overview of the performance of the system as a whole, as well as its challenges.
Dr Molapo Qhobela, CEO, NRF, said that the NFR worked together with various government agencies, departments and research and innovation institutions such as the CSIR, the HSRC, Mintek, SANSA, MRC and HEIs among others. On the NRF mandate, the NRF Act Amendment Bill 2015 would help promote the development and maintenance of the national science system in support of national priorities. The NRF’s Strategy was to create a globally connected national science and technology system that promoted innovation. To this end, the NRF tried to achieve a representative technical workforce.
Regarding the impact of investment in NRF Research & Development (R&D) on a national level, there was a positive increase in the number of doctoral postgraduates, publications, black researchers and women who were being supported by NRF. This financial support was extended to social sciences and humanities, thanks to a collaboration between NRF and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Despite the modest support NRF received from the national system, it had a significant impact nationally. NRF supported less than 10% of postgraduate students, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was supporting at least 20% but should be supporting more students. The time of completion of the students that NRF supported was much shorter than the national average. That was because NRF supported students to study on a full-time basis since full time students could finish quicker and have impact. Also, since 2005, the number of national doctoral graduates supported by NRF increased significantly.
Regarding research support, financial investment grew to almost double and hence more women researchers were also able to be supported and there was growth in the research work as well. NRF-funded researchers contributed to about 42% of the total South African R&D outputs, 64% of which were made by black researchers and women.
A key challenge faced by the NRF was the need to find new creative ways of expanding to cater for the increase in demand of support. Due to resource constraints, the number of awards for the funding of researchers was significantly low as compared to the number of worthy applicants who applied for support. NRF promoted the research and knowledge by providing free national research infrastructure platforms in collaboration with other institutions. The Committee had an oversight visit at the iThemba laboratories for Accelerator-Bases Sciences (iThemba Labs) which was one of the platforms supported by the NRF. One of its new facilities was the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) which provided a geographical environment network for the collection of data to be used in the pursuit of environmental conservation. It used a wide range of technological mechanisms all around the country. However, this was a long-term project since change in environment did not happen in a short period of time. It would address water shortages, carbon storage in the grasslands and environmental deterioration amongst others. The project’s budget allocation increased from R12.5 million to R26 million since 2011.
The NRF projected a 5.4% growth in parliamentary grants. However, this was not enough as it only catered for 20% of the NRF total income. Majority of the expenditure of the grant was through research grants, purchase of equipment and bursaries, followed by scientific engagements. Investments in human capacity development mainly went to postgraduate students from masters to doctoral level. There was also a dedicated expenditure allocated for geographic advantage areas majority of which went to fields such as Palaeosciences, Antarctic research among others. Regarding the investment in Astronomy, an investment of R2.7 million was in the Square Kilometer Array Radio telescope (SKA) South Africa. This was a project that would scan space and feed data back to astronomers around the world and would put South Africa as a significant global ICT powerhouse.
The NRF Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was divided into three programmes. The first programme would be prioritized to build a new dedicated division for strategy, planning and creating partnerships. It would also be geared to ensure the effective and efficient use of the financial resources and explore a revised resource allocation model that would endure the present expenditure demands. This would inevitably be geared towards developing a skilled, committed and representative workforce. The second programme would prioritize ensuring that the necessary systems were in place to aid the South African Agency for Science and Technology (SAASTA) fulfilling its role as a national coordinator of the science engagement framework with an approved resourcing plan. The third programme would be centered on the creation of a representative technical workforce.
Ms A Lotriet (DA) noted that there was a growing demand for more PhDs than what the NRF could afford considering that the budget kept on decreasing as the demand for support continued to grow. She inquired on how the NRF planned to address this issue moving forward and allowing the worthy applicants who currently did not manage to get financial support, due to the budget constraints, actually received it.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) inquired for a further explanation regarding the figures attributed to the black researchers and also the number females employed. What was the impact of the outputs to addressing poverty?
Mr N Koornhof (ANC) inquired how and where the NRF published its research on the change of the environment.
The Chairperson inquired on whether the Fees Must Fall protests affected the decline in the number of graduates.
Mr Nongxa replied that on the question on the number of PHDs, its objective was the human capacity development. However, upon a reverse look into the education system, it was discouraging at times looking at the limited capacity institutions had. On the question of funding, as a system, care should be so not to distort funding and NRF needed to distinguish the priorities in the R&D and in those national strategic plans so that one did not succeed at the expense of the other.
Mr Qhobela said that if NRF could have proper support or find a creative way in working with the rest of the system, it could fund a lot more graduates. NRF was working much closer with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) who transferred an honours bursary that they had to NRF, and the National Skills Fund (NSF) and international partners, in effort to build capacity.
Mr Bishen Singh, CFO, NRF, replied on the question of funding. The contracted income of the DTI did not reflect in the books anymore which was about R150 million a year. NRF was taking on the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) from 2019 onwards which is about R60 million a year and hence why the base line income decreases.
Mr Qhobela said that regarding the designated people, there was a breakdown on those classified as black, and it included black Africans, Indians and Coloureds and on gender, female meant all women. On the issue of funding outside the NRF, the NRF was the only statutory founded institution with the mandate to fund students mainly in the health sciences. However, universities funded some of their students through scholarships alongside international philanthropic foundations such as the Cesar Millan foundation among others. NRF was working with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the University of South Africa to understand the financial aid system better, on who exactly funds students.
On the issue of technology impact, there were ongoing impact studies being conducted by researchers to determine the exact significance it had on public policy. However, this was a long-term project and hence there might not be any immediate results.
Dr Dorsamy (Gansen) Pillay, DCEO, NRF, said on the question of impact and the NRF peer review system, there was emphasis on what the impact the research itself would be. It required the researchers to demonstrate possible tangible or effectual outcomes of the research whether it be in the form of a product or policy.
On the question of funds, it was a question due to the lack of resources, there was a ministerial taskforce where a proposal was made for all governments to centralize their R&D money that would be subject to oversight by an independent department. The NRF was trying to leverage funds from departments but it would take some time.
On the question about publications, the publications were published by students and researchers in popular articles in the press and presentations amongst others. In the event one was looking for a certain publication affiliated with a particular field, the NRF could provide it.
Mr Qhobela said that on the issue of publication, the DTS published publications on the impact of certain research. Regarding funding, the major concern was with sustainability. The NRF or the NRC should be able to sustain itself even without funding on a national level.
On the question of the impact of the ‘Fees Must Fall’ protest, the government was finding ways to fund the 8% fee increase set by the universities so as to enable students to afford it. Universities were assisting the NRF with further impact assessment analysis on the educational impact. NRF was working with UNISA to find ways to deal with the problem in the event that it ever happened again.
Presentation by Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) on Annual Performance Plan FY2017/18
Mr Barlow Manilal, CEO, TIA, apologized for TIA not having any board members present since the board that provided oversight completed its term at the end of April and the new board come in in May. However, none of the new board members were available for the meeting.
There was a registered growth in the number of internships in terms of skill development in the current financial year; the number of SMMEs supported; the number of disabled persons receiving support; the number of women in technology development and PDIs receiving support.
There were three strategic development objectives. The first was to develop technology plans and innovation programs that were linked to National Priorities in collaboration with the relevant NSI stakeholder to support development of SMMEs, youth participation and transformation of the NSI. There were MOU’s signed with Water Research council, Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and the Energy and Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA) in effort to reach this target.
TIA was in collaboration with the National Planning Commission (NPC) as well so to ensure that its objectives were in line with STI landscape in South Africa. In terms of transformation, TIA engaged with Black Business Council and the National Youth Development Agency amongst others to ensure that all operations were above acceptable standards.
Regarding Bi-lateral engagements with strategic stakeholders in the NSI to bolster the product offering to the identified stakeholders, there were standing engagements with the National Intellectual Property Management office (NIPMO), the National Advisory council for Innovation, the Center for Public Sector innovation (CPSI) amongst others, to ensure beneficial synergy from those collaborations.
TIA managed to overcome its negative publicity in the media through advertising and was recalibrating its programmes to the specific constitutes that it served. This was achieved through stakeholder engagement surveys among other initiatives. Regarding the improvements in the organizational structure, a new unit, ‘PRIME’ was formed that focused on Planning, Risk, Intelligence, Monitoring and Evaluation. TIA was also in the process of going through ISO certification to regulate all the process and attain consistency. Regarding performance calibration, program performance indicators was aligned to individual performance indicators.
Regarding TIA’s financial performance, economic impact tests were conducted since 2011. To ensure no future governance breaches, there were audits on all legacy projects to ensure their continued relevance and viability. This resulted in the stream lining of processes moving forward. The cost structure improved by the reduction of operational costs and prioritizing on investments.
In effort to support vendor payments and assist SMEs with cashflow problems, TIA’s vendor payment improved from an average of 90 days to an average of 3 days. The investment turnaround time reduced from 18 months to 4 months moving forward. Regarding TIA’s accountability, an independent appeals Committee was established to review complaints on rejected application. There was also instituted independent reviews of all TIA’s programmes to ensure the continued existence of their impact value. This was achieved through business optimization processes to support continuous improvement.
The APP FY2017/18 inputs were considered from shareholders such as the DST, the previous board and stakeholders. This culminated to the common desire for a more specific and inclusive road map to how technologies were commercialized and improve internal efficiencies and eradicate stagnation in the value chain.
TIA aligned its Mid-term strategic outcomes to national policies and DST priorities in three goals; the support of commercialization of technology; increase of access to technology development and the simulation of a more response NSI. Through this TIA demonstrated that it took into consideration all the critics and comments and stretched out its targets so to ensure that all investments are relevant and worthwhile.
Regarding the budget FY2017/18, the MTEF income was projected to increase with the costs being driven by operational costs and project funding. Parliament should consider increasing the budget however so to facilitate the increase in scope of technology development, improve the speed in responding to customer needs and develop the ideas in the value chain.
Mr Koornhof inquired whether it was possible to bring down the time of investment turnaround below four months since four months was a long time in the technology world.
Mr N Paulsen (EFF) noted that during the oversight visit at the TIA facility the Committee was impressed. He inquired on how TIA determined which resources could be sourced locally and also the relationship between TIA and the innovators it funded in terms of patents that resulted thereof.
Mr Manilal replied that the baseline in terms of the turn-around times was that previously TIA had a max of 24 months but now it was down to 4 months which was the maximum lead time and not the minimum. This was to cater for the projects that needed substantial due diligence. There was also a return on investments through royalties on the innovations that TIA invested by taking equity in the companies that offered strategic advantage.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would contact TIA in case of any further needed information regarding the presentation. The Committee would meet next on Wednesday, 10 May 2017, for a presentation by the department for the Budget deliberation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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