Final Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

03 November 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) presented the final Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan in a virtual meeting. The presentation outlined the progress made in implementing the Plan, focusing on thematic priorities like addressing climate change, enhancing education, and modernising sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. The innovation and skills compact, digital economy integration, hydrogen economy development, and local vaccine manufacturing, were highlighted.

During the discussion, Members raised questions about the importance of collaboration with the Portfolio Committee on Health; the involvement of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in hydrogen innovation; the implementation timeframes; progress on restructuring the DSI; plans for mainstreaming small and medium enterprises (SMEs); intellectual property ownership; green hydrogen competitiveness; and efforts to address load-shedding through innovative methods.

In response, DSI representatives discussed initiatives involving the TVET colleges, budget coordination efforts, and collaboration with other government departments. They shared details about the Hydrogen Society Roadmap, intellectual property ownership, SME support, and the transportation of hydrogen using various methods. The DSI also provided updates on the innovation and skills compact, partnerships with the private sector, and plans for strengthening the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI).

It described its ongoing work with different departments, emphasising collaboration and breaking down silos. They addressed concerns about skills development, protection of intellectual property, and the hydrogen economy's broader applications beyond energy. Despite funding challenges, it also shared its progress on the DSI restructuring process and plans for skills audits.

Meeting report

The meeting commenced with the record of apologies. The Chairperson said the Committee looked forward to hearing the progress made on the Decadal Plan. The Committee has pressed that the Department moved toward its implementation.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee appreciated the support of the Department in preparing for the international study tour to Switzerland.

She emphasised that when one looked at the work other countries were doing in science and innovation, this reaffirmed the Committee’s “obsession” with implementing and integrating the Decadal Plan into other government departments. When looking at how other countries prioritise research and development, one needs to reflect and see how the Decadal Plan could be used to bring the private sector on board. In other countries, the private sector plays a large part in investing in research and development and SA needs to reflect on this. She hoped the presentation touched on increasing the private sector's investment in research and development.

Final Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan

Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Technology Innovation, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), led his team in the presentation of the Department's final Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Decadal Plan.  

He said the presentation sought to update the Committee on STI on progress concerning:

  • The implementation highlights of the Decadal Plan's thematic priorities, in partnership with other departments;
  • The innovation and skills compact;
  • The updated strategic management model for STI; and
  • The STI public budget coordination process

Implementation highlights

The DSI had started implementing the Decadal Plan in the current financial year. The Plan emphasised thematic priorities, including addressing societal challenges such as climate change, the future of education, skills and work, and modernising specific sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and mining through science, technology, and innovation.

Innovation and skills compact

The focus was on ensuring that the economy was equipped with the skills of the future. The compact was highlighted as a crucial area for achieving this goal.

Digital economy and circular economy:

Emphasis was placed on integrating the digital economy and circular economy principles into sectors like manufacturing, agriculture and mining, aiming to cut costs and reduce waste through recycling and reusing materials.

Hydrogen economy:

The presentation outlined the development of a hydrogen society roadmap, focusing on producing and utilising green hydrogen for various applications, including transport and energy-intensive industries.

Vaccine manufacturing:

The DSI discussed efforts to strengthen the research and development capabilities for vaccine manufacturing in response to pandemics. This included the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and plans for manufacturing vaccines locally to reduce dependence on imports.

Local procurement of pharmaceuticals:

Challenges in local procurement of pharmaceuticals were addressed, and a task team was established to develop a policy framework to support local manufacturing and align procurement practices.

Collaboration and partnerships:

The presentation emphasised the importance of collaboration between government departments, private sectors, communities and international partners, to successfully implement the Decadal Plan and achieve its goals.

(See presentation for more details)


The Chairperson expressed her gratitude to Dr Moufhe for his insightful, succinct and clear presentation. She said that it was reassuring to see the work being done to improve the country’s pharmaceutical capacity, which was a matter of great concern to citizens and the committee. She suggested a joint committee meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Health to share the progress made in their Department. She believed this would be beneficial in guiding the DSI in the right direction.

She also inquired about including technical colleges in the work on hydrogen innovations or technologies, particularly through the hydrogen society roadmap. She emphasised the importance of strengthening artisanal skills within the hydrogen innovation space. She commented that the presentation had ended with Slide 40, but additional slides were sent to them. Some of these slides discussed cross-expenditure and research and development, which she felt addressed some of her earlier concerns.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) expressed her appreciation for the presentation, acknowledging the work being done in the public sector. She stressed the importance of recognising the capabilities of individuals employed in specific areas within the government. She had been able to follow the journey with the DSI in terms of science and innovation. She commended them for demonstrating the relevance of innovation as a key enabler for economic development in their decadal Plan. She mentioned the tour to Switzerland, where they were able to see, touch, and feel the work being done internationally, affirming the capabilities of their team. She raised a question about their participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Conference, expressing interest in their presentation on the secular economy to drive South African trade. She noted that many of the topics discussed at the conference were areas where the Department had made progress.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) asked about the next key steps concerning the implementation of the Decadal Plan and the time frames attached to these steps. He inquired about specific actions and outcomes that could be reported concerning the work of the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on STI to date. He also asked about the progress made in strengthening the chief executive officer (CEO) to fulfil the needs envisioned in the decadal Plan. He wanted to know about the progress made with restructuring the Department of Science and Innovation, and its programmes to realise the needs of the Decadal Plan. He asked about the envisaged changes, if any, the challenges faced, and the time frames attached to the proposed changes. Lastly, he asked about the progress reported concerning any planning work undertaken, such as timeframes set, around the STI priorities and goals of the Decadal Plan.

Mr K Pillay (ANC) expressed his appreciation for the presentation and commended the good work being done. He asked about the key short-term actions around the innovation compact, and the progress that could be reported so far. He inquired about any specific commitments and actions attached to the Innovation Compact and the departments to which these commitments and actions are related. He also asked about alternative and innovative methods being used to address load shedding. He mentioned a pilot at some Department of Home Affairs (DHA) offices, and asked if they could share some of these innovative ideas that were being piloted and rolled out.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) inquired about the ownership of the intellectual property (IP) of these projects, such as the CO2X, the green hydrogen, and others. He said these projects were capital intensive, and asked about the Department’s programmes to ensure the inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and advance the transformation agenda. He asked about the investment required for each of the catalytic projects and how much had already been secured. He also inquired about the competitiveness of green hydrogen in terms of pricing and transportation compared to traditional fuels. He suggested that green hydrogen should not be limited to the sphere of energy alone, as it had multiple uses. He questioned whether it would be correct not to associate the term ‘energy’ with ‘green hydrogen.’ Lastly, he asked about the Department’s Plan for mainstreaming SMEs and leading the transformation agenda, emphasising the importance of accommodating new entrants into the market and developing skills.


Dr Moufhe discussed the involvement of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in the work of the hydrogen economy. He mentioned a training programme started with the University of Pretoria that had recruited TVET students from all over the country, marking the beginning of their involvement in the green hydrogen economy. He referred to the budget coordination effort to bring on board government departments that were innovation-intensive, to contribute towards science, technology and innovation. He said that according to the strategies within the Department of Health, they needed to avail at least 1% of their budget for research and development (R&D). The Innovation Fund, where a certain amount of money was put in and the private sector came on board with their own money, was one way to increase the contribution by various government departments. He acknowledged the question about AGOA and confirmed the Department’s involvement in the AGOA engagement, adding that he would be attending the AGOA engagement after the presentation.

Regarding the hydrogen society roadmap, they had identified which department would be responsible for what. Following the launch of the roadmap, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) launched the green hydrogen commercialisation strategy, creating a seamless flow of work between the departments. They would finish the STI circular economy strategy by mid-next year. They were in informal discussions with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) about leading the process of the national strategy beyond STI. He also mentioned the development of a system with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for registering waste pickers, and an agreement that had been signed. In terms of digital capabilities, they had started engagements with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT).

Dr Moufhe said there was collaboration between different government departments to ensure clear roles and responsibilities, particularly in terms of investment. A follow-up meeting was scheduled before the end of the year. Progress has been made with the IMC, including updating and upgrading memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with various government departments, such as the DFFE and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). He also mentioned ongoing work with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE).

He stressed the importance of strengthening collaboration and joint planning between government departments to break down the silo mentality. The appointment of the CEO was a significant step in strengthening the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), and there were plans to build a pool of people to assist the NACI on various assignments. He referred to a pilot project at the One Military Hospital, where they were using hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative source of energy. This initiative was part of a broader plan to expand this approach to other government departments requiring uninterrupted electricity provision.

Dr Moufhe began to address the questions raised by the Committee Members. He discussed the Department’s work in the area of mobility, specifically their collaboration with a women-owned company that was looking at the commercialisation of certain intellectual property (IP). They had an active order book and had engaged various parts manufacturers to start piloting this in the transportation sector. They had also engaged various small malls that wanted to move to electric fuel cells.

He mentioned various modalities for the transportation of hydrogen, including pipelines for local transportation and trucks for longer distances. He also highlighted the use of ammonia as a carrier for hydrogen due to its chemical composition (NH3), making it one of the best hydrogen carriers. This allowed for the transportation of hydrogen in liquefied form as ammonia, which was currently one of the ways grey hydrogen was transported. He said there were three centres of competence -- catalysis at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Mintech, infrastructure at Northwest University and the CSIR, and systems at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The focus at the infrastructure centre was on storage and transport, with research being conducted on the most stable methods of dealing with hydrogen.

He explained the concept of Background IP and Foreground IP in the context of projects like the Carbon Dioxide to X project. In such a project, where multiple parties were involved, each party owned the IP they brought into the project. However, any new IP generated during the project was shared among the parties, usually following the funding model. This ensured that the distribution of IP ownership was fair and proportional to the contribution of each party.

Dr Moufhe also discussed the support for SMEs and aspects of transformation, and said there had been the establishment of a new ecosystem of small enterprises in that particular area. This included the creation of various parks, such as a battery park and electrolysers park. These parks would house small parts manufacturers contributing to the battery and electrolyser sectors, among others. The aim was to establish a new ecosystem of small enterprises in this area.

He agreed with the point that the hydrogen economy was not just about energy, but also included various chemicals used in industrial applications. He acknowledged that green hydrogen was currently more expensive than grey hydrogen, but pointed out that several factors shifted the momentum towards green hydrogen, including the drive for a cleaner environment and the potential for green hydrogen to become cost-competitive with grey hydrogen as the hydrogen economy grew. He also mentioned the commercialisation strategy launched by the DTIC, which aimed to support the supply of small enterprises.

Mr Imraan Patel, DDG: Research Development and Support, DSI, discussed developing a master skills plan and a human resource development strategy in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). This involved identifying the skills requirements across the value chain for the hydrogen bio-economy and other areas, with the aim of factoring these into the master skills plan. He mentioned the innovation and skills compact, which aimed to secure commitment from the private sector and other social partners. One of the key elements of this compact was the creation of a fund and a programme at the presidential level to drive targeted development of PhDs in South Africa. Initially seeded by the National Skills Fund (NSF) to the value of R1 billion, the fund aimed to provide well-rounded support for PhD development, including international exposure and post-doctoral positions. He also mentioned the potential for co-funding and the interest of several private sector players in the proposal. He highlighted the opportunities to send young people to established and new international partners through the Plex Forum to secure targeted PhD opportunities, which would be a key part of the innovation and skills compact.

Dr Cosmas Chiteme, Director: Hydrogen and Energy, DSI, provided additional information on the progress made in implementing the hydrogen society roadmap. He mentioned the successful demonstration of CO22X technology at a cement plant in Limpopo, and plans for further demonstrations at a coal-fired power plant. There had been collaboration with Sasol and the National Research Foundation to establish research chairs on the green hydrogen economy, with a focus on training PhD students in both industrial and academic environments.

He said deployments of technology at various locations, including the DHA offices, the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) offices in Pretoria, and the disaster management centre in KwaZulu-Natal, aimed to alleviate load-shedding and support critical infrastructure. Research was being conducted at North West University on liquid organic hydrogen carrier technology, allowing for cost-effective hydrogen transportation. There were also partnerships with the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) for student training in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and energy storage. He said these students had a high absorption rate into the private sector following their internships.

Ms Gugulethu ZwaneDeputy Director-General: Institutional Planning and Support, DSI, provided an update on strengthening the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). They were currently amending the NACI Act with assistance from the DSI’s legal unit. Regarding building and financing, which also affected the strengthening of NACI, they were already starting to augment areas by filling vacancies in the Council. She also touched on the restructuring process, which included the potential migration of 62 NACI personnel and the development of a business case almost ready to be submitted to the Department.

She said they had made strides in clarifying the roles of NACI and DSI within the national system of innovation. The restructuring of the department was slightly behind schedule, but still on track. The service delivery model was currently being drafted and was expected to be submitted to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) by the end of November. A planned skills audit was also to identify gaps and potential retraining needs. She acknowledged the challenges posed by funding constraints, but expressed confidence in finding a way to recruit the necessary skills.

The Chairperson, in closing, said the engagement was clear however there were issues to take forward for further discussion and even for inclusion in the Committee’s Legacy Report.

Committee minutes and reports

The Committee considered and adopted the Budgetary Report and Recommendation Reports (BRRRs) of the DHET and DSI.

The Committee's minutes of 18 and 20 October were also adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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