Hansard: Appropriation Bill: Debate on Vote No 31 - Science and Technology
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 17 Jun 2009
No summary available.
START OF DAY
Debate on Vote No 31 – Science and Technology:
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, chair of the portfolio committee, Dr Nqaba Ngcobo, members of the executive, Deputy Minister Hanekom, hon members, distinguished guests in the gallery and members of my family - my lovely children, I hope that this afternoon, Deputy Minister Hanekom and I will present you with a very clear picture of the immense opportunities for development that exist in science. Much has been done in the past decade to give life to these opportunities and former Minister Mangena must be applauded for his sterling contribution. [Applause.] This administration will build on the foundation that has been laid.
The world has changed fundamentally from the spend-thrift world of just two years ago. Countries and parliaments are fully alert to the fact that if they are to direct their economies to a new path of growth, traditional approaches to socioeconomic development will not suffice. All countries are trying to define a new way - one that leads to prosperity, inclusion, collaboration and creative ways of using knowledge and skills.
If one listens to discussions in policy networks and world parliaments, all are agreed that future growth will depend on expanding investment in science, technology and innovation. It is only countries and companies that make a sustained and well-designed investment in human capital that will be globally competitive in the future.
The key priorities elaborated by our President recently for this government are health, education, jobs, rural development and agrarian reform, and the combating of crime. Each of them has a direct link to our work in science and technology. Better health-care provision will require new medical remedies, efficient medical technology, and an indigenous pharmaceutical production capacity so that all are able to access cheaper medicine.
Innovation is vital for a country that faces the challenges of creating sustainable jobs and improving living standards. The identification and use of new sources of energy, confronting and eliminating diseases, developing new treatments, expanding communication, manufacturing new products, and using new technologies all depend on our investment in science and innovation.
We've made welcome progress as a country in creating and supporting a robust innovation system.
In this financial year we intend to give increased attention to strengthening partnerships among universities, among colleges and enterprises that have a positive track record in research and development and in promoting technology and innovation. In this regard we'll also promote direct collaboration with innovative private sector leaders in science, technology and innovation.
Our awards and recognition for established, new, and aspiring researchers and science and technology workers will be expanded so that we seek out talent, reward talent, and put talent to work on making South Africa smarter and more effective.
The department will also give attention to encouraging co-ordinated government action at national, provincial and local spheres. Many departments support innovation - we need to integrate our efforts without stifling creativity. Ministers responsible for research councils and other innovation bodies need to work and plan together. In fact I would say we need to consider whether research councils should exist under different Ministries and whether it wouldn't make better sense to have them existing under one which co-ordinates more effectively.
The Department of Science and Technology has been given the task of developing a National Science and Technology Expenditure Plan to provide a coherent approach to government science and technology investment. I have been very pleased to note the collaboration that exists between the Departments of Trade and Industry, Public Enterprises, Science and Technology, Agriculture and Health. And it's that kind of collaboration that will inform the technology expenditure plan that we shall develop and present to this House.
Early analysis indicates that government in South Africa spends about R10 billion in scientific and technological activities. We need to derive maximum value from that expenditure. Our economic success will be shaped by the degree to which we successfully anticipate the future. The future will be shaped and transformed by new technologies. We need to ensure that we have a new generation of scientists. We need to work to turn South Africa into a knowledge-based society, and this requires that our schools, universities and colleges offer high-level skills training for all our people; training that will make them globally competitive yet locally relevant. The departments of Science and Technology, Basic Education and Higher Education will have to work closely together to ensure that we offer quality learning opportunities to future scientists.
It would appear to be true that whenever countries face economic downturns, the first thing they do is cut budgets for research and development. However, if one looks at past histories, there are very clear well-known examples of countries that have invested heavily in science and technology during a recession. I'm thinking here of Finland and Korea who are excellent examples in this regard. In the 1990s Finland faced a very serious economic crisis. Most public expenditure was cut across the board, except for research and development. Research and development investment was raised by Finland. In particular, the Finish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation played a central role in laying a strong basis for an economic rebound. And all of us know the success that Finland has made out of Nokia and other technology-based industries.
We undertake to increase financial support for science, technology and innovation. Just look at the figures. Over the past five years government has improved funding to science and technology. The budget has grown from a mere R2 billion in 2005-06 to R5,1 billion projected for 2011-12. In this financial year our budget will be R4,2 billion. Moreover, in 2006 our gross expenditure on research and development was just over R16,5 billion. Respectable figures, but we have to acknowledge that, although these figures come close to our target of 1% of Gross Domestic Product, GDP, this investment really in world terms is very modest, and that now is the time to increase our target beyond 1% of GDP funding for research – if we want to do better.
Other countries are spending more - much more. China and India, in particular, are investing in their own potential for success. China is fast becoming the largest exporter of products in the high-end Information and Communications Technologies, ICT, industry, and through its 2005 decision to rejuvenate and promote its economy, India has substantially grown its research and development budgets for the public funding of science research and education. We need to build aggressively on these lessons and on our strengths to realise our potential.
Knowledge and innovation depend on us having skilled and educated people. We are investing in advanced education, advanced research and professional development. We are encouraging in the department talented South Africans and immigrants to take advantage of South Africa as a place to live and work. And we are ensuring that we support them to perform to their full potential.
In 2007 our government introduced the South African Research Chairs Initiative. With this initiative, we have given universities the resources to attract and retain top scientists, and they have access to the funding and infrastructure that will enable them to perform at the leading edge. We are committing R150 million over three years for new research chairs. By December 2008, we had 72 research chairs awarded in key areas aligned to our national priorities, and a total of 374 postgraduate students had been supported through supervision and mentorship by these chairs.
The process of awarding research chairs has unfortunately progressed more slowly than anticipated, but this year we will award 10 more research chairs, bringing the total to 82 in 2009.
C/W We also intend to approach influential ....
C/W: We also intend to approach influential ....
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: We also intend to approach influential media organisations to secure their support in popularising innovation. Young people have to be encouraged to be innovative and to develop their exciting ideas into business initiatives. As government we must tap into the youth's affinity for exploring new technology. We should examine how young people use Facebook and Twitter as virtual science tutorial rooms, and tap into their efficacy with such technology.
Many people do not realise that within science and innovation there lies the opportunity for many significant skills development opportunities as well as jobs. We provide bursaries, for example, for undergraduates through our department, master's candidates, doctoral and postdoctoral students. This training requires support from well-trained science technologists and if we could expand the training of technologists in our universities of technology we would be increasing the pool of knowledge workers that would support high-end research and thus ensure we have many more young people building the new research pool for South Africa.
We have designed incentives and a framework for scarce skills that recognises that knowledge cannot be bound by borders. We encourage scientists in the Diaspora to come back to South Africa for work visits or collaborative virtual research. We have hundreds of scientists who are South African in universities all over the world. We must create opportunities for them to work with us in South Africa, without binding them to be fully or permanently resident in our country. These interventions require a research infrastructure that supports a national innovation system. Worn-out laboratories, old machinery and thus disillusioned neglected scientists will not give us the kind of results we want.
Seventeen years ago state supported institutions in South Africa led in several areas of science: agriculture, electrical technology and mining engineering. Much of this infrastructure has, in the past 17 years, been allowed to deteriorate due to neglect and the lack of appreciation as to its impact on our scientific world ranking. Infrastructure attracts world scientists, allows for the development of new ideas, new technology and innovation.
The excellent progress we've seen in the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is visible testimony of how a country can benefit from its natural attributes and from a focused strategic investment.
South Africa and Australia have been shortlisted in the final phase of the world search to build the most efficient and advanced radio telescope. Austrian colleagues tell me they are hoping to beat us, as we have beaten them in cricket and rugby, and I have informed them there is no way they will beat us with this one. [Applause.]
We have been successful, up to this point, due to the skills and talent that we have in our country, due to the investment we have made, due to the world interest in such an exciting project. The winning country for the Square Kilometre Array will be announced in 2011. We are working very hard to ensure that South Africa is the winning country. We have two more years of a need for sustained and committed support for this project. Let us not allow anyone to deny the SKA the funding it needs for us to get to completion. If we do sowe'lllose out on a world achievement. Both of us, Australia and South Africa are busy building demonstration telescopes to develop the necessary technology and to illustrate our ability to meet scientific research expectations. Our demonstration telescope called the Meerkat would be fully assembled by 2010. This is a Meerkat. [Laughter.]
As part of this development, we have taken steps to protect the ideal radio astronomy conditions offered by the Karoo area. Whoever thought the Karoo would be a world site for such a scientific development? We have passed through the past Parliament the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act, which aims to preserve our geographic advantage, our climate and our clear skies, for astronomy research infrastructure. We've begun to explore the commercial potential of publicly funded research. Our new legislative framework on intellectual property will support academic and public research institutions in identifying intellectual property with likely commercial potential and we will hope to forge partnerships between them and the private sector.
We will, of course, pursue these objectives with careful attention to the experience of other systems that have shown that freedom to investigate and explore gives the most enduring and effective results. Public institutions will be encouraged to include innovation in their strategic plans and our universities with the potential for business-linked research will be supported to pursue knowledge-based partnerships. We are considering how we could develop new partnerships with universities that will allow them to more vigorously contribute to advancing innovation and technology.
Many countries in the world have begun to turn to something that we had become wise to several years ago, through the leadership of Dr Wally Serote, and that is the development and support of indigenous knowledge systems. Our branch for community partnerships for science and innovation has begun to develop very promising partnerships for promoting research and innovation on indigenous knowledge systems.
We believe that in the area of indigenous pharmaceuticals, there are untapped opportunities for economic growth, skills and job creation, and our Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has begun to lead health research, which has led to the development of a herbal extract for the treatment of mild asthma, colds, influenza and sinus problems. The results have pointed to the mode of action through which this traditional remedy acts, and it is the first scientific evidence that validates the traditional use of the plant form which the extract is made from for treating asthma - very interesting results about the efficacy of indigenous health knowledge.
Our science councils are also making enormous contributions to the fulfilment of our objectives, particularly those aimed at alleviating the plight of the poor. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is hosting research projects that intend to develop construction technologies for affordable, sustainable, high quality housing for middle to low-income earners. We, in fact, have a very interesting project right here in the Western Cape in which the CSIR is participating in the building of houses using this new technology.
We are better positioned, we believe, to weather the current economic recession than many countries, owing to our commitment to large-scale infrastructure development. This offers opportunities for real technology investment. We have a unique window of opportunity to capture a greater share of the spending for infrastructure to improve science, technology and innovation and allow South African companies to progress down the value chain to become globally competitive suppliers.
We've also designed a technology localisation strategy that will provide tailor-made technology assistance packages to companies that are potential suppliers to original equipment manufacturers or to their first-tier suppliers. We may, in fact, support South African companies to secure the benefits of this massive R787 billion infrastructure build programme. The first areas of focus in this localisation strategy are the foundry industry, as part of the Eskom and Transnet infrastructure programmes, and the electronics industry in relation to the mass roll out of set-top boxes that will be required as we move to digital broadcasting. We also will be implementing the National Space Strategy approved by Cabinet in December 2008. We are also promoting and supporting the use of cutting edge technologies to address key local information communication and technology challenges. For many years, our department has been making strides in developing the ability to become a competitive leader in the innovation technology arena, and I'm very pleased to present to hon members the budget for the Department of Science and Technology.
Finally, let me say, we also are interested in supporting education through the use of technology. We have developed an innovation that will assist young people in our schools in a very cheap way to access information through Wikipedia and other internet-based applications in order to have information that supports their study and their research.
Chairperson, I hope you and the hon members will support my proposal that we as South Africa and this Parliament, in particular, must make a very robust effort to locate science, technology and innovation at the centre of development in South Africa. Thank you, Chairperson, the Director-General and officials in the department, plus the Deputy Minister for their support and understanding, and I move this Budget. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr E N N NGCOBO
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr E N N NGCOBO: Chairperson. First, allow me to greet the hon Minister and congratulate her on her new appointment in the environment of technology. I would also like to do the same with the Deputy Minister, because coming back here is not automatic, and he should therefore also be congratulated. His Excellency the Director-General and his delegation, leaders of the science councils and the department entities, hon Members of Parliament, welcome to the debate on Budget Vote 31: Science and Technology.
The pursuit of the goals of freedom from want, hunger, deprivation, ignorance, suppression of human talents, fear and intimidation is fundamental to the guarantee of human rights and dignity, as set out in our Constitution, the most progressive constitution in the world. Following from the afore-mentioned statement, the potential role of science and technology in the pursuit of freedom in the world is unquestionable.
It follows from this potential role in the national economy that in 2004 the Department of Science and Technology was separated from the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, which was located in the social services cluster, eventually to be moved to the economics cluster.
The principal goals of the Department of Science and Technology are to develop the innovation capacity, as the Minister has just said, of the sciences and contribute to socioeconomic development, in accordance with the ANC government's priorities as set out in its election manifesto in the following categories: A budget that ensures economic growth; investment in the productive capacity of the state; tackling poverty and unemployment as a priority; creating sustainable jobs; investment in human capacity, especially skills; expanding the social security net; improving the effectiveness of the state; combating crime; and, finally, promotion of a service-oriented public administration.
This year's budget has been critical for the ANC, coming out of a very successful 52nd national conference with resolutions that reflect continuity and change. The ANC has started the next five-year programme and the task that faces the ANC currently is how practically the Polokwane resolutions will be assigned to the task and responsibilities of government and legislatures respectively. In this regard, the budget must speak to these priorities in a practical and demonstrable fashion. Interestingly, the 2009 Budget continues to reflect the policy priorities emerging from the 2004 ANC election manifesto, with of course greater emphasis on the 52nd national conference resolution this time round. This consistency in ANC policy development trends only confirms that ANC rule in South Africa will only be given a break when the Almighty Lord Jesus returns to our world, and this seems to be in the very distant future! [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, there is often confusion to the effect that the development, and the diffusion into the economy, of science and technology are the sole responsibility of the government of the day. On the contrary, the importance of science and technology should be recognised by society as a whole, be it industry, civil society, the education sector, the research community, etc.
A people-orientated approach to the development of science and technology infrastructure is one that is rooted in the following outcomes and values: Firstly, the enhancement of quality of life of all South Africans; secondly, the promotion of competitiveness and the creation of employment; thirdly, the promotion of digital citizens and an information society; fourthly, the promotion of environmentally sustainable surroundings and biodiversity; fifthly, the development of human resources and talents, especially in the historically disadvantaged communities; sixthly, the generation of marketable products and services to a level that is globally competitive; and lastly, the development of scarce skills technologies so as to enhance the global competitiveness of South Africa in technology, etc.
Working together with the wider world in the area of scarce skills technologies such as cryogenic engineering and vacuum technology, fuel cell technology, nanotechnologies, space science, hydrogen and carbon economy, etc, I think that we can do more than what we are currently doing in our domestic effort. It will probably be useful at this juncture to give a brief overview of what these scarce skills technologies can do to benefit our economy as well as our citizens, with the Department of Science and Technology in the driving seat.
For instance, fuel cell technologies and all space technology that has now been brought down to earth date back to 1800s, but it was not until the 20th century that it was used successfully to promote electricity and water in space crafts. The German spacecraft mission is testimony to this argument.
Furthermore, fuel cell technology development on an industrial scale basis will certainly benefit South Africa economically, as its successful application depends on platinum as a catalyst and South Africa is one of only two world exporters of platinum metal, if we include Russia.
As for nanotechnology, the same applies. Nanotechnology is an umbrella term that covers many areas of research dealing with objects measured in nanometres. A nanometre is the equivalent of a billionth of a metre - represented in numbers, it is about 0,000 000 0001 m, very small, ten to the power of minus 9. [Laughter.]
The goal of nanotechnology is to manufacture goods at molecular level. Our bodies are built out of tissue cells at molecular level and therefore represent the best testimony to the success of nanotechnology in nature. It is therefore envisaged that the benefits of nanotechnology will be that: Famine could be eradicated by machines that fabricate food to feed the hungry; the computer industry could greatly benefit if computer components were shrunk to nanodimensions, since trillions of bytes of information could be stored in a structure the size of a sugar cube; and climate problems could partly be addressed as nanorobots invisible to the human eye begin to be sent to the skies to mend the ozone layer, which has been damaged by high carbon products that we burn here on earth. Likewise, the medical industry can also benefit greatly, as patients are being made to drink fluid medicines containing nanorobots that have been programmed to attack and destroy viruses and cancer cells that are difficult to access using ordinary conventional drugs because of their very minute dimensions of nanolevels, etc.
Hon Chairperson, human resource development in science and technology is also an area of focus of the Department of Science and Technology, and a very important component linked to the initiative based on innovation in science and education. Education in science and technology can respond to the real needs of our society and the country only when it is practical, relevant and appropriate. Our teaching methodology should emphasise problem solving and decision-making. Curricula should relate to local content, not only by way of development of technical skills, but also by being rooted in the principles based on military philosophy and revolutionary science.
The time has now come in our era of national liberation when we have to start transforming our education system to be compatible with the goals of our national democratic revolution. The time has come for us to start preparing and producing doctors, engineers and scientists who will understand the origins and implications of historical and dialectical materialism; who understand the difference between objective and subjective conditions in addressing the challenges of our society; and who understand where rice or cheese come from.
In a nutshell, we should produce technical specialists and scientists who are a true reflection of the success of the national democratic transformation processes. Such transformation processes in education of science and technology can only be realised if the Department of Education begins to adopt an approach whereby there is a clear and indivisible interplay and interaction between physics and philosophy, just to put it bluntly, as was done in the former socialist countries, where some of us were trained.
What can science and technology do to alleviate poverty and create decent employment? In the decade of economic growth that preceded the global financial crisis, outstanding achievement was realised in the context of stronger global integration. Millions were lifted out of poverty and many poorer countries registered higher rates of growth and advanced their developmental goals.
On the African continent the fastest growth rates since independence brought the Millennium Development Goals within reach and created real hope for a better future. But these achievements were built upon an unsustainable economic model, a model premised on the view now shown to be erroneous, that unregulated markets are stable and that the high carbon economic model was the answer to globalisation.
In this regard the ANC has emphasised that transformation of the economy cannot emerge spontaneously from the invisible hand of the market, whilst the International Commission on Climate Change and Energy Security has issued a declaration to the G20 and G13+5 countries, in which the G13 comprises of the G8+G5 countries and the G3 comprises of Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.
I happen to serve on this international commission. The commission has identified four pillars in order to address climate change and energy security. These are: mitigation, adaptation, science and technology, and finance. In his keynote address to the 2nd meeting of the international commission in Rome, Italy, the chairman of the commission, who is also the energy and environmental advisor to President Obama, Senator Edward Markey, stressed that technology will be needed on our way to a low carbon future, adding that the development, improvement and deployment of technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration will be of great importance.
The department, as led by Dr Phil Mjwara, the Director-General, also made a submission last week during our interaction on their strategic plans for the current year, that, in so far as energy security was concerned, the race was already on for a safe, clean, affordable and reliable energy supply. South Africa must meet its medium-term energy supply requirements while innovating for the long-term in clean cold technologies, nuclear energy, renewable energy and the promise of the hydrogen economy.
South Africa's geographic position enables our country to play a leading role in climate change science. The president of Globe International, the Hon Stephen Byers, addressing the same G13 forum on climate change ... [Interjections.] ... in Rome on Friday the 12th, stressed that responses to global environmental challenges cannot be tackled by environmental ministers acting in isolation, but instead require enlightened policy interventions across the full range of ministerial portfolios.
Supporting this above-mentioned position indirectly, the Director-General of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr Mjwara, during their deliberations before the portfolio committee, added that South Africa as a leading voice amongst the developing countries should contribute to a greater global understanding of shifting social dynamics and the role of science in sustaining growth and development.
Yet, on the contrary, our House Chairperson of Committees, hon Obed Bapela, does not see any role for science and technology on matters of climate and energy security. [Interjections.] He argues that climate problems are a competence of energy and environmental portfolios. Hence, my participation in this historic Rome conference was officially turned down by this hon House Chairperson, on more than three occasions of my persuasion efforts highlighting the importance of South Africa participating at the cost of the overseas funders of the conference.
The International Commission on Climate and Energy Security believes that the development of cleaner technologies and a shift from high carbon economic planning to low carbon economic planning will guarantee the creation of many jobs in the world economy as well as alleviate poverty in poorer countries. This is in line with our Polokwane resolutions on the promotion of renewable energy use as well as energy efficiency.
South Africa's position in the G13 commission is clear and seems to be accepted so far and that is: That developed economies must demonstrate concrete support to developing countries to overcome the barriers in respect of low-cost mitigation options such as energy efficiency and renewable energies; that developed economies must double their support for public climate research and development by 2012 with a fourfold increase by 2020; collaborative research and development with sharing of intellectual property rights by the partner institutions; the readiness for funding the development and demonstration of at least 20 carbon capture storage demo plants and 250 gigawatt capacity of concentrated solar power in developing countries; and the urgent priority to secure the carbon market by sending a clear market signal about the climate regime after 2012. These are our positions in the international commission as South Africa, supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
In a nutshell, the answer to the recent global financial crunch needs a decisive, well-co-ordinated, integrated plan to move the whole world from a high carbon economic planning to a small recovery package based on low carbon economy and low carbon stimulus.
Hon Chairperson, I will end my speech by quoting Law 29 of what is called The 48 Laws of Power. This law says:
Plan all the way to the end. The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end, you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead. [Interjections.]
Hon Speaker, we support Budget Vote 31. [Applause.]
Ms S V KALYAN
Mr E N N NGCOBO
Ms S V KALYAN: Madam Chairperson, the Minister of Science and Technology appears to have a real passion and energy for her new portfolio. However, I would like to bring the Minister back from orbit to earth and share a few a realities. Before I proceed, I would like to ask the hon Ngcobo whether his claim that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes, is based on scientific facts? [Interjections.]
The editorial in the April 2009 South African Journal of Science states that the Ministry of Science and Technology has never realised its potential in terms of placing the development of science and technology at the centre of government policies. It suggests, and I'm inclined to concur that the major challenge facing the Minister is to position the department to play precisely this role as opposed to merely acting as a conduit for funds, as seems to be the current situation. The article goes on to suggest that the Minister should consider appointing a chief scientist to government to assist in this task. I would be interested to hear the Minister's view on this suggestion.
In the face of the world economic crisis, we need to be focusing on how we can bring real improvement to people's lives; where innovation, new ways of doing business, stopping and preventing health epidemics and creating opportunities is the centre of our focus.
We have rich resources, but our regulatory system sometimes discourages innovation instead of stimulating it. As a result we are lacking both in a high-tech skills base and intellectual capacity that is needed to compete with the best in the world. In fact, South Africa is declining in competitive rankings and we currently sit at 53rd position in World Competitiveness.
Professor Dyasi, a South African specialist in scientific education, has criticised the unscientific teaching of science in South African schools. He is of the opinion that if authorities do not correct the serious problems of the incorrect teaching of science, the country's political, economic and cultural development will suffer. This is a serious indictment indeed, and I hope that the Minister will address his comments and ensure that our education system ground South Africans in the knowledge and skills that will allow and encourage them to use their talents to the maximum to innovate.
The department's aim to produce 3 000 science, engineering and technology PhDs a year by 2018 is both ambitious and unreachable. The National Research Foundation, NRF, has cut funding by almost R5 million. The speculation is that this money has been channelled to fund the newly created Technology Innovation Centre and Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centre. If this is indeed true, then the Minister is taking money away from people who will drive South Africa's future innovative potential in order to fund yet another government bureaucracy.
According to the NRF, South Africa needs to produce about 6 000 PhD graduates to ensure that the country stays competitive in global knowledge economy. Presently, only 4 out 10 projects and 3 out of 10 students are funded. That's not a recipe for success. South Africa needs more PhD students, not fewer. These funding cuts are in direct contradiction with the Department of Education's goals and the NRF needs to review its funding strategy or face losing skilled graduates to greener pastures.
One of the key objectives of Programme 2, that is, research, development and innovation, is to reduce the disease burden in South Africa by establishing four centres of competence for research and development on TB, malaria, HIV/Aids and improved medical devices in 2009-10.
During the period under review, R17 million was unspent. The main contributor to the unspent funds is the South African Aids Vaccine Initiative with a budget of R15 million, of which R7,3 million will be returned to National Treasury on the grounds of unsatisfactory deliverables. It would appear that this process is derailed because of a dispute over areas of responsibility and funding. [Interjections.] Now, given that more than 5,5 million South Africans are living with HIV; that in the past 25 years 1,8 million have died of Aids-related diseases and that more than 630 000 people are on ARVs, it is unfortunate that this ray of hope - this plan to produce an affordable, effective and locally manufactured HIV/Aids vaccine is on the brink of collapse because of fights in our own backyard. It appears once again that the Technology Innovation Agency will benefit at the expense of the trial, therefore, this objective will not be achieved.
Yet another departmental objective is to support the commercialisation of the Joule electric vehicle by demonstrating at least two new alternative energy technologies in 2009 in partnership with the DTI, Department of Trade and Industry. Can the Minister tell this House what progress has been made to realise this particular objective?
We need to build up our research capacity and stimulate innovation in all sectors of society at all levels. You can do this by accelerating your efforts to: Firstly, make the Farmer to Pharma strategy a reality - by using our indigenous resources we can become a world leader in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals; secondly, make energy security a buzzword and we can become the leading innovator in clean coal technology renewable energy; and thirdly, we should exploit South Africa's geographic position fully so as to play a leading role in climate change.
In doing so, not only will we attract innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world and retain South African skills, but we will also be recognised as a country that supports the growth of innovative activities and countries. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr P F SMITH
Ms S V KALYAN
Mr P F SMITH: Chairperson, colleagues, on behalf of the IFP, I would like to congratulate the Minister, the Deputy Minister and the Chairperson of the Committee on their appointments. I must say, however, having listened to the Chair's input, which I enjoyed, I do think his quaint references to historical materialism and science sounded like a lot of "mambo jumbo", not science. We can talk about that later.
I've got three minutes, so just three points that I would like to raise: Firstly, the Minister referred in her corporate strategy "to the fact that we measure success by the level to which science and technology play a driving role in enhancing productivity, economic growth and socioeconomic development". I would agree with the Minister, but suggest that it's actually time to do some measuring. You will have noticed in the World Economic Forum, WEF, report last week that South Africa was ranked second in terms of Africa's most productive country - Tunisia beat us. I would like to know whether we, as a country, know why Tunisia is ahead of us. Are we measuring it? Why are we second best and not first? Similarly, in respect of our contribution as science and technology to Gross Domestic Product, GDP, growth, this is a measurable thing. Do we know what the sector is contributing to economic growth, and if not, why not? If we look at our Technology Achievement Index, the last study I saw was conducted in 2001. That is the main measure by which we compare ourselves to whom we deem to be our competitors. Really, the question that I would like to ask is: are we are doing enough, and are all the trends positive?
Secondly, is regarding the share of our GDP we spend on research and development and the 1% target that we have reached or are about to reach. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the 1%. It is indeed manageable, but I want to highlight that, from an international perspective - if the Minister said the same thing in respect of China and India, although without any figures - this figure is very low. In fact, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's, OECD, average is 2,1%. And if you look at certain countries, Sweden is 4,5%, Finland 3,5%, Japan over 3%. So, we were way behind other countries. I would like to suggest, and I endorse the Minister's claim here, that we need to dramatically increase this figure. I think we should set the target at 2% over the next 10 years, from 2010 so that at about 2020 we have a 2% spending figure and it could be incrementally increased by 0,1% per annum, until we get there. The point is that you don't get knowledge of economy by being timid in your spending.
Thirdly, I heard the Minister saying there are a number of initiatives designed to address our science, engineering and technology, SET, human capacity development problems, but there are a number of serious concerns that still remain. The one that I would like to refer to initially is the fact that there is a large cohort of aging science and technology practitioners about to go. What is being done to replace them? Another is the ratio of our fulltime equivalent researchers to the population. Africa is just over two per thousand. If we look at competitive countries, we are not competent but the best, Sweden is nearly eleven per thousand. We are at two something, Sweden 11, Japan is 10, Norway is nine, France seven and a half, Russia seven and a half. These people are spending vast amounts of monies in human capital, we are not doing so.
If you look at our number of our FET researchers ... [Interjections.] [Time expired.] [Applause.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): This was mumbo jumbo!
Mr P F SMITH: I thought you want to give me notice of least another 30 seconds first, Chair.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): I believe in grace, but within the parameters of reason. Thank you.
Mr M J ELLIS: Hon Chairman, it was such a good speech that the hon Smith was making; certainly very much better than most of the speeches made by the ANC.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Is it a point of order?
Mr M J ELLIS: It can be if you would like it to be, Sir.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): It is a point of a speech?
Mr M J ELLIS: It's just merely a statement, Sir. I'm trying to suggest that the ANC should give the IFP some time, because it was a very good speech.[Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Order! When the Speaker is on the mic, all members shall sit!
Mr M J ELLIS: But my name is Mike, Sir, so I thought maybe I could carry on. [Laughter.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Hon member, there is life in this Parliament. Thank you.
Mr Z C NTULI
Mr P F SMITH
Mnu Z C NTULI: Ngiyabonga Sihlalo, ngibingelele uNgqongqoshe, uSekela Ngqongqoshe, oNgqongqoshe bonke namaSekela onke akhona, amalunga ahloniphekile kanye nezithameli zethu.
Lesi sabiwomali sidingidwa ngesikhathi esinzima kakhulu njengoba sazi zonke ukuthi umnotho uwile. Ngqongqoshe, sifuna ukusho zisuka nje ebhandeni ukuthi siyaseseka lesi sabiwomali ngoba sizosiza ekuqalisweni kwezinhlelo zoMnyango ezibekelwe ukuthuthukiswa kwamakhono kwezeSayensi nobuchwepheshe ikakhulukazi kulabo bantu ababekade bencishwe amathuba.
Sinazo izinhlelo ezidinga ukusimamiswa ukuze zenabele ezindaweni zabantu abadla imbuya ngothi. Ngonyaka ka2001 uMnyango Wezemfundo wavula uhlelo olubizwa ngeDinaledi programu. Inhloso enkulu yalolu hlelo ukuthi kukhuliswe amazinga nokusebenza kangcono ezifundweni zezibalo nesayensi kulabo bantwana abavela ezindaweni ezazincishwe amathuba.
Kumele kube nengxenye yemali esetshenziselwa ukuthuthukisa uhlelo lokufunda nokufundisa ngolimi lwebele ukuze ukuthi abantwana baqonde kanconywana izifundo zesayensi nobuchwepeshe. Okunye okuyinselelo kulo Mnyango ukuthi sivele nezindlela zokusiza ukuthi kube khona izindlu zokusebenzela abaqhuba isayensi ngasinye isigceme nesigceme ezindaweni zasemalokishini kanye nezasemakhaya.
Lokhu kungasiza ukuthi abafundi, othisha kanye nomakhelwane abanolwazi kwezesayensi nobuchwepheshe bavolontiye bahlangane ndawonye ukuzosiza abafundi.
Mr AMBROSSINI: Chairperson, on a point of order: The speaker seems to be addressing...
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): I have not allowed the point of order yet. Proceed.
Mr AMBROSSINI: Chairperson, on a point of order: The speaker seems to be addressing subject matter which is not relevant to this debate. He is addressing education, rather than scientific knowledge. [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): That is not a point of order! Please proceed hon member.
Mr AMBROSSINI: Surely it is, if it is not the subject matter of the debate?
Mnu Z C NTULI: Ngokusebenza ndawonye singenza okuningi. Njengoba sikhuluma Ngqongqoshe, izinhlelo eziningi ezinikeza izifundo zesayensi nobuchwepheshe zifundiswa abafundi ngesiNgisi kanye nesiBhunu.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Hon member, for the sake of time, allowing the debate to continue, let us respect procedure. Part of that procedure is that, when the Chairperson is speaking, we all respect that. Otherwise, hon members, we will author a dishonourable situation.
Mnu Z C NTULI: Uma sibheke amazwe amaningi afana nelaseNdiya, yiJapan, China, Korea kanye namanye, asendlondlobele kakhulu emkhakheni wezesayensi nobuchwepheshe ngenxa yokufundisa nokufunda ngezilimi zabo zebele.
The development of any education system must be underpinned by the scientific appreciation and understanding that the pedagogic development of a nation is critical to its economic and social development. The structure of the education system, its curriculum and human resources must have as an objective and outcome to further the scientific and technological development of learners.
The ANC's approach to education includes, among other things, the need to address the historical distortions in our human resources in science and technology. This requires a long-term commitment to a research and development strategy that will examine the different component parts of an education system and design it in a manner that will promote scientifically conscious students, equipped with the necessary skills to develop our country at an economic and social level.
This means that the state-owned institutions, which have a strong technology mandate, must be aligned and be keenly sensitive to the development of our education system.
Adv T M MASUTHA: Chairperson, on a point of order: Is it in order for the hon Ambrossini to be reading a book and apparently not paying attention to the debate, when he should actually be listening carefully so that he does not raise frivolous points of order as he did earlier?
Mr AMBROSSINI: Chairperson, I rise on a point of privilege, since my name has been mentioned.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Again, hon member, that is not how we do it in Parliament.
Mr AMBROSSINI: Well, I am referring to the Rules. I think I may rise on a point of privilege.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): You are not allowed to speak until I have allowed you to speak. Thank you for your co-operation. If the document has to do with the debate, it would be in order. If it is a distraction from the debate, however, then it would be out of order.
Mr M J ELLIS: Chairperson, on a point of order: I have to say to you, if I may speak, sir, that your ruling is not correct. A member may read anything that he or she wants to in the House, regardless of whether it has to do with the debate or not. What I do take offence to, is the hon member from the ANC who took the first point of order. That was a totally frivolous point of order and he knows, sir, since he serves on many committees within Parliament, that would tell him, and he would know, that in actual fact it was rubbish he was talking about. He was simply trying to cause trouble. [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Hon member, you are not addressing that issue, you are addressing another member.
Mr M J ELLIS: Chairperson, I think I did address the issue. There is nothing to stop the hon Ambrossini from reading what he wants to read, as long as it is not a newspaper.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr T S Farisani): Hon members, the Rule of Law and Procedure applies to all of us and I retain the ruling that that did not cause any distraction in this House and even those who are opposing what I have said have not had an opportunity even to look at what he is reading. Please proceed hon member.
Mr Z C NTULI: This role will act as a bridge to the development of students in their formative years in school and in colleges, to the demands of the developmental state and our economic needs. This in turn will lead in the context of economic growth and social development to a society that is able to reach its potential, guided by the needs of the state and the economy, but equally providing society with students who have a scientific appreciation and understanding of contradictions in our society, most importantly, the ability to address these challenges in developing our society and economy.
The structure, form and content of our education system must therefore have a scientific orientation and ongoing investment by the state in the fields of research and development and must advance and deepen this orientation. The ANC policy in this regard has over the years, and in particular at our 51st National Conference at Stellenbosch, spoken to this imperative.
Intuthuko yezindawo zasemakhaya isalele ngemuva kakhulu uma sikhuluma ngezobuchwepheshe. Kumele kufakwe izimali eziningi ukuthuthukisa izinhlelo ezizosiza bonke abantwana abangakwazanga ukuphumelela ezikoleni ezingamaDinaledi.
Lezi zinhlelo kumele zixhaswe uMnyango wezeSayensi noBuchwepheshe ngokubambisana neminye iMinyango. Lezi zinhlelo zingasiza ngokuthi umntwana abenolwazi ezifundweni zobuchwepheshe okuyinto ezosiza ekuthuthukisweni komnotho wezwe lakithi. Ngokubambisana singenza okuningi kangcono. Ngiyabonga.[Ihlombe.]
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr Z C NTULI
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, hon Minister, hon members, chairperson of the committee, members of the science community, friends, Minister Pandor has given us a comprehensive overview of the direction that our national system of innovation will take over the next five years.
The work of the Department of Science and Technology is exceptional in its diversity, and my intention today is merely to take a quick look at a few of the areas in which we are involved. I believe this will give hon members a better sense of the range and relevance of the many things we do and the way we work in partnership with other institutions.
But let us first be reminded of President Zuma's inspiring words at his inauguration:
This is indeed a moment of renewal. It is an opportunity to rediscover that which binds us together as a nation. The unity of our nation should be a priority for all sectors of our society. We are a people of vastly different experiences, of divergent interests, with widely different views. Yet we share a common desire for a better life, and to live in peace and harmony. We share a common conviction that never shall we return to a time of division and strife. From this common purpose, we must forge a partnership for reconstruction, development and progress.
This clarion call by the President for us to work together so that we can achieve more resonates strongly in the area of science and technology. As much as science and technology is one of the greatest sources of progress and development, it cannot operate in isolation as some mysterious process only understood by scientists. It is only through real and sustained partnerships that science and technology will assume its full relevance and make the critical move from the laboratory to the community.
To achieve this, the department is working in close co-operation with a number of government departments and municipalities as well as with private-sector institutions. I would like to highlight a few of these collaborative projects. Improving our health services and confronting the burden of preventable diseases was identified as one of the priority areas in the ANC manifesto, and the toughest scientific challenge of them all is bringing the scourge of HIV and Aids under control.
The excellent work done by the Human Sciences Research Council and various other organisations in monitoring HIV prevalence and incidence in the South African population helps us understand whether our interventions are having any effect and where we should be applying our energies and resources.
The recently released results of their 2009 survey on HIV prevalence and related behaviour indicate that there is a substantial decrease in HIV prevalence among children and a decrease in new infections in teenagers. However, the increased prevalence in young women in their twenties is alarming. This, once again, stresses the urgency of intensifying our efforts to find new prevention technologies and strategies that will enable young women to protect themselves against HIV infection.
We certainly cannot afford the luxury of fragmented work or duplicated effort in the fight against this devastating virus. After thorough consultation with researchers and scientists, the department established the SA HIV/Aids Research and Innovation Platform, which will focus on funding research on antiretrovirals, microbicides, vaccines, diagnostic tools and human behaviour.
Hon Kalyan, we would like to have the opportunity to engage with you on the reasons for departing from the funding arrangement we had with the SA HIV/Aids Research and Innovation Platform. There are reasons for it, and we will talk to you a bit more a bit more about the background to the creation of this platform and the value that this platform will bring. We look forward to that engagement with you in the near future.
We can also be proud of the international recognition that we are receiving for our investments in biotechnology. As article in last month's issue of Nature Biotechnology says that "South Africa is well positioned to address diseases of the developing world. South Africa also has the potential to develop niche health products for global markets, drawing on its R&D base, expertise in first-generation biotech and great biodiversity."
The Scientific American Worldview cites South Africa as one of the world's top 10 countries in the area of biotechnology enterprise support, owing largely to the efforts and investments made by the department in implementing the National Biotechnology Strategy.
The department's Ten-Year Innovation Plan for South Africa recognises the development of the bioeconomy as a grand challenge, and our country's biodiversity and indigenous knowledge should provide ample opportunities for the development of food and pharmaceutical products. Rural communities will be able to share in the benefits of the bioeconomy by growing the required raw materials.
However, our country does not currently have an organised, accessible pipeline for the drug discovery or bioprospecting value chain, which starts with natural products and existing herbal medicines and moves through animal trials to clinical trials. The Department of Science and Technology is therefore driving the establishment of two national platforms: the bioprospecting platform, and the preclinical drug-development platform, in collaboration with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Already, we have initiated four bioprospecting and product-development flagship projects around traditional medicines, cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals and ceramics, and registered a Bachelor of Indigenous Knowledge Systems degree. This degree is the first of its kind in the world. [Applause.]
Our efforts to bridge the digital divide and use technology to bring better services to the people, especially in rural areas, are best demonstrated through the telemedicine workstations developed under the Telemedicine Lead Programme, a joint project of the Medical Research Council and the University of Stellenbosch. To date, 10 telemedicine stations have been installed, and we expect to install 50 more by the end of the year. [Applause.]
Guided by the ICT Research, Development and Innovation Strategy, we continue to address key needs in education, health and rural development.
The department has taken its wireless mesh network project to the next level by developing three large-scale demonstrators in Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape and Limpopo. This wireless mesh network is a communications network which allows buildings that are in line of sight of each other, even if they are separated by more than seven kilometres, to be linked with broadband connectivity for both Internet access and voice communication at very low cost and without the need for centralised infrastructure such as high masts or base stations. Very large areas can be provided with broadband connectivity using this technology, and this national project aims to give communities, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas, the opportunity to become computer-literate and to access information to meet their particular needs.
Our Digital Doorway project remains an effective tool for developing computer literacy, providing information to people who don't have their own computers and assisting with out-of-school learning. To date, we have installed 220 units at various locations across the country.
Hon members will be pleased to learn that, in an effort to address the developmental priority of creating sustainable settlements, we have research projects under way at the CSIR to develop construction technologies for affordable, sustainable, high-quality housing for middle- to low-income groups. [Applause.]
Construction for the energy-efficient housing project in the Buffalo City and Overstrand Municipalities is well under way, and we are planning launches in both municipalities by September this year.
The department's focus on sustainable human settlements involves the application of science and technology to reduce the costs of service delivery, increase communities' access to services and improve people's quality of life.
With regard to rural development, although the Millennium Development Goals relating to the provision of water and sanitation have been met, Statistics SA's 2007 Community Survey shows that 11% of South Africans still do not have a reliable supply of drinking water. These people generally live in remote, mostly inaccessible, rural areas, or dense informal settlements in peri-urban areas, and rely on untreated water from springs, rivers or dams, often sharing their water resources with animals.
In response to this challenge, the department, in partnership with the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, and the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and with support from our science councils, has launched a project to accelerate the delivery of water services using innovative, sustainable technologies.
These technologies will be applied first at the rivers from which communities traditionally fetch water, where communal water stations will be installed. Boreholes will also be used, and ceramic filters installed in individual households. Skills transfer will be important, as the community will be responsible for using and managing these technologies to ensure the quality of the water they drink.
The first phase of this project is being implemented in the O R Tambo and Amathole district municipalities, and its target is to provide over 2 500 households with a reliable supply of safe drinking water by the middle of next year. [Applause.]
As Minister Pandor has indicated, the application of science, technology and innovation is vital to sustained economic growth and the retention and creation of jobs in a challenging economic climate.
Two years ago, we committed ourselves to assisting South Africa's fresh fruit industry to sustain and improve its position in the highly competitive global market. In partnership with the Agricultural Research Council and the Fresh Fruit Exporters' Forum, the department established the Post-Harvest Innovation Programme, aimed at developing the industry's innovation capabilities. The programme has made it possible to plug a range of technology gaps, in areas such as postharvest disease control, fruit quality assessment, and integrated packaging solutions. This includes the development of new biodegradable fruit cartons, made from natural fibre-reinforced biocomposites, to address the European market's demand for nonplastic packaging.
The programme has also instituted a range of technology transfer initiatives, including a strategic partnership with the Chilean fresh fruit industry. During the year, we will be investigating the expansion of this programme in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
We are currently also engaging with the R30 billion South African meat industry about developing interventions aimed at improving its competitiveness and export markets.
This time next year 32 soccer teams from all over the globe will be in our country for the biggest sports event in the world, bringing 450 000 fans to support them. They will discover not only a country of extraordinary beauty and warmth, but also the land of their early ancestors.
The rich fossil sites we have in our country led to the identification of palaeontology as an area of geographic advantage in the National Research and Development Strategy. Given the outstanding palaeontology work South Africans are doing, we could equally call this an area of knowledge advantage.
Dr Jennifer Botha-Brink of the National Museum in Bloemfontein has discovered the almost complete 230-million-year-old skeleton, over three metres long, of an early crocodilian, which is on display at the museum.
New internationally significant fossil discoveries by scientists at the University of the Witwatersrand will soon be published. Professor Bruce Rubidge, working with his Chinese counterpart Dr Liu Jun, has discovered the oldest known therapsid, a mammal-like reptile, and Dr Adam Yates has discovered a new species of dinosaur.
Professor Lee Berger – and this is perhaps the biggest of them all - also of the University of the Witwatersrand, has made new fossil hominin discoveries that will soon become the centre of worldwide attention, as they are of unprecedented significance in early human origins research. Dr Berger's work was supported by the department through the Palaeontological Scientific Trust.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that I have touched on only a few examples of the partnerships entered into by the DST. One could mention many more examples, but there isn't enough time to do so. We could talk about the electric car, which we mentioned a year ago, and which will now subsequently be launched. We could talk about nanotechnology, climate change, aquaculture. We are working in all of these fields. Satellites: we have our own South African-designed and manufactured low-earth orbiting satellite, and that will be launched in the near future. This is the Sumbandila sat. We can talk about work being done even by individual members in this House – like this man opposite me, Dr Wilmot James. I hope we get the opportunity, Dr James, for you to present your work to the committee at some point, because it is fascinating work indeed.
Just as Bafana Bafana demonstrated last night – I presume you were all watching that new form of technology called a television last night - that a team effort can produce splendid results, so the Department of Science and Technology is showing that by working together, in partnership, so much more can be achieved.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the officials in the department for the hard work and dedication that has made these innovative projects possible, particularly the management team, steered by our Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara.
It is also important to me personally to salute the previous Minister of Science and Technology, Comrade Mosibudi Mangena, for his calm and prudent leadership of the department in the past five years. [Applause.] I look forward to a similarly good working relationship with my colleague and close comrade, the hon Naledi Pandor, whom I am sure will build on our achievements and take the department to new heights in our quest to provide a better life for all our people.
Lastly, we would like to congratulate hon members – that's you sitting here - of the portfolio committee, firstly, on having been elected to serve our country as Members of Parliament. It's a huge honour. Secondly, I would like to congratulate them on having made the smart choice to serve on this exciting committee. To Dr Ngcobo: welcome back dear comrade; we know that your passion lies with science and technology. I thank you.
Mr R B BHOOLA
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr R B BHOOLA: Chairperson, it is suggested that all our secondary schools be converted to schools with technical bias, 74% of the IT specialists in America come from India. The KwaZulu-Natal government has an arrangement with India to train 10 000 youths in the field of IT.
India has made tremendous strides since the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. They gave science and technology the highest priority. What we need in South Africa is a knowledge commission. If you look at countries that have advanced technologically and scientifically, those are the countries that are most progressive in the world. It is high time that South Africa departs from the normal technikons and universities and in every province we establish specialised science and technology institutions.
In 1994 South Africa was 20 years behind the West because the apartheid whites in this country were over flooded with IT institutions. What South Africa must aim for is a wealth of middle class professionals. We are very glad that the hon President has separated the education Ministry, but science and technology comments from the beginning. We must study what China and India does. China, for example, selects learners from the early age of Grade 4. If we are to succeed and aim high to create the professional class, then South Africa will be amongst the world beaters.
The former US President George Bush said that the West has been shaken up because China and India has not only planned but they achieved advancement in science and technology. We must also decide today the date when South Africa's own rocket will reach the moon. The MF will support the Budget Vote. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr E NYEKEMBA
Mr R B BHOOLA
Mr E NYEKEMBA: Chairperson, Minister, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, hon members, allow me to add on what my colleagues have already contributed. The advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy, established in 2003, by the Department of Science and Technology, is aimed at developing competencies in key technologies to strengthen the technical base and competitiveness of South African manufacturing sector. The intention is to leverage South Africa's role to be more than just a manufacturing and assembly location.
Research and development projects are funded within three flagship programmes, geared to advance the innovation capabilities across industry sectors. I will talk about only three of them: Firstly, the advanced light materials - metals, fibre and reinforced composites; secondly, the advanced production technologies - efficient manufacturing processes; and lastly, advanced electronics - sensors.
Some 25 projects valued at R147 million have been initiated. The first project received funding in 2006. Projects are undertaken by consortia comprised of industry, tertiary institutions and science councils. The total number of participants include large companies and science councils, small and medium enterprises, universities and universities of technology and international collaborators.
To date, 55 students are doing their Masters Degrees in Science of which 15 are Africans and nine are females. They are currently working on projects and some have already graduated. There are 24 PhDs, of which nine are Africans and four females, working in the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy projects.
Notable highlights from the research and development projects include the following: A project to develop panels for aircraft interiors using natural fibres; developing a capability to produce high quality castings from titanium alloys; developing advanced techniques to machine titanium alloy components; low-cost measurement; and reporting system for SMME production operations to be commercialised as Smart Factory.
The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy, AMTS, also funds the establishment of Advanced Manufacturing Technology Laboratories, AMTLs. The AMTLs are world-class laboratories that provide facilities for the design, development and prototyping of new products and the development and transfer of relevant skills to support the industry.
There are three AMTLs that are currently operating, namely: the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for automotive robotics; Aerosud for production technologies, materials development and testing for the aviation industry; and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Adaptronics.
The main focus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Adaptronics AMTL lies in the development of adaptronic technologies for South African industry through research and development activities. This AMTL created an aeronautics knowledge base in a previously disadvantaged tertiary institution. The unmanned aerial vehicle research group developed skills in the conceptualising, designing, and manufacturing of prototype as a technology demonstrator within two years.
The AMTS also funds the programme for Industrial Manufacturing Excellence that aims to accelerate human capital development in the manufacturing sector. Graduates are placed at companies with the objective of working on projects that will increase the productivity and quality of work in the company. Each student is supported financially for one year during which time he or she is mentored by senior engineers. During the first years, over 150 students have participated in the programme. All have subsequently found permanent positions with approximately half being employed by their placement companies. This programme involves mainly automotive companies in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and North West provinces.
Chairperson, let me raise certain key areas in the economic interest. The national industrial policy framework acknowledges the need for South Africa to diversify its economy with particular emphasis on building technology or knowledge intensive industries over the next decade. Following the adoption of the research and development strategies in 2002, the Department of Science and Technology initiated a number of key technology mission areas and began the process of supporting strategic research and development within these technology mission areas.
Following the adoption of the 10-year innovation plan and in line with the priorities of the national industrial policy framework, considerable progress has been achieved in terms of facilitating the development of a number of long-term new industrial opportunities. The development of these new industries will be largely achieved by establishing centres of competence.
Considerable advances have been made on the development of a long-term titanium industry development programme across the titanium value chain. This includes advances in addressing technology challenges as well as advances in the finalisation of a strategy for developing the industry. [Time expired.] Thank you. [Applause.]
Hon M R SHIN
Mr E NYEKEMBA
Ms M R SHINN: Madam Deputy Speaker, hon colleagues, South African scientists have reached for the stars to become part of the international scientific community. We are busy proving that our vast arid spaces are of the best sites in the world for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope that will probe the heavens, seeking answers to the origins of the universe.
A South African-built satellite is in Russia being readied for its August launch into space. From its orbit, 500km above the earth, the satellite will send back information to help us monitor and manage land and water usage.
These are high profile projects that inspire youngsters to explore the possibility of a career in science. Those lucky enough to attend schools with well-equipped laboratories and staffed by knowledgeable and inspiring teachers are light years ahead of their contemporaries in our many dysfunctional schools, but these disadvantaged children must not be denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Technology in the hands of innovative and persistent individuals can make a significant difference to teaching.
Let me tell you about a school teacher in Mpumalanga and the impact he is having on the futures of children hundreds of kilometres from his classroom. In 2007 Frans Kalp, an electrical and information technology teacher at the Ligbron Academy of Technology in Ermelo, realised the potential of using interactive white board technology for teaching. These boards, connected to computer based teaching materials and the internet, replace blackboards and can be used by both teachers and learners. He persuaded his school, which specialises in the teaching of maths and science, to use video conferencing software so lessons could be shared between classrooms. Flushed with the success of this approach to teaching and learning, Frans Kalp broadened his idea and got the Mpumalanga Department of Education involved. Within a year he had three disadvantaged rural schools within a 50km radius of Ligbron connected via radio networks to the lessons in his school. The equipment was installed and, importantly, the teachers were trained to use it.
The 2008 matric results are testimony to the effectiveness of the e-learning approach. The schools excelled in maths and maths literacy, achieving between 80% and 100% pass rates, but it doesn't end there.
The programme is being rolled out to more schools over a wider geographical area. Before the first ball is kicked in the 2010 World Cup, 17 more schools from Nelspruit, Hazyview and Middelburg will be linked via wireless networks to the Ligbron e-learning programme. This brings the total of 21 schools linked to the network within three and a half years. Dr Hardus Maritz, who is project managing the e-learning programme for the Mpumalanga Department of Education, praises its success in bridging the urban rural digital divide in education and enabling scarce skilled teaching resources to effectively be shared.
Where did the money come from for all this hi-tech equipment? Mpumalanga's business community sees tremendous value in this technology-based solution to boosting the education of its young citizens and future employees. So they established the Mpumalanga Education Development Trust to raise money from businesses and individuals and the department matches on a rand for rand basis the money given to, and managed by the Trust. Without this partnership, the programme would have stalled.
The Ligbron e-learning programme is an example all education departments should follow. In our resource challenged learning environment, we must use technology to share the expertise of our best teachers. The point I'm making is that we, government and citizens, need to invest more effectively in using technology to teach technology. The result will be a pool of motivated knowledgeable youngsters, keen to become scientists, doctors, engineers, product developers and technologists, who will exercise their imaginations to solve the problems they see around them in our developing world. Solutions that will streamline the way clean water is delivered to remote areas; the way goods are moved to areas where there are few roads; the way food is kept fresh without refrigeration; the way robust houses are built with clay and newly discovered compounds and the way medicines are developed from indigenous materials.
These are African problems that can be solved by African ingenuity.
But the DA is disturbed that the department's expenditure for research development and innovation gives so little to biotechnology and health research, where we have major potential, compared to what it's prepared to spend on space science energy and new bureaucratic structures. I realise the latter are capital intensive, but our health and development challenges will spark great South African innovations given appropriate space and funding.
We believe the department should revisit these allocations. We need more scientists, not pen pushers. Before the Minister rearranges the allocations, I request that she lights a rocket under Home Affairs. Government must break the logjam of work permits being sought by people with specialised skills wanting to use their talents for the betterment of all South Africans. Should the reading matter police on the other side of the House find the rule book heavy going, may I suggest that they pop outside and pick up this comic, which will enlighten them on the Meerkat and the Square Kilometre Array. Thank You. [Applause]
C/W: Ms B T NGCOBO
C/W: Ms M R SHINN
NK B T NGCOBO: Sihlalo, namalunga ahloniphekileyo, Mqondisi-Jikelele nethimba lakho laseDST kanye nabamele amaKhansela abika phansi koMnyango.
My take in this debate is on health and science and technology. I'll be addressing the scientific solutions and innovations that are happening due to research and development in the department, with regard to new drugs, vaccines, devices, diagnostics and new techniques in process engineering and manufacturing. We need these scientific solutions to address a plethora of conditions, some of which are diseases of poverty, HIV and Aids, malaria and cancer, which become the forerunners, really, for the Department of Science and Technology to look into.
To improve and to add and beef up our research capacity, the Department of Science and Technology did make a bid for the third component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which is situated at the University of Cape Town, UCT, under the Department of Molecular Medicine. It is also helping in coming up with solutions to improve the health of South Africans.
We are aware that 10% of South Africa's population are infected with malaria. The high prevalence of HIV places more urgency on the country to develop effective scientific tools to fight malaria aggressively. The study of the malaria epidemic in 2000 revealed that HIV increased the risk of developing severe malaria twofold, and the risk of mortality six- to eightfold and the World Health Organisation, WHO, has confirmed these findings.
South African malaria researchers, working together with international researchers, are looking into global and local research in the context of drugs, diagnostic tests and epidemiology. In addition to what the Deputy Minister has said around telemedicine, KwaZulu-Natal had this facility approved in 2007, which allows for Durban academic hospitals to be connected or linked to the rural hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, 16 of them were to be the first and 27 more will be linked into this. [Applause.]
The intention is to link academic sites in Durban and rural hospitals, to provide these hospitals with diagnostic instruments and units. Special medical services will also be acquired to give support to all these sites. The project intends to provide a working model, which will be adapted for use in the rest of the country and provide viable solutions that can be exportable to other developing countries. For the rural people, to add to what the Deputy Minister has said, there is broadband connectivity that can be used for e-government and e-education for medical informatics, epidemiological research and evaluation.
The Medical Device Centre of Competence was approved in 2009 and this allows the country to develop its innovation potential for the South African sector and also for export in line with the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA, and the Intellectual Property Rights, IPR. In 2009, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, researchers formulated a synthetic material which was used successfully in a mandible reconstruction to a 9-year-old patient. Work is in progress to develop this technology.
The Eyeborn Ceramic Orbital Implant has already been implanted into more than 350 patients and the implant has had very good results. It also allows for all eye movements, so that it is not possible to identify that the eye is artificial. This has been commercialised successfully... [Applause.]... manufactured by Cerdak in KwaZulu-Natal and market distribution done by Visicare.
The CSIR and the University of Pretoria have developed a bio-artificial liver support system that is capable of providing liver function while housed outside the body, like the bypass machine and the renal dialysis machines which are outside the body, but improving the situation of health. [Applause.]
South Africa ranks fourth in the world in the total number of infections of Tuberculosis, 44% are co-infected with HIV... [Time Expired.][Applause.]
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Ms B T NGCOBO
The MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: Chairperson, I would like to thank all hon members for their contribution to the debate on this very important Budget Vote. The hon Kalyan said I should come down from Orbit or something. I wasn't in Orbit, she may be in Sputnik in 1960, [Laughter.] but I am very much into 2009. No, that's your age, Madam. [Laughter.]
Let me say there appears to be a very peculiar fascination with the notion that we are directing or diverting funds from important programmes to the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA. This implication that we didn't plan to budget for the TIA is not proven by the Budget Speech Minister Mangena gave in the Budget debates of 2008 for the 2008-09 Budget where it was indicated that a budget line item would be created for the TIA specifically. There is no diversion of funds to the TIA from other programmes. It is part of the line items within the budget of this department. And so, there is has been no diversion of funding to something else. I am not sure where hon members get this. I always advise hon members to be very careful about taking newspaper articles as gospel. It's very very dangerous. [Applause.]
I would like for the hon Smith and I to sit down and compare our reading of the world economic forum competitiveness report which was released at the World Economic Forum, WEF. My reading says 45th, not 55th as he said, up three places and out of 134 countries that are part of this survey. We are also, at 45th , leading in Africa. We are ahead of Tunisia and Botswana, which has risen 20 places. So, I am not sure what survey you were reading, but we certainly, from the report, seem to be doing much better that we've done previously.
The hon members from the DA seem a bit perturbed at the responses but this is the reality and the facts. The space budget is certainly not an opinion but a fact, and I'd suggest that you study the budget of science and technology. [Applause.]
The space budget which was referred to as being larger than biotechnology and other areas includes provision for the Square Kilometre Array funding, that's why it appears to be a very large budget. It's rather inartificial because of that inclusion of the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, given its relationship to space and satellite technology. So, it gives the impression that it is larger than biotechnology and the health funding that we make. But because the SKA is going to take up a large proportion of the space funding, I think we shouldn't be concerned that we are detracting from the investment we must make in biotechnology and other aspects.
On the matter of scarce skills, I must say, in my previous life, we developed a very good relationship with Home Affairs and we were able to secure many visas for academics and teachers who wished to work in South Africa. [Applause.] Currently, as the Department of Science and Technology, we are going to work in a similar fashion. I mentioned that scientists are already coming to our country to spend time in some of our wonderful centres of competence at the University of the Western Cape - I see the vice-chancellor and his team are hear - and we have various visitors from universities in Europe and elsewhere who do visit and whom we are able to facilitate immigration procedures for. That is something that we address very well.
On the matter of a PhD targets, again, I would ask hon members to really look at our full annual report documents, then they will see that it's not just a single National Research Foundation, NRF, Doctoral Research Funding Programme that we have. There are number of instruments that we are utilising as the vehicle for expanding this pool of researches that we wish to build: We have the South African Research Chairs Programme that I referred to; we have the centres of excellence and competence that colleagues spoke of; we have a post-Doctoral Programme that again is under the auspices of the NRF; we have a Profession Development Programme - each of them have distinct funding; and we have an innovators bursary scheme for honours students, masters and PhD. By using these instruments, we believe that we are going to reach targets we believe are realistic in a ten-year innovation plan. We are seeing young people taking up, particularly the bursaries and the opportunities to work with the research chairs and in the centres of the excellence. I think we are convinced that we must proceed to seek to rich this particular target. It is very important for our country. We must expand the pool of competent researches that are well-qualified and well-able to carry out high level research. And I believe we shouldn't really believe that we are overambitious or not funding flagship interventions by the department.
With regard to the funding of NRF, which is appearing in that newspaper article, has been sustained by the department in line with National Treasury allocations. The NRF has not been treated any differently from other science councils such as Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, the Human Sciences Research Council, HRCS, and so on, that we support with funding. The notion that we again have taken money from the NRF, from the doctoral training interventions, is a totally mistaken notion and I really would be careful in my reading of the newspapers.
We have established four competency centres as we had announced, we would do. As the Deputy Minister Hanekom indicated to the hon Kalyan, he could give the detail as to what happened with the Savi Programme, but that detail will also indicate that we continue to fund HIV and Aids research, and we are doing this through a new vehicle but in no way detracting from our ambition to actually arrive at vaccine with respect to this pandemic. I hope you will have a lunch or tea with Deputy Minister Hanekom. I don't know what forum he intends to use, but he was very direct to you. So, I hope he will clarify the issues for you in very clear terms.
Hon Ngcobo, we are concerned, of course, about mattes of climate change. It is an issue that we are very involved in as a department. In fact we are playing a very important role in a number of initiatives, research and entire take and other work that we are doing through the global earth observing system of systems. I am sure you could share with officials in the department some experiences to what more Parliament believes could be done in order to ensure Members of Parliament play a role in some of the international initiatives in this area. We are very deeply involved, and of course we are concerned, as members have indicated, that we must attend to issues of climate change. We didn't devote a great deal of time to discussion on climate change because it occupied over an hour of the debate in environment and tourism. We thought it had been dealt with sufficiently there and we needed to pick up on other aspects, but not to the fact of neglecting it as part of the problematic work of the department. Just as the Deputy Minister indicated, of course, the issue of new and renewable sources of energy, waste management and how we deal with that - all of those form part of work that we continue to do.
With respect to the Joule, announcement will be made, it has not been ditched we are seeing some exciting developments there. And I certainly will come to the portfolio committee to indicate where we are moving in the next stage with that car.
Certainly, in building research capacity, we are addressing the five platforms that are in the 10-year innovation plan. So, the Farmer to Pharma strategy forms part of what we should focus on like issues of renewable energy and space science, particularly with respect to satellite and space science. These are all areas that are receiving attention in the interventions in research development that we have made.
I agree, hon Smith, we must set a new target. I think we have reached 1%, we are almost there, but I think we must set more ambitious target for the country. I believe we haven't as yet seen the potential that exists in technology and innovation for South Africa. I think if we could come to grips with the potential, there is a wonderful future confronting us and the young people of our country. So I absolutely agree with you that we should increase funding there.
On the aging researchers, clearly the interventions I've spoken about of the National Research Forum are linked to providing us with new young researchers. But we want to use the aging researchers as mentors. We don't want to ditch them. They have wonderful skills. We want to use it to build this new capacity that is so vital for our country.
Hon Ntuli, we would all agree with the comments you have made about science and schooling, and the efforts of the Department of Education - I understand they will have their Budget Vote in a week or so. They will probably give more detail as to what is being done to ensure that we do respond to the issues you have raised - issues of language and science, mother tongue and its place in school and in high education. All of those will probably be dealt with in the debate that will held by the two Ministers of Education.
Hon Bhoola, we are already exploring expanding information technology skills in the country. Hon Chairperson, I encourage all the members to read our annual reports, our corporate strategy and to really look at past reports of Science and Technology, so that as we discuss we are fully familiar with all the interventions and all the successes that the Deputy Minister outlined so clearly.
Finally, again the hon Kalyan asked me that am I going to employ a scientist. Let me just turn to my officials. How many of you who have PhDs? Could you put up your hands? [Laughter.] [Applause.] I think we have six PhDs in senior management, collectively we probably have a collection that makes up a fairly experienced scientific research. And certainly in doing our work, we do work with senior scientists. Thank you, Chairperson. [Applause.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Ms M N Oliphant): Order! Order please! Hon Kalyan can you please take your sit. The Minister has finished the responses. Hon members, I've got one announcement to make. [Interjections.] No, hon member, I am the Presiding Officer here. I was not sleeping. You didn't raise... Hon member, just take your sit.
Hon members, I've got one announcement to make: All members are invited by the Minister for a cocktail immediately after we have adjourned, and it will be held at the Marks Building Restaurant.
The Public Extended Committee rose at 18:38
No related documents