ATC110420: Report Budget Vote 34: Science and Technology, and the Strategic Plan for the Fiscal Years 2011-2016

Science and Technology

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology on Budget Vote 34: Science and Technology, and the Strategic Plan for the Fiscal Years 2011-2016, dated 20 April 2011:


The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, having considered and concluded its deliberations on Budget Vote 34: Science and Technology, and the Strategic Plan for the Fiscal Years 2011 – 2016, reports as follows:


1. Introduction


On 13 April 2011, the Committee was briefed on the strategic plan and budget by the Department of Science and Technology’s Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara.


The presentation by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) included a focus on their strategic context and goals, building a National System of Innovation with a further focus on key priorities and recent outputs, current strategic challenges, monitoring and evaluation, gross expenditure on research and development and the financial resources of the Department.


2. Strategic Context


The Corporate Strategy is guided mainly by the White Paper on Science and Technology, the Ten-Year Innovation Plan, the National Research and Development Strategy and the Government’s Medium-Term Strategic Priorities.  


3. Strategic Goals


One of DST’s main aims is to develop the innovation capacity to further contribute to socio-economic development. The National System of Innovation (NSI) is currently being reviewed to enhance the country’s innovation capacity. The idea is to build a world-class science and technology infrastructure (STI) to extend the frontiers of knowledge, train the next generation of researchers and enable technology development and transfer, thereby positioning South Africa as a strategic international research development and innovation (RDI) partner and making the exchange of knowledge, capacity and resources between South Africa and its regional and international partners possible.


4. Key STI Policy Developments


4.1 National System of Innovation


The overall aim of the DST is to develop a National System of Innovation (NSI), as envisioned in the 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology. Ideally, the NSI should be a set of functioning institutions, organisations and policies, which interact constructively in the pursuit of a common set of social and economic goals and objectives. Industry and government play a fundamental role in working towards this ideal co-ordination of activities within institutions. 


4.1.1 Institution building and instruments to facilitate innovation


Key STI policy developments led to the establishment of the Technology Development Agency, which focuses on promoting commercialisation and technology transfer by and at South African research institutions. A new institutional intervention, the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), is in the process of being established. Its function is two-fold: on the one hand, it is putting a mechanism in place to enable government to encourage, monitor and quantify intellectual property that is the result of publicly funded research and development; on the other, it is developing capacity at the level of universities and public research institutions to identify, protect and where appropriate commercialise such intellectual property.  Close partnerships are nurtured with relevant national and provincial departments to support the success of high-potential research and development-led industrial development initiatives.  


Other structural interventions focusing on research and development are the Centres of Excellence (CoE) programme and the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChi). Some of the Centres of Competence (CoC) and Partnerships foci are in the areas of fluoro-chemicals, titanium metal powder industry development, unmanned aerial systems, nanotechnology in minerals beneficiation and hydrogen and fuel cell technology.


4.2 Human Capital Development


Significant investment is required in both human resources and research infrastructure at universities to improve the quality of learning and teaching, and to support the development of research capacities at universities.  The National Research Foundation (NRF) internship programme support increased from 216 interns in 2008 to 365 interns in 2010. South African Research Chairs increased from 82 in the previous year to 92 chairs in 2010. Eight CoEs are already in place. The percentage of students supported expressed as a percentage of total possible students to be funded through existing instruments is still low. The existing instruments are not yet providing sufficient numbers of emerging and young researchers.


4.3 International and Continental Linkages


DST has actively and strategically established close STI co-operation with several international and African countries. The recent achievements include:

·               Winning the bid to host the new regional New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) water initiative;

·               DST leveraged R868 million through official donor assistance;

·               South Africa was awarded the hosting of the 2015 World Science Forum; and

·               Dr Shisana of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was elected as President of the International Social Science Council.



5. Current Strategic Challenges


The increase in gross investment in research and development (R&D) still poses a challenge. The amount still falls short of attaining the target of 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Other challenges are around the increase in knowledge generation capacity, intensifying the development of innovation capacity and better governance and co-ordination of the system.   


6. Medium-term priorities and initiatives


An overview of the medium-term priorities, deliverables and medium-term initiatives made reference to:

·               The development of the bio-economy, nanotechnology, the hydrogen economy, space science, information and communication technology (ICT) and advanced manufacturing;

·               Up-scaling some pilot projects with appropriate partners on a range of technologies to address poverty and improve quality of life;

·               Development of an innovative and diverse flux of young people seeking and finding careers in science and engineering;

·               Finalising the human capacity development (HCD) strategy for research, development and innovation;

·               Strengthening of structural interventions and establishment of focused, high-level, cutting-edge research and development platforms e.g. CoEs and post-doctoral fellowships;

·               Consolidating new institutions such as the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), NIPMO and South African National Space Agency (SANSA);

·               An investment and growth strategy for the provision of scientific equipment to support research and innovation within the National System of Innovation;

·               Developing and strengthening of international and African linkages in support of HCD, research and development and infrastructure;

·               Establishing and enhancing partnerships with the private sector to increase the Gross Expenditure of Research and Development (GERD);

·               Reviewing the Strategic Management Model and strengthening co-ordination and governance; and

·               Enhancing macro policy planning, monitoring and evaluation capacity.


7. Monitoring and evaluation


The DST has a monitoring and evaluation system by which performance information from the DST programmes and public entities are reported. Reports are compiled quarterly and on an annual basis.  Work is underway to develop capacity to assess the outcomes and impact of interventions in science and technology. Monitoring and evaluation will be informed by the Presidency’s Outcomes framework, published in January 2010.


8. Gross Expenditure on Research and Development


GERD, as reflected in the 2008/9 Research and Development (R&D) survey, showed spending on R&D amounted to R21 billion, that is 0.92 per cent of GDP. The proportion of spending decreased from 0.93 per cent (2007/8) to 0.92 per cent (2008/9). Private sector spending on R&D contributed 58.6 per cent to total expenditure on R&D.


9. Medium-term Expenditure Estimates


The estimated expenditure for the 2011/12 financial year amounted to R4.4 billion, increasing to R4.8 billion in 2012/13 and further increasing to R5.5 billion in 2013/14. Transfers to public entities form 92.1 per cent of the allocated funds with the remainder of the allocation being spent on goods and services, compensation of employees and payments for capital assets.  Programmes allocations are as follows: Research, Development and Innovation is allocated 29 per cent of the budget, Human Capital and Knowledge Systems is allocated 45 per cent, Socio-Economic Partnerships receives 19 per cent and International Co-operation and Resources amounts to 3 per cent. The historical spending trends (2005-2010) of the Department reflect that over the years the Department spent its allocated budget.


10.         Summary of the Committee Discussion following the Presentation by the DST


The Committee deliberated on the following key points:

·               Members highlighted the time constraints under which the Committee operated to deliberate on the budgets of the Department and its entities.


·               The Committee invited the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the HSRC to submit written additions to their inputs in the event that they felt not all their points were covered.


·               The allocated amount over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period for 2011 to 2013 seemed to have decreased. Members wanted to know whether this was the case.


·               The review of the design of the MeerKAT caused a delay in the rolling-out of this programme. The DST had unspent funds as a result of this, but an arrangement had been reached with the National Treasury on how the unspent money will be reallocated.


·               Members noted that the Department’s plan did not indicate the status of the Science and Technology Amendment Bill. It was explained that the Bill had been certified by the State Law Adviser, was approved by the Cabinet and is ready to be introduced in Parliament.


·               Members enquired about the funding allocation for the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), which seemed not to be reflected in the allocation to entities.

The NACI was located within Programme 1. Because there are no sub-programmes in Programme 1, it is difficult to trace this allocation.


·               Members enquired about the status of the Antarctic Programme and whether the entire programme was now located within the National Research Foundation (NRF). The DST indicated that the responsibility for the Antarctic Programme is located within two departments. The Department of Environmental Affairs was responsible for all logistical aspects, whereas the NRF was responsible for the science aspects. There is a proposal to have this programme located under one body.


·               Members noted that the programme on the Research Chairs Initiative was not meeting its targets and requested an explanation for that. The Department explained the reason for appointing the Research Chairs in facilitating the efficiency and effectiveness of delivery, which is targeted at government’s key priority areas. It is expected that the Minister for Science and Technology will make an announcement on the way forward in the near future.  


·               Members wanted to know what efforts were in place to boost the production of PhD studies; if it was a question of money, how much was required to ensure the increase. The Human Capital Development Strategy was being reviewed and one of the things identified was to look realistically at the numbers of doctoral students who could be funded.


·               Members enquired about the status with regard to the biotechnology strategy, as there was no mention of this in the DST strategic plan. The biotechnology strategy was in the process of being finalised and once finalised the Department will brief the Committee on the strategy.


·               Members enquired about the increased amount of R27 million for salaries. The creation of the SANSA Board and the TIA necessitated the strengthening of monitoring, evaluation and planning within the Department for these entities. This further meant that capacity needed to be expanded.


·               Members required a breakdown in terms of the representation of the students referred to in the Titanium Centre of Competence project. The Department undertook to provide this information to the Committee.


·               Referring to the roll-out of rural broadband connectivity and establishing the abalone hatcheries, Members inquired which criteria were used to identify provinces and areas for this. The projects referred to were pilot projects and the areas were chosen purely on the basis of suitability.


·               Further comments related to the CSIR’s involvement in climate change issues and the International Astronautical Congress and work done in relation to energy.


·               The Chairperson referred to the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act and advised the Department and entities that projects which lacked funding should be brought to the attention of the Committee. This Act enables the Committee to make recommendations with regard to financial allocations. This was raised in light of the HSRC’s appeal for additional funding for infrastructure.    


11. Conclusions


1.             The Committee would have liked more time for the deliberation process during this phase of the Appropriation Bill 2011-2012 within the MTEF. However, the local government election commitments constrained the time available. In future, the Committee will embark on the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report processes in much more detail in order to effectively track the implementation of service delivery and performance targets.

2.             In light of the above, the Committee further undertakes to regularly monitor progress of the Department and its entities, especially in relation to a key priority highlighted in the 2011 State of the Nation Address of enhancing innovation in science and technology to create jobs.

3.             The Committee appreciates that further detail on the way forward with regard to the Research Chairs Initiative will be unveiled by the Minister of Science and Technology.

4.             The Committee noted and congratulated Dr Olive Shisana of the HSRC who has recently been elected President of the International Social Science Council.

5.             The Committee notes the important role that agencies such as the Technology Innovation Agency, National Space Agency and the National Intellectual Property Management Office have to play in facilitating the development of cutting-edge science and technology capabilities in the country. The Committee is therefore keen to monitor their operations and will make provision in its programme for detailed engagements with these entities.

6.             The Department would be expected to brief the Committee on the progress and outcome of the review of the strategies such as the NSTI, HCD and bio-economy.

7.             The Department will be required to provide more detailed presentations on the role of science and technology in energy security, the development of alternative energy-generation technology and energy as one of the Department’s grand challenges.

8.             The Committee notes that intergovernmental collaborative partnerships are instrumental in ensuring the success of the National System of Innovation. Enhanced co-ordination is necessary even at parliamentary level amongst the various portfolio and select committees in instances where science and technology issues are transversal. 

9.             The Committee is satisfied with the development of the MeerKAT radio telescope as a prototype for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the completion of the seven dishes. The Committee undertakes to secure continued support for the SKA project and will actively monitor DST’s progress in its bidding mission to host the telescope.

10.         The Committee recently visited the SKA project and is concerned about the intended ”fracking“ for gas in the Karoo. The Committee will pursue discussions on the matter as part of its programme for the following term.   

11.         The Committee noted the explanation with regard to the reallocation of funds for the SKA project (amounting to R508 million) across the 2011/12 and 2012/13 financial years.

12.         The Committee is satisfied with the Department’s track-record of unqualified reports by the Auditor-General.

13.         The Committee is satisfied with the Department’s historical spending trend of actual expenditure in relation to the amount voted for.


12. Recommendation


The Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, having considered and concluded its deliberations on Budget Vote 34: Science and Technology, and the Strategic Plan for the Fiscal years 2011 – 2016, recommends that Budget Vote 34, be approved by the House.


Report to be considered.



Department of Science and Technology (2011) Strategic Plan for the Fiscal Years 2011-2016


Department of Science and Technology (2010) Annual Report 2009/10


Department of Science and Technology (2011) DST Strategic Plan, Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on 13 April 2011  


Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology (2010) Report of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology on Budget Vote 33: Science and Technology, dated 14 April 2010.


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