Minister of Science and Innovation Budget Speech, responses by DA, FF+
18 May 2021
BUDGET VOTE ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, DR BLADE NZIMANDE, MP, AT THE OLD ASSEMBLY CHAMBERS, CAPE TOWN -18 May 2021
Honourable Members of Parliament
Cabinet Colleagues present
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Honourable Bhuti Manamela
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, led by Honourable Chairperson, Mr Philly Mapulane
Director-General of the Department, Dr Phil Mjwara
Officials of the Department of Science and Technology
Chairpersons and CEOs of the entities
Ladies and Gentlemen
This marks our 3rd budget vote of this 6th Democratic Parliament.
I am pleased to inform the House that Cabinet recently approved our draft Decadal Plan for the process to finalise a Decadal Plan for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to drive a government wide, including broader societal, agenda of our national system of innovation.
The Decadal Plan is premised on advancing a whole-of-government approach and ultimately a whole-of-society approach to innovation in South Africa.
Like the rest of government and our society in general, the NSI has been affected by the COVID -19 pandemic.
This pandemic has changed life as we know it, but it has also taught us some important lessons.
One of the lessons is that investing in science is vital for South Africa's future and its development.
Our science and innovation investments made in the past decades led to us building expertise, infrastructure and research capacity needed in our response to when diseases strike.
This was demonstrated when our NSI leveraged our response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Collectively we were able to respond to COVID-19 in a joint effort that would have made Charlotte Maxeke, whose 150th anniversary we celebrate this year, proud.
These investments and the talent brought into our national system of innovation, led our country to produce premier science that is not only assisting us locally, but also contributing to the global body of knowledge on COVID-19.
Our infrastructure in response to COVID 19 include:
- The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) which saw local scientists lead investigations into the evolutionary characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and detected a new variant, dubbed 501Y.V2;
- The Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research (CPGR); and
- The South African Biodiversity Institute whose research and development portfolio includes pathogen genomics, and the skills needed in the areas of vaccines, biochemistry, microbiology and genetics, among others.
We also established an indigenous knowledge-based research team that is investigating seven mono-herbal and two multi-herbal medicine formulations with potential relevance to COVID-19.
We are also collaborating with the North-West University (NWU) to raise public awareness on the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Act.
Other interventions we made include:
- Data modelling, through the CSIR-CMORE situational awareness platform for COVID-19. This provides close to real-time data on the coronavirus outbreak per province, district, local municipality and ward.
- The SA Population Research Infrastructure Network (SAPRIN) random sample of household’s research to document the knowledge, behaviour and outcomes of these households in relation to non-pharmaceutical COVID- 19 measures;
- The Human Sciences Research Council surveys to measure the public response to COVID-19 and the effects of lockdown;
- The South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) National Ventilator Project; and
- The deployment of hydrogen fuel cell systems in hospitals and medical facilities.
These infrastructure networks and investments were instrumental in allowing our government to respond quickly and effectively in managing the coronavirus outbreak.
They also demonstrated our world class competence in identifying variants and keeping science at the foundation of government decisions.
Cabinet has approved the strategy of DSI to drive a multipronged national vaccine production and development strategy to secure our nation’s long-term pandemic preparedness. In this regard, DSI is working closely with Biovac, in which the State has 47% shareholdership, to increase the scope of public participation, and leveraging capital investment by domestic private and international vaccine players, to build South Africa’s vaccine production resilience.
We hope to build strong partnerships with China, Russia and other BRICS partners, as well as European and North American partners. We are particularly pleased at the commitment of expatriates, most notably, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a former graduate of Wits University, to invest in our nation’s future pandemic security.
We have also developed the Innovation Strategy in support of our country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP).
The strategy reposition our Department to promote new knowledge production and innovation directly supportive of the strategic aims of the ERRP.
In order to support our human resource development drive, through the National Research Foundation (NRF), we have awarded at least 3 000 research grants to researchers based at various research-performing institutions in our country.
These include grants earmarked to support emerging and established researchers through various programmes such as Thuthuka, the New Generation of Academics Programme, NRF-rated researchers, established and unrated researchers, the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) and the Centres of Excellence.
We have also made good progress in the development of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap.
HySA recently completed its second five-year review, which identified opportunities that would assist in promoting the commercialisation of locally developed intellectual property in strategic markets, as well as attracting high levels of participation from local SMMEs.
Recent announcements that Toyota and Sasol are now ready to manufacture fuel-cell-powered cars is testament to our Department's hard work to ensure our full participation in the planned Platinum Valley industrial project, which will cover a region stretching from Anglo American's Mogalakwena platinum mine near Mokopane to Johannesburg and Durban.
Through the Agricultural Bio-innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP), we continue to support a number of platforms and multi-stakeholder government-industry consortia that include the Wheat Breeding Platform, the Plant Health Consortium, the Climate Resilience Consortium, the wet carcass syndrome study and the two new agroprocessing projects for Cape Aloe and maize.
In terms of skills development and transformation, ABIPP supported black master's and PhD students and technicians as well as black emerging farmers.
The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) remains the pride of our nation.
South Africa, through SANSA, has been selected as one of two International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) designated Regional Space Weather Centres.
By 2024, we are therefore expected to ensure a fully operational space weather capability that meets the ICAO requirements as well as advance research capabilities in the space weather field.
We are also funding the Space Propulsion Programme, which is the Aerospace Research Group based at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).
The UKZN is currently the only South African university pursuing an applied rocket propulsion programme, producing graduates with skills in advanced manufacturing, aerospace systems design and computational analysis.
The programme currently has nineteen (19) registered postgraduate students, six (6) PhD and thirteen (13) master's students.
In order to address challenges of ocean governance as identified by Operation Phakisa, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, through funding from the DSI, is leading a consortium that will develop a constellation of low-cost nanosatellites to facilitate South African Marine Domain Awareness (MDA).
We have awarded the infrastructure tender for the MeerKAT extension to develop the necessary infrastructure at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site for the 20 dishes that are to be added to the MeerKAT telescope to extend its research area reach.
The tender of approximately R870 million includes digging and the roll-out of fibre and electrical cables to the dishes.
This development will further boost job creation for locals in the area and expand research and innovation opportunities for more science and engineering post-graduates and professionals in future years.
The MeerKAT will further be integrated into SKA Phase 1 with an additional 133 antennas in the Karoo up to 80 km from the core to make it a 197-dish array mid-frequency telescope.
This expansion is a partnership between South Africa, Germany and Italy.
We have also finalised a memorandum of agreement on the establishment of the SKA Exploratorium in Carnarvon.
This envisaged R60 million multi-purpose science tourism visitor centre will create jobs, boost tourism in the area, and serve as a science outreach hub for local schools and communities.
After a delay in the ratification of the SKA Observatory Convention by some members due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SKA Observatory has been formally established, paving the way for the international partnership to decide on the start of SKA construction.
Close to €700 million worth of contracts for the construction of the SKA will be awarded to companies and providers in the SKA member countries, providing a substantial return on investment for those countries.
Spinoffs are also expected to emerge from work to design and build the SKA, with start-ups already being created out of some of the design work.
In partnership with the European Union, we will implement the Viability and Validation of Innovations for Service Delivery Programme (VVISDP) to demonstrate, pilot and evaluate technologies and innovations that can improve the performance and functioning of municipalities to deliver basic services.
As a department, we are deliberately targeting women and youth initiatives in order to broaden their participation in the economy.
We are currently working with the South African Mobile Devices Distributors and Repairers Association, an industry organisation for the repair and distribution of electronic communication devices.
The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICTSETA) is training 80 technicians in cell-phone repair, which will enable them to operate from their areas of origin, mostly townships and peri-urban areas. I also intend bringing the Wholesale and Retail SETA as a partner in this project.
The SolarTurtle kiosks concept, which aims to give women and the youth the opportunity to run green enterprises will be used as repair centres/workshops in areas where there are physical space challenges.
The DSI is supporting the national Pathway Management Network (PMN), as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.
Our main contribution to the PMN, so far, has been our facilitation of the development of a youth services platform led by the mLab, which is an important contributor to enabling youth participation in innovation.
I am delighted to report that our joint funding and implementation of the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) programme is in full swing.
We have developed a three-dimensional atlas of South African gold and platinum group metals. Last year, we also launched the Technology Availability and Readiness Atlas portal to provide the mining industry with access to the capabilities and offerings of local mining original equipment manufacturers.
As a Department we remain committed to increasing the spatial footprint of innovation through our Technology Stations Programme.
These stations will have stronger links to Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges. This will bring into reality the announcement I made about a year ago that I intend funding and supporting innovation in our TVET colleges.
We are also expanding the rural living labs concept in each province in this current and the 2022 financial year.
These labs will expand programmes aimed at equipping young people with 21st century digital skills for employment, supporting grassroots innovators to develop solutions that will help resolve some of the community challenges.
We also want to position the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS), funded by the DSI, to play a major role in the post COVID recovery process by enabling greater uptake and infusion of high-performance computing in industry, especially for SMMEs.
I can confirm that DSI, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, we have now established the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution operational, one of the only two on the African continent.
However, we had to postpone the inaugural summit as a result of the COVID -19 pandemic.
The Department also continues to advance African partnerships in science, technology and innovation, both with bilateral partners and within the framework of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.
One of our major successes in 2020 was the COVID-19 Africa Rapid Grant Fund led by South Africa.
This is being managed by the National Research Foundation and is supporting 80 science projects in 17 African countries.
As a department we will also continue with our preparations to host the World Science Forum, which aims to promote and celebrate international solidarity in science.
All the work mentioned, and others which I did not mention in this budget vote speech, will be supported by the Budget appropriation of R8. 9 Billion, which includes allocations to our agencies.
Indeed, much more resources are needed in order to increase investment into research and development to increase from the current 0,81% of the GDP to the target of 1,5% as contained in the NDP.
As I conclude, I would like to thank the Honourable President, Deputy President, Cabinet Colleagues, Deputy Minister Manamela, the Chairperson and members of the Portfolio Committee for their support and guidance.
Gratitude also goes to my wife, my staff in the Ministry and to the Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara and the entire Executive Management Committee and staff of the Department, the Boards and Executives of our Entities, and everybody who contributed toward the achievement of our mandate as the department.
I thank you