Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, at
the 2nd annual conference of the South African Tec...
Our country’s national system of innovation has evolved significantly over the
years, but five years of careful monitoring...
of these ideas but also their subsequent exploitation, commercialization and
management.


Universities of technology are ...
However, it accepted the principle of differentiation. By that is meant: each
university should set itself a mission that ...
Universities of technology have to make sure that they take advantage of the
DST’s initiatives, like the South African Res...
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Address at SATN Annual Conference 2009 by The Minister Of Science And Technology, South Africa, Naledi Pandor

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Address at SATN Annual Conference 2009 by The Minister Of Science and Technology, South Africa, Naledi Pandor

Theme: “Technological innovation at Universities in South Africa: towards industrial and socio-economic development”

16 - 17 July 2009
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Bellville Campus.

Published in: Technology, Business
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Address at SATN Annual Conference 2009 by The Minister Of Science And Technology, South Africa, Naledi Pandor

  1. 1. Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, at the 2nd annual conference of the South African Technology Network, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Bellville, 16 July 2009 Programme Director Vice Chancellors of Universities of Technology and other Universities President and CEO of the National Research Foundation, Dr Albert van Jaarsveld Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen The key to our success in science and technology lies in our ability to achieve success in promoting a vibrant, productive national system of innovation. We have recently reviewed our national innovation strategy Several of our national strategies, including the National Research and Development Strategy, the Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Strategy, and the Human Capital Development Strategy, are relevant to the theme of this conference. However, the Department of Science and Technology’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan for South Africa for 2008 to 2018, and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), are especially relevant to this gathering. The Plan and the Agency were the outcome of the Department of Science and Technology’s review of our national system of innovation. The 2007 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development policy review was also part of this task.
  2. 2. Our country’s national system of innovation has evolved significantly over the years, but five years of careful monitoring of its outputs has provided evidence that the system is not operating as well as it could. We have launched the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) The DST recently established the Technology Innovation Agency as a vehicle for supporting and promoting innovation. The Technology Innovation Agency is part of our effort to address the challenges presented by the “innovation chasm” or the gap between the local knowledge base and the productive economy. Our innovation system is a repository of local knowledge, which could have a more sustained impact on the real economy. Due to various impediments to productivity and technological innovation, progress has been slow. Market inefficiencies, a lack of access to adequate financing (specifically for seed and first-stage financing for technology development), and a relatively weak and uncoordinated intellectual property rights management framework have led to inadequate levels of support for innovation. This has contributed to the loss of a number of valuable South African technologies to the developed world. One example is the South African developed lithium-battery technology that is used in the electric vehicle. We lost it to the United States of America two decades ago. Also, as recently as two years ago, we lost our thin-film solar-cell technology to Germany. Clearly, then, innovation in our business incubators and universities is not going to benefit our country, unless we take a greater interest not only in the production
  3. 3. of these ideas but also their subsequent exploitation, commercialization and management. Universities of technology are set to benefit from the TIA and IP acts Universities of technology must ensure that they capitalize on the TIA initiative, and keep track of TIA programmes so that they are at the forefront of development. The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act of 2008 is another critical piece of legislation. It provides for the more efficient use of intellectual property emanating from publicly financed research and development, as well as the establishment of the National Intellectual Property Management Office, NIPMO, to be temporarily housed at the DST. NIPMO will be responsible for the establishment of offices of technology transfer in higher education institutions, which will have to be staffed with people who have the requisite mix of skills and interdisciplinary knowledge, and expertise in intellectual property protection, commercialization and entrepreneurship. Universities of technology must develop research niches It’s imperative that universities of technology develop research profiles and research capacity, while also training higher levels of qualified technologists. The national plan for higher education (2001) rejected the structural differentiation of universities into teaching universities here and research- intensive universities there.
  4. 4. However, it accepted the principle of differentiation. By that is meant: each university should set itself a mission that suits the region in which it is situated and is aligned to national development targets. Most technology universities have done this and yet the debate goes on. It’s useful to remember that in the US and the UK less than 5% of universities are research-intensive, but that does not mean that all the other universities do not undertake research. They have all worked out what is good for them, what they can achieve, and they have focused clearly on those niche areas. For example, Glenda Kruss’s work on partnerships in universities indicates that there are technology universities that have built partnerships in high technology areas, others that are focusing on excellence in teaching, and yet others that are concerned with sustainable rural or regional development. You know which sort of technology university you work in and its strengths. The government has invested large sums of money in upgrading infrastructure since 2007 and proportionately more has been earmarked for those institutions that have not had a research legacy. We need to review the impact of this investment and its support for innovation. Upgrading university infrastructure is not the only component of improving research capacity. The linkages between universities and business and improving the qualifications of staff at technology universities are critical. The low numbers of staff with PhD qualifications is a concern in our country’s higher education institutions in general. However, it’s a major concern for universities of technologies, especially because of their newly attained status as universities and the concurrent expectations in terms of research development and innovation.
  5. 5. Universities of technology have to make sure that they take advantage of the DST’s initiatives, like the South African Research Chairs Initiative and the Centres of Competence programme, to develop their human capital and research capacity. In closing I hope that in the next few days the South African Technology Network will articulate its views on ways in which to work with government, both the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Science and Technology, in using all our energy and expertise towards making South Africa a more innovative country. I wish you every success in your endeavours. Thank you.

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