Government and the private sector must work together to boost investment in research and development.
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, said this when he addressed a panel discussion on innovation and investment at the fifth South Africa Investment Conference.
Earlier at the conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that government had reached its target of raising some R1.2 trillion in investment pledges between 2018 and 2023.
“The role of government policy is very crucial, but part of government policy must also be to forge partnerships, especially partnerships between government, the private sector and academia in terms of science and innovation.
“I am saying this because I have been looking at this R1.2 trillion and asking myself… how much of that is going into innovation? I have told myself now that the next target with the President… one also needs to be looking at how much of that should be going into research and development and innovation.
“If you ask me, I would say ideally about 1.5% and the reason I’m saying that… is that as South Africa, we are at 0.79% of the GDP that goes into [research and development]. In fact, [that figure is] down than a few years ago and the biggest decline has been in the private sector. I am raising that 1.5% of this investment may not translate into GDP but that would be very significant because our target is that 1.5% of the GDP must be spent on research, development and innovation by 2030,” he said.
Nzimande said government itself has implemented several funding measures to stimulate investment and support innovation.
“We have a tax incentive with a significant rebate for investment done by the private sector into research and development. We have got our Technology Innovation Agency which funds the commercialisation of research that has the potential to translate into intellectual property and new businesses.
“We have the National Innovation Fund which we established in 2021. Also, we leverage international partnerships globally in order to support our science, technology and innovation agenda. At its core, this innovation fund catalyses the creation and sustainable development of the high-tech SME sector as well as de-risking…early stage establishment of businesses,” he said.
The Minister emphasised that innovation is crucial to the development and growth of any country.
“Innovation is indispensable for South Africa’s growth and development ambition. But not only for South Africa but for the whole of the continent. Unfortunately, when we are talking economic growth and development we’re often stymied by this point. No country will modernise, no country will develop without significant investment into innovation,” he said.