Science and technology
The aim of the Department of Science and Technology is to
realise the full potential of Science and Technology (S&T) in
social and economic development of human resources (HR),
research and innovation.
The department funds basic research at universities and
public entities, including science councils, so that they can
train scientists, engineers and technologists and produce
publications and patents. Almost 60% of the department's
R4,4 billion budget is spent on public entities. Of the overall
research and development (R&D) spend, the greatest portion
is on the natural, medical and health sciences.
Strategies and programmes
The department has five strategic goals, namely to:
- develop the innovation capacity of the science system and; thereby contribute to socio-economic development
- develop South Africa’s knowledge-generation capacity
- develop appropriate human capital for research, development and innovation (RDI)
- build world-class RDI infrastructure
- position South Africa as a strategic international RDI partner and destination.
The Department of Science and Technology's Human Capital
and Science Platforms Subprogramme conceptualises,
formulates and implements programmes aimed at developing
and renewing science, engineering and technology human
capital to promote knowledge generation, protection and
Early in 2011, about 272 interns graduated from the
Department of Science and Technology and the National
Research Foundation (NRF) Internship Programme.
Since 2006, almost 750 interns have been hosted by
various Department of Science and Technology institutions, including science councils, national facilities and museums. By 2011, R29 million had been invested in the programme, with a further R45 million earmarked for the next three years.
At the sixth Science Centre World Congress in Cape Town
in September 2011, the Minister of Science and Technology,
Ms Naledi Pandor, announced the establishment of 26
science centres across South Africa. The centres are seen
as vital to developing human capital and strengthening the
country's S&T culture.
In September 2011, the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) was launched. The SAYAS is intended to facilitate and enhance the participation of young scientists in
the mainstream of R&D across all disciplines and to provide
young scientists with the opportunity to use their knowledge
to address South Africa's socio-economic challenges.
The Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) was launched in November 2005, in Sutherland in the Northern Cape.
This is a multimillion-rand project involving Germany,
Poland, the United States of America (USA), New Zealand
and the United Kingdom (UK). It is the largest single optical
telescope in the southern hemisphere.
Before and after the announcement of South Africa and
Australia as hosts of the Square Kilometre Array radio
telescope in May 2012, a number of initiatives have been
South Africa has created a radio astronomy reserve in the Karoo, near the small town of Carnarvon in the Northern
The commissioning of the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) was expected to be completed by the end of 2011. KAT-7 is a
test bed for the KAT known as the MeerKAT radio telescope
array which will start operations in 2016.
By July 2011, five years before the MeerKAT goes online, 43 000 hours of observing time, including a consortium led by
internationally renowned astronomers, had been allocated for
Nanotechnology, unlike other technologies, can find
applications in virtually all areas of human life. In spite of
it being in its beginning stages, some of the known issues
related to nanotechnology suggest a wide spectrum of
potential societal impact. For a society to switch from a merely
passive, observational role to one of active participation,
public discourse about nanotechnology must be encouraged.
Two nanotechnology innovation centres were established
at the council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Mintek. The two nano-innovation centres have a budget
of R134 million over the current Medium Term Expenditure
In 2011, the department acquired a world-class, R30-million
high-resolution transmission electron microscope that was
expected to be be commissioned in the latter part of the year.
The Department of Science and Technology, in
partnership with the University of the Western Cape and
the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, hosted the
second nanoscience and nanotechnology summer school
in November 2011, targeting Honours and Master's Degree
students interested in the nanoscience and nanotechnology
The vision for the school is to create a pool of nanoscientists
sufficiently trained to conduct nanoscience research. The
theme for 2011 is Nanoscience Characterisation Techniques.
Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS)
The indigenous knowledge of many communities embodies a
deeply spiritualised and ancient relationship with the Earth's
systems and cycles.
The National Recordal System is the largest fingerprint
initiative of the region to document and record indigenous knowledge.
Two indigenous knowledge research chairs have been
awarded as part of the South African Research Chairs
Initiative. The first was awarded to the University of KwaZulu-Natal for work in the field of traditional medicines. The second
has been awarded to Walter Sisulu University. These two
chairs represent significant injections into the development of
national research capacity in IKS.
The Department of Science and Technology also
established indigenous knowledge studies centres of
excellence at the universities.
The centres will play a defining role in generating highly
qualified HR capacity in IKS.
South Africa’s research institutions and universities are conducting biotechnology research to increase production of crops suited to local conditions, enhance crop nutritional value and improve preservation and processing methods resulting in novel and improved food products.
Research is being conducted on understanding the nutritional components of food indigenous to South Africa, with the aim of making those with a high nutritional value available and accessible to the majority of people.
South Africa is classified as one of the 14 mega biotech countries in the world, and the only one in Africa. These countries, including South Africa, have a special responsibility to ensure that the potential impacts of genetically modified organisms on human or animal health; on the environment; together with their probable socio-economic impact, are carefully measured, assessed and estimated before they are released. A favourable risk-benefit ratio can only be ensured in this way.
Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)
The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) was formed from a merger of seven organisations funded by the Department of Science and Technology, including the Advanced Manucfacturing Technology Strategy, Biotechnology Partnerships and Development, Cape Biotech, Innovation Fund, LIFElab, PlantBio and Tshumisano and is mandated to stimulate and intensify technological innovation to improve economic growth and the quality of life of all South Africans.
The Department of Science and Technology intends to
create an institutional and policy framework that advances
and sustains a coordinated and responsive National System
of Innovation. TIA is the key agency in this regard.
By June 2011, about 26 investments had been identified;
11 had a very strong likelihood of enhancing job creation
and socio-economic development; 11 others had proceeded
beyond proof of concept stage; and four were ready for
In 2011, R433 million was allocated to the TIA.
National Advisory Council on Innovation (Naci)
The Naci Act, 1997 [PDF] mandates the council to advise the Minister of Science and Technology, and through him/her the Cabinet, on the role and contribution of innovation (including S&T) in promoting and achieving national objectives.
In November 2011, the Department of Science Technology,
the Human Sciences Research Council's (HSRC) Centre for
Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, and the Naci hosted a workshop on measuring and monitoring innovation
in South Africa. The purpose was to review the scope and objectives of the South African Innovation Survey and to
evaluate other indicators that need to be monitored to better
inform policy-making in this area.
South African National Space Agency
The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) is mandated by the Sansa Act, 2008 [PDF] to promote the
peaceful use of space, foster international coopertation in
space-related activities and create an environment conducive
to industrial development in space technology through
research, human capital development, outreach programmes
and infrastructure development.
National research facilities
The National Research Foundation (NRF) manages South Africa’s national research facilities. It promotes and supports basic and applied research. The NRF oversees the following national research facilities:
Agricultural Research Council (ARC)
The ARC's functions are carried out through 11 research institutes whose activities are grouped under five divisions:
- field crops (grain and industrial crops
- animal production and health
- natural resources and engineering
- technology transfer.
The ARC is also responsible for maintaining national assets
and undertaking programmes or rendering services that
are required from time to time by the department and other stakeholders.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
The CSIR is one of the leading S&T, R&D and implementation
organisations in Africa, with its main site in Pretoria. The organisation is represented in other provinces of South
Africa through regional offices. In 2011/12, R687 million was
allocated to the CSIR.
Mintek, South Africa’s national mineral-research organisation, is one of the world’s leading technology organisations specialising in mineral processing, extractive metallurgy and related areas. Collaborating with industry and other R&D institutions, Mintek provides service testwork, process development, consulting and innovative products to clients worldwide.
The Department of Mineral Resources granted Mintek
R90 million over the 2011/14 period for the rehabilitation of
derelict and ownerless mines in South Africa.
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
The core business of the HSRC is to conduct large-scale,
policy-relevant, social-scientific projects for public-sector
users, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international
development agencies. This is done in partnership with
researchers globally, but specifically in Africa. In 2010/11, the
HSRC undertook more than 150 projects and an assortment
Medical Research Council (MRC)
The MRC was established in July 1969 as an independent
statutory body to coordinate health and medical research
activities throughout South Africa, operating as a statutory
science council functioning within the ambit of the MRC Act,
1991, as well as the Public Entities Act, 1997.
Council of Geoscience (CGS)
The CGS supplies the country with geoscience data to establish a safe and cost-effective physical infrastructure.
South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
The SABS produces, maintains and disseminates standards. It promotes standardisation in business and government, and administers compulsory standards on behalf of the State. It also certifies international quality standards.
Other important research bodies and areas
National Institute for Tropical Diseases
The National Institute for Tropical Diseases in Tzaneen,
Limpopo, is responsible for the ongoing assessment of
malaria-control programmes carried
out by various authorities
in South Africa.
Control methods are assessed and recommendations
made to the appropriate authorities regarding equipment,
insecticide usage and application. A malaria-reference service
is also provided. Malaria tests are carried out by the institute
and statistical analyses of data pertaining to the programme
The activities of the Safety in Mines Research Advisory
Committee are aimed at advancing the safety of workers
employed in South African mines. The committee is a
statutory tripartite subcommittee of the Mine Health and
Safety Council. It has a permanent research-management
office managing the rock engineering, engineering and mine
occupational health fields of research.
South Africa's National Energy Research Institute (Saneri)
is the public entity entrusted with the coordination and
undertaking of public interest energy research, development
and demonstration. Saneri was established in October 2004
as a subsidiary of the Central Energy Fund (Pty) Ltd, the state
energy company in South Africa.
The Agricultural Research Council (ARC), several universities and various private-sector
organisations conduct agricultural research.
Water research in South Africa is coordinated and funded by the Water Research Commission in Pretoria. The organisation’s most active partners in water research are:
- universities and universities of technology
- professional consultants
- science councils
- water and waste utilities
- non-governmental organisations.
Coastal and marine research
The National Research Foundation (NRF) supports marine and coastal research in partnership
with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the South
African Network for Coastal and Oceanic Research. The
Chief Directorate: Marine and Coastal Management advises
on the use of marine living resources and the conservation of
marine ecosystems, by conducting and supporting relevant multidisciplinary scientific research and by monitoring the
Sustainable use and the need to preserve future options
in using marine ecosystems and their resources are guiding
objectives in the research and advice provided by the chief
The Department of Environmental Affairs annually finances several research and monitoring programmes.
The programmes focus on, among other things, waste
management and pollution, nature conservation, river
management, the coastline and marine environment, and he