South Africa maintains steady growth in R&D expenditure
9 Sep 2010
South Africa has maintained a steady growth in its research and development (R&D) expenditure over the past decade, with Gross Expenditure of Research and Development (GERD) growing fivefold from about R4 billion in 1997/98 to about R21 billion in 2008/09.
The ratio of GERD as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has also expanded over this period, indicating a growing role of R&D within the South African economy.
This is according to the latest national survey on research and experimental development, on the 2008/09 financial year, undertaken by the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Between 2007/08 and 2008/09 total R&D expenditure in South Africa increased from R18,633 billion to R21,041 billion, representing a nominal annual increase of R2,4 billion (or 12,9 percent). This would be 1.3 percent in real terms, i.e. when the effects of price increases are removed from the equation.
The ratio of GERD as a percent of GDP however, shows a decline for the second year in succession, from 0,93 percent in 2007/08 to 0,92 percent in 2008/09. This percentage was 0.95 percent in 2006/07.
GERD as a percent of GDP is a widely accepted indicator of the competitiveness of a country's economy. GERD comprises an aggregate total of actual expenditure on R&D performed within South Africa by the business sector, government, science councils, higher education, and the not-for-profit sectors.
The slowing rate of R&D intensity in the economy is an indication that R&D expenditure has not grown at the targeted rate. The 1 percent target of GERD as a percent of GDP by 2008/09 has not yet been achieved.
This can be partly explained by a higher rate of increase in nominal GDP, surpassing nominal growth in GERD, starting in 2007/08. The growth in the GERD of around 19 percent recorded between 2003 and 2004 has declined to an average of 16 percent in the period 2005 to 2007 and 14 percent in the period 2006 to 2008.
To reach the target of 1 percent by 2008/09, gross R&D expenditure should have increased by 22,6 percent, or by an additional R1,7 billion. Structural and other constraints in our system may have played a role in curtailing the needed expansion prior to 2008. The DST will work with partners in the system to analyse the constraints to expansion and will sharpen current strategies and plans to raise the level of R&D expenditure.
Comparisons to developing countries such as India, China and Russia indicate that South Africa’s share of global R&D has been growing from a relatively low base, and its R&D investment matched its relative economic size. These countries are spending roughly 1 percent of their GDP on R&D.
The spread of R&D activities performed in South Africa has remained similar to that found in previous surveys:
·The business sector has consistently performed the bulk of R&D over the years (an average of about 58 percent for the past five measurements). Public sector R&D, which includes government, science councils and public higher education sector, performs about 41 percent of R&D. The non-profit sector performed about 1,1 percent of total R&D in 2008/09
·Most of the R&D is performed in the field of the engineering sciences, and as a proportion of total R&D expenditure, this field has increased from 22,5 percent in 2007/08 to 24,4 percent in 2008/09. This is followed by the natural sciences with 20,6 percent, and medical and health sciences with 14,6 percent. Other major fields of research in which R&D is conducted in South Africa are information and communication technologies (13,1 percent); social sciences and humanities (12,5 percent); applied sciences and technology (9,1 percent); and agricultural sciences (5,5 percent)
·South Africa has one of the highest proportions of women researchers in the world. The 2008/09 R&D survey shows that women comprise 39,7 percent of total researchers, compared to 13,0 percent in Japan and 33,4 percent in Norway. In developing countries Argentina leads the way, with 51,5 percent women researchers. The racial profile of researchers in South Africa is changing slowly, but some positive aspects can be reported.
About 10,7 percent of South Africa's R&D is financed from abroad, and this percentage has been increasing over the years. There is also an increasing trend of collaborative R&D among businesses, and with government research agencies as well as the higher education institutions (HEI) sector.
The survey also reveals a key constraint with respect to the low proportion of the research workforce in relation to the total employed population. The number of researchers per 1 000 total employment has been stagnant at 1,5 for several years. In 2008/09 it has shown a decline to 1,4 researchers per 1 000 total employment, which compares poorly to countries such as Argentina (2,9), the Russian Federation (6,4) and China (1,9).
The slow pace of skills development in fields such as science, mathematics, engineering and technology continues to be addressed by government.
The R&D surveys are run in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines set out in the Frascati Manual.
South Africa is also involved in the African Science and Technology Indicators Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD), which aims to improve data measurement and benchmarking of R&D and innovation activities in participating countries.
Final sector reports on the survey will be placed on the survey websites http://www.dst.gov.za/publications-policies/r-d-reports and http://www.hsrc.ac.za/CCUP-RnD-7.phtml. The 2001/02, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06 and 2006/07 survey results are already available on these websites.
Cell: 082 379 8268
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
9 Sep 2010
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