Remarks by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor MP, at the Cleantech Competition Award Ceremony, COP17, Durban
8 Dec 2011
Good evening and a special word of welcome to all of the 2011 SA CleanTech Competition finalists.
I am sure that you have been swamped by global statistics during the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17). However, a couple of population statistics make for particularly sobering reflection. It took 250,000 years of human existence for the living population to reach 1 billion. It took barely twelve years for the world’s population to increase from 6 billion to 7 billion. By 2050, it is estimated that more than 10 billion people will live on our earth.
It is this global population growth that makes a global agreement around Green House gas emissions so important.It is this global population growth that requires the transfer and deployment of innovative and environmentally friendly technology solutions to our global energy requirements.
Many of us in the developing world see this as an opportunity, while believing that the developed world must bear the lion’s share of the costs for preventing the further warming of the earth. It is just our luck or our fate that global sustainable development has become a global issue at a time when the economic prospects of Africa have never looked so good.
The rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is greater than in any other developing region. For example, the South Korean electronics giant, Samsung, thinks that by 2015 Africa will be a bigger market for them than China.There are now over 100 African companies with revenues greater than $1billion.
Six of the 10 most rapidly expanding economies in the world over the past decade were in sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mozambique and Chad.Over the next two decades the African economy is predicted to grow faster than the Chinese economy.
In this context, Africa needs clean technologies.Clean technologies are a broad range of technologies that reduce the impact of human and economic activity on nature and the natural systems that support life in all its forms.
In South Africa clean-technology solutions have a key role to play in providing adequate services and job opportunities. The Department of Economic Development, the Department Energy, and the Department of Trade and Industry have recently announced key programmes and funding for renewable-energy projects. The first batch of 53 renewable energy independent power producers were announced here at COP17 yesterday, a massive step towards meeting our future renewable energy targets.
I know that Minister Davies has been working closely with Secretary General Yumkella at UNIDO on the mix of policies to adopt in order to accelerate a structural change in the South African economy away from our current reliance on natural-resource exports to manufacturing industrialisation that provides jobs for more and more South Africans.
In this process of structural change knowledge becomes a central determinant of economic growth. In this process of structural change, Africa needs innovation.The Department of Science and Technology’s mandate is to nurture and to shape the production of knowledge.
We invest in the generation of knowledge, the education and training of the workforce, and the capacity for innovation and the exploitation of new ideas. Knowledge is difficult to measure, because it’s intangible and it’s difficult to value in rand and cents. But usually we take the expenditure on research and development as a proxy for the growth of knowledge in an economy.
We are working hard to increase our research intensity, that is, the amount we spend on our research and development as a proportion of our GDP, but our Achilles heel is the scarcity of qualified researchers and professionals. We see a declining share of world patents, and rely more and more on imported technology.
This is why the Department of Science and Technology, together with its agencies, supports government-wide programmes and interventions to support research, development and the commercialisation of new and emerging technology solutions.
This includes on-going support to a range of existing interventions, including the activities of the South African National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA).
Department of Science and Technology, through The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Mintek, has taken significant strides in the development of a process to make the best use of the massive Titanium reserves in South Africa by producing Titanium powder for the manufacture and export of components rather than titanium ore.
In the health domain there have been important research developments that include the development of Tenovofir gel through the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) and the use of nanotechnology at CSIR to produce slow release medication for TB treatment.
Once fully tested and proven, these innovations will still need to bridge the gap from research to commercialisation, and thus to make the desired quantum shift in employment and economic returns that we expect from the knowledge economy.
The shift from research to proof of concept to ultimate commercialisation is not simple and requires close cooperation and harmonisation of the work of several Departments, particularly Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Economic Development (DED) and Department of Science and Technology.
The NCPC-SA, currently hosted by the CSIR, is the DTI’s key industrial sustainability programme.As part of the 2011 Clean Technology (CleanTech) Competition, an agreement has been reached between the NCPC and the DST’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), in regard to funding early stage renewable-energy projects.
Our colleagues at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) tell me that competitions such as the CleanTech 2011 attract a number of outstanding entries. Not all the entrants can become finalists, but the TIA, whose mandate includes providing support for technology innovation and development, including green technologies, intends partnering with SA Cleantech Competition to consider all entries in the SA Cleantech competition.
This is with a view to supporting qualifying entrants, in line with TIA funding criteria. So, to all of the entrants, I would like to encourage you to approach the TIA and engage further with the Agency for consideration of your various proposals.
This process has provided a showcase of the innovation that is happening in the country. Each innovation adds momentum to the structural change that is needed for the economic growth, job creation and improved quality of life of our people. Thank you for being the risk takers that drive innovation and economic development, and thank you for your time and attention.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
8 Dec 2011
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