Speech by Minister Naledi Pandor MP, at the 60th anniversary function of the Sugar Milling Research Institute (SMRI), Durban Country Club
1 Dec 2009
Deputy Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Mr Logie Naidoo
Chief Executive Officer of the Sugar Milling Research Institute, Dr Janice Dewar
Chair of the SMRI Board, Mr Dave Meadows
Chair of the South African Sugar Millers’ Association, Mr Larry Riddle
SMRI board members and staff, past and present
Principals of the sugar cane industry, millers and growers
Ladies and gentlemen
It’s a pleasure to be here today.
Let me begin by congratulating the SMRI on its 60th anniversary. For 60 years the institute has played a significant role in servicing the technical needs of its members, the South African sugar milling companies and their associated operations in Africa.
The Department of Science and Technology’s mandate is to drive innovation in government and to encourage innovation, through incentives and regulations, in business and universities.
The major challenge we face is to make sure that innovation contributes to improving the lives of the poor, to make sure that innovation contributes to boosting the economy and to make sure that innovation contributes to make South Africa competitive in Africa and abroad.
Since the establishment of the Department of Science and Technology has provided broad-based support for research in a variety of disciplines, including astronomy, space science and technology, biotechnology and climate-change science. The department has also served as a nucleus for activities in technology development, transfer and increased commercialisation.
Over the next ten years the Department of Science and Technology’s innovation strategy aims to drive South Africa towards a knowledge-intensive economy, in which the production and dissemination of knowledge enriches all fields of human endeavour.
Research conducted by the World Bank indicates that over the next two decades there will be as many as one billion new jobs in science, engineering and technology. While the old economy based on extractive industries and resources will continue to shed jobs, jobs will be created in the new economy based on services and knowledge.
Nearly 10 years ago, the government set a target to spend 1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development (R&D). We have reached that goal, but countries that have successfully built knowledge-intensive economies are now spending more than we are. The average annual R&D investment of Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states is more than three times our own. And OECD countries are increasing that investment.
This is not the time to cut back on South Africa’s investment in the future. It’s the time to invest in key sectors where South Africa is well placed to lead. Our policy is to protect and promote our investment in science, to make it easier for students and entrepreneurs to exploit their patents and to form companies, and to provide a regulatory regime in which enterprises find it beneficial to market their ideas.
If we build on our recent success in expanding investment in research and development, we will be able to develop new industrial processes that are both locally innovative and internationally competitive.
Our future growth more jobs, greater wealth lies in increased research and development, developing new patents and trademarks and developing new technologies for transforming traditional industries.
KwaZulu-Natal’s sugar industry is one of the most efficient in the world in terms of sugar recovery from sugar cane, and this is a result of research, development and innovation in sugar cane processing technology, led by the Sugar Milling Research Institute.
The sugar cane industry is a mature one, and does face significant challenges. If it’s to remain competitive and sustainable, and safeguard the decent work of the many people who depend on it, radical innovation will be necessary.
Towards the end of last year a consortium made up of the SMRI, the South African Sugarcane Research Institute, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal approached my department with a view to the creation of a strategic sugar-cane research platform.
We conducted a feasibility study and as a result of the positive outcome of the report, the Department of Science and Technology mandated the PlantBio Trust in Pietermaritzburg to establish the proposed sugar cane centre of competence process.
I’m pleased to report that there has been progress. On 3 August this year, the consortium submitted a strategic plan and a portfolio of projects to PlantBio for the proposed centre of competence. If everything goes well, I am told that PlantBio may soon be in a position to announce the first projects to be funded as part of this initiative.
Strong links currently exist between the sugar industry and its research and development organisations. These, together with those that will be created by the sugar-cane centre of competence, will further enhance the scientific outputs of the industry’s research programme.
It’s essential that in this partnership with industry, the research outputs of the new platform should be transferred appropriately to enterprises in which significant outcomes can be achieved.
I’d like to commend the South African sugar milling industry for supporting the SMRI over the past 60 years and for having the foresight to recognise that organisations such as this one are invaluable assets.
Many businesses have supported industry wide research and development initiatives in the good times, only to withdraw their support at the first signs of economic downturn. They then find it virtually impossible to recover the level of knowledge, competence and critical mass at a later stage. The sugar-milling industry never made such a mistake.
For these and many other reasons I wish the South African sugar-cane industry success and prosperity, on this the celebration of the anniversary of the SMRI.
In closing, I want to say the 2009 World AIDS Day heralds a new era in South Africa’s approach to HIV and AIDS. Our theme this year is, “I am responsible. We are responsible. Government is taking responsibility”.
Show that you are responsible:
* Go for a HIV test. Test alone, with your partner, with your friends or with your family
* Wear a red ribbon to show your personal commitment to stopping new HIV infections and to providing care and support for people living with HIV
* Talk to your partner, friends, family and colleagues at work about how you can prevent becoming infected with HIV
* Encourage pregnant women to test early in their pregnancy for HIV so that they can prevent their babies from getting infected with HIV
* Provide red ribbons to your employees, colleagues, family and friends to show your collective responsibility
* Organise a discussion in your office, community or organisation about what you can do to stop the spread of HIV
* Organise a community march or activity to talk about HIV
* The government is taking responsibility to make sure that everyone tests for HIV, receives counselling, that condoms are available, and that all people have access to treatment for TB and HIV.
I am responsible
We are responsible
Government is taking responsibility
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
1 December 2009
Source: Department of Science and Technology (http://www.dst.gov.za/)
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
1 Dec 2009
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