Opening Address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom at the Technology Top 100 Awards: Vodaworld, Midrand
28 Nov 2012
Dr Ben Ngubane, Chairperson of Technology Top 100
Professor Roy Marcus, Chairperson of the TT100 adjudication process
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Johannesburg
Professor Ben Anderson of the Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management
Mr Seth Phalatse, Chairperson of Da Vinci Holdings
Mr Dan Hanson of the Technology Innovation Group USA
Dr Steve Lennon, Chairperson of the South African Supporters of Innovation
Representatives from Eskom, the IDC, Accenture, PWC and the South African Academy of Engineering
I am honoured to be speaking to you at this very important event. Allow me at the outset to thank the representatives from those very special Technology Top 100 companies who have provided a unique opportunity for the Department of Science and Technology (DST) interns to gain real work experience. You have shown that innovation, creativity, hard work and initiative are the stepping stones for developing a knowledge-based economy and improving our international competitiveness.
South Africa’s ability to compete with the rest of the world relies heavily on our national system of innovation, which must permeate the culture of business and society. As Government, we understand the massive potential of technology and innovation as engines for growth in our country. We realise only too well that we have to be like the story-book character “Jack” – nimble and quick, and alive to the rapidly changing technological environment in order to grasp the benefits that are sure to flow from innovative, creative efforts in an increasingly connected and knowledge-intensive world.
The DST and the TT100 programme have a longstanding relationship characterised by the values of excellence and innovation. This programme is focused on identifying true South African role-models who, either by using or developing technology, display innovation, tenacity and a passionate belief in people, allowing them to take their organisations to new levels of competitiveness. TT 100 seeks to identify role-models who are either users or developers of innovative technology.
Over the years the entrants in this programme have included a wide spectrum of operations in diversified industries. The awards programme recognises these organisations as high-performance operations that have been able to take their organisations to new levels of competitiveness and productivity through creative effort, as well as a passionate belief in people.
The world continues to be transformed by globalisation. The continent of Africa has been propelled into the digital age. This has been associated with tremendous technological and scientific innovation at a rate that has not been seen before. However, not everyone has been able to access these technological and scientific innovations, and to benefit from them. This is why we consistently emphasise the need to move equally rapidly to a more just and equitable society, so that all our citizens feel the benefits of our advances. If this goal is to be realised, then a strong developmental state, capable state, built on strong partnerships with business and civil society, is needed.
Science, technology and engineering are central to this goal of creating a better life for all. In the traditional world of academia scientists established their credentials by being the first to announce discoveries, with the associated recognition that would come from the scientific community. A gradual shift has taken place, however, towards recognition that the value of the fundamental value of the discovery or breakthrough, lies in what it actually means in practical terms.
In line with global trends, South Africa’s public policy seeks to foster socio-economic growth through focusing on increased investments in research, human capital development, and trade in high-technology industries through the reinforcement of industry-science linkages. This is the necessary shift towards a more knowledge-based economy, characterised by an environment in which the production, exploitation and dissemination of knowledge will play an increased role in enhancing productivity as well as driving growth and development.
The DST is working closely with its sister departments, the DTI and Economic Development, to create an enabling environment for innovation and technology commercialisation. An example of this is the proposed Technology Matchmaking Project which aims to support the alignment of supply side factors of innovation, namely the stimulation and support of research, development and innovation (RD&I) with the demand side of factors of innovation, namely the commercialisation of RD&I.
Researchers and academics are important for the production of theoretical knowledge, which forms the basis for the innovators and techno-entrepreneurs to enhance our capacity to translate this theoretical knowledge into tangible and economically viable goods and services, for both local and global markets.
The fact that South Africa has been awarded the Square Kilometre Array is evidence that we are ready and able to deliver on this promise. This was a significant achievement as we were up against formidable international competition. The ultimate success is the recognition that we are indeed a global technological player, that we have some of the greatest human potential in science and technology and that when we enter the realm of big science we are indeed competitive.
Our scientists and researchers are constantly seeking the meaningful connection between our advances in technological innovation and their contribution to our economic growth. The TT100 initiative is a laudable example of how this connection can be secured.
The Internship Programme provides opportunities for science, engineering and technology graduates to gain practical work experience. This has seen the placement of 50 interns in technology-intensive South African companies during 2012. The Programme recognises that youth employment is an important factor in building a stable society and in promoting and sustaining economic growth.
The initiative aims to empower the graduate participants with a set of technical and practical skills that will allow them to compete more effectively in a knowledge-based economy. Early feedback from the programme participants and their mentors indicate that this programme has been extremely successful and we look forward to the next intake, scheduled for April 2013. We sincerely hope that the network of TT100 companies will be as receptive to taking on the interns as they were when the programme was initiated earlier this year.
Our country has no shortage of bright young minds. Last month I had the privilege of attending the HIP2B² 3M Innovation Awards. The learners were instructed to propose a solution to a real problem that affected them, their family or their community. The winners of this competition, Thabani and Nhlakanipho from Uxolophambili High school, KwaZulu- Natal came up with a ‘pot washer’ to solve the problem of the calluses on their mothers’ hands, developed from frequent scrubbing of their family pots. It may be a small start but I believe their innovative spirit will ensure that in 10 years’ time they will be amongst the winners of the TT100 awards.
The DST attaches great value mutually beneficial partnerships. We believe that in order to sustain our successes, and to meet the on-going challenge of job creation and advancing our national system of innovation, we must constantly strive to create a conducive atmosphere for effective partnerships. I believe this approach will enable public and private-sector partners to be at the centre of providing solutions to some of the most pressing social challenges facing our country and continent.
The DST recently received the report of a Ministerial Review panel appointed by Minister Pandor. There are a number of important recommendations arising out of this review, one being the need for the department to engage more effectively with the business community. We view our relationship with the TT100 as a very strategic one in terms of addressing this issue and look forward to exploring a number of possibilities to expand our relationship with the business community.
Tonight is a special night as we are able to recognise the successes of a group of organisations that have had the courage to subject themselves to an extremely intensive adjudication process. It is a night of celebration at the end of which I trust we will all have greater belief in this wonderful country of ours. Many of the organisations here tonight successfully compete in the global arena with ground-breaking systems, products and processes that are unique and demonstrate what can be done in this country. We need to take lessons from these entrepreneurial pioneers and to stimulate others to emulate these achievements in future.
I wish to make special mention of the adjudicators, whose professionalism and adherence to the highest standards have made this programme one of the most highly recognised of its kind. And there is another group of people who have been actively working to ensure that we have reached this final stage of the 2012 Technology Top 100 programme. These are the back office team who work tirelessly on the entry process, the data collation and the organisation of the awards function. To all of you we wish to place on record our sincere appreciation for your efforts.
To conclude, allow me to leave you with what I believe is a very relevant quote from one of the co-founders of the American company Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy, who said “Technology has the shelf-life of a banana.” That may sound a bit disparaging, but it’s true. The advance of technology is so rapid in this competitive world of ours that only continuous innovation will keep the inventor sharp and at the forefront of his or her field. The award recipients we are honouring this evening have that ability to stay ahead of the pack which is impatiently and jealously snapping at their heels. That’s why your awards are so deserving, and I extend, with great admiration, my congratulations to all the qualifiers and category award winners of the TT100 programme.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
28 Nov 2012
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