Minister Blade Nzimande: Science and Innovation Dept Budget Vote 2020/21

24 Jul 2020

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, on the occasion of the Department of Science and Innovation budget vote presentation at the National AssemblyMinister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, on the occasion of the Department of Science and Innovation budget vote presentation at the National Assembly

Honourable Speaker
Honourable Members of Parliament
Cabinet Colleagues present
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Honourable Bhuti Manamela
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, led by Honourable Chairperson, Mr Philly Mapulane
Director-General of the Department, Dr Phil Mjwara
Officials of the Department of Science and Technology
Chairpersons and CEOs of the entities
Invited guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

The 2020/21 Budget Vote takes place as South Africa, with the rest of the world, struggles with COVID-19.  

The pandemic has altered society and negatively impacted economic activity globally.  South Africans have been forced to change their behaviours and adapt to deep systemic changes in order to keep themselves and the country safe.

This budget vote also takes place days after South Africa and the Revolutionary Alliance is mourning the loss of the only remaining member of the Rivonia Trialist, Isithwalandwe Ubaba u Andrew Mlangeni. His departure marks an end of an era, as he was the last surviving Rivonia Trialist. This was a generation that was ahead of its time, placing non-racialism as one of the central values and goals of our liberation struggle at the height of colonial repression and in the hands of the racist apartheid regime.

Cde Andrew Mlangeni’s passing away is a monumental loss to the Mlangeni family and the South African and world working-class movement.

The mandate of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is to provide an enabling environment for the national system of innovation (NSI) to deliver solutions that address the socio-economic needs of the country.  

Today, as a result of investments made in key research and innovation areas across the NSI, South Africa is harvesting the benefits of a small but effective science system.

The DSI has been mobilising across the NSI, especially among its entities and the entities of sister departments, specific initiatives that are currently being fast-tracked to support the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

These initiatives included the following:

Deploying DSI-funded infrastructure to expand testing for COVID-19,
Biomanufacturing,
Molecular biology enzymes, reagents and testing kits,
Development of personal protective equipment,
Supporting good hygiene practice,
Coordinating efforts for a local COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant and,
Technical support for the National Ventilator Project, of which our entity CSIR was contracted to manufacture 2 000 non-invasive ventilators,
epidemiological modelling of the pandemic and its character in South Africa,
informing how the country should respond through data analytics, and conducting a survey to determine attitudes and understanding of the virus by citizens.

The solutions being harnessed now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic are a clear indication that South Africa has the research and innovation capacity to solve the challenges facing society today and into the future.  

Honourable Members,

Our Department stays true to its impact statement, that we are "Enabling South Africa's sustainable and inclusive development in the face of rapid technological change and innovation".  

This, very much in line with our new name, the Department of Science and Innovation, represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate how science and innovation can contribute to socio-economic well-being.

Our STI missions and priority areas for the next 10 years will be detailed in a Decadal Plan to be finalised and approved in 2020/21.  

The overarching goal of the Decadal Plan is to increase the contribution of the NSI to the achievement of South Africa's national objectives.  

This will be done by enhancing innovation and experimentation, and by accelerating the use of tried and tested approaches to successfully introduce innovation for transformative social and economic change.

The 2019 White Paper on STI, which will be implemented through a Decadal Plan 2020-2030, is the principal policy guiding the NSI and commits the country to furthering the role of STI in economic and social development, emphasising the core themes of inclusivity, transformation and partnerships.  The White Paper is also aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP).

 Another critical aspect is the Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation Institutional Landscape (HESTIIL) review, which is currently being conducted to determine the future direction and infrastructure requirements of the country's post school education and STI landscape.

To drive the White Paper on STI agenda, I will be establishing a standing Ministerial Structure on STI which I will be chaired as the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation. the structure will comprise the Ministers of STI-intensive departments, cluster chairs, National Treasury and the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).  

Honourable Members,

Our department is currently engaging with Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), Sentech and the South African National Space Agency about the local manufacturing of communication satellites to ensure amongst others:

  • Affordable broadband access for marginalised communities.
  • e-Education with full bi-directional interactions.
  • e-Medicine services for clinics and hospitals.
  • Government network connectivity services.

The local manufacturing of a communication satellite will also give the country much-needed data and information sovereignty, and bolster South Africa's role in the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy.  

The "business unusual" approach post-COVID-19 will benefit immensely from such a satellite.

We have also used our Space science and Earth observation decision support tool for the Department of Human Settlement to enable their planning and the monitoring and evaluation of COVID-19 interventions.  

Earth observation is also being used to support the Department of Small Business Development's mapping of spaza shops for the government's Spaza Support Programme.
 
We are hard at work to ensure that we fully participate in the establishment of a Platinum Valley economic industrial project which will cover the Johannesburg-to-Durban corridor, the OR Tambo International Airport to King Shaka Airport.  

This special economic zone will contribute to energy security in the automotive, materials handling, mining, and electrification industries, while contributing to the beneficiation of platinum group metals.

Honourable Members,

Through strategic public-private partnership, Biovac's local vaccine manufacturing capabilities continue to be built.  

Local manufacturing of vaccines will ensure security of supply for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation.  

Biovac's progress in building manufacturing capabilities has also attracted interest as a possible location for the regional manufacturing of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Through Hydrogen South Africa, seven hydrogen fuel cell systems are ready for roll-out.  These systems will be used to provide power to hospitals and medical facilities managed by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the Department of Defence to support COVID-19 patients.  Five 5 kW systems and two 3 kW systems are available for deployment immediately.

Our department funded research on the SolarTurtle and BabyTurtle, which use solar photovoltaic technology. This technology can be deployed at police check points to ensure that police can charge their cellphones and other electrical appliances when they are out in the field.  

This could also allow more check points to be put in place.  The provision of power will also ensure the smooth operation at facilities set up at temporary roadblocks.  This capability is available for deployment immediately.  

Honourable Chairperson,

The Technology Stations Programme (TSP) continues to be one of the main DSI platforms for providing technological support to firms, especially SMMEs.  

During the 2019/20 financial year, the 18 technology stations, hosted by 13 universities of technology, provided technological support to 2 162 SMMEs and potential entrepreneurs, of which 1 055 were women-owned, as outlined in the table below.

The TSP currently receives funding from the Economic Competitiveness Support Package, which is indicated to end in March 2021.  

We will also engage the Department of Small Business Development and National Treasury in an effort to secure continued funding of this crucial support programme.  

In addition, the DSI is busy investigating ways and means of scaling up the technological support to ensure greater geographical and industrial impact.

We are also provides training to indigenous knowledge practitioners and bioentrepreneurs for employment preservation and creation.  This is benefitting more than 70 entities, with the focus on rural cooperatives and women and youth-owned entities.
 
Honourable Members,
 
As a country, we have completed the ratification of the Convention that will establish the SKA Observatory, which will be responsible for governance of the construction and operational phases of the SKA project.  
 
I thank Parliament for its part in ensuring the speedy ratification of the Convention.
 
Close to 700 million euros worth of contracts for the construction of the SKA will start to be awarded to companies and providers in the SKA member countries from late 2020, providing a substantial return on investment for those countries.  Spinoffs are also expected to emerge from work to design and build the SKA, with start-ups already being created out of some of the design work.
 
The fastest supercomputers will be needed to process the unprecedented amounts of data that will emanate from the SKA telescope, with some 600 petabytes – the equivalent of over half a million laptops' worth of data – expected to be stored and distributed to the global science community every year.  
 
Given that the SKA will involve hugely data-intensive research, it will provide opportunities to develop significant skills in data processing, storage and applications, which are also critical for South Africa's successful response to the 4IR.  
 
The DSI is also collaborating with the Department of Tourism, the Northern Cape Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, and the Kareeberg Municipality to establish the SKA Exploratorium in Carnarvon.  
 
This envisaged R60 million multi-purpose science tourism visitor centre will create jobs and boost tourism in the area, and also serve as an outreach hub.  A funding agreement is now being finalised for signature by the relevant parties in order to kick-start the project.
 
Astronomy in South Africa remains important to its socio-economic landscape, the heritage will further be strengthened through the 64 dish MeerKAT, which has already been able to give us a glimpse into the star-formation history of the universe.
 
To extend its research area reach, the MeerKAT is to be expanded by 20 dishes at a cost of R800 million.  
 
The expansion will be a partnership between South Africa, Germany and China. The MeerKAT will be further be integrated into SKA Phase 1 (2019-2024) with an additional 133 antennas in the Karoo up to 80 km baseline from the core to make it a 197-dish array mid-frequency telescope.
 
I must indicate that our MeerKAT telescope continues to perform great science and has contributed to several discoveries.  
 
The benefits of hosting these telescopes include a 75% local content component, direct investment of more than R300 million in the Northern Cape SARAO alone, the development of technical skills and big data capabilities, strengthening of university research programmes, opportunities for SMMEs and industry, community upliftment programmes, and investment in the youth.
 
South Africa also participates in the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (AVN) project that aims to establish self-sufficient radio telescopes in Africa through the conversion of redundant telecommunications antennae into radio telescopes, "new-build" telescopes or training facilities with training telescopes.
 
Our countries who participates in this initiative are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.

Lastly, let me also announce that the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), based in Cape Town, will be celebrating its bicentenary in October 2020, coinciding with its official unveiling as a declared national heritage site by the SA Heritage Resources Agency.  
 
Founded in 1820, the SAAO is regarded as the first scientific institute to be established in Africa, and serves as the national centre for optical and infrared astronomy in the country. Among the several telescopes that it hosts in Sutherland in the Northern Cape is the iconic Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world.
 
Honourable Members,
 
As a department we are committed to ensure that the Science Forum South Africa 2020 continue to provide a platform for public debate on the interface between science and society, strengthening partnerships and collaboration in the NSI, and showcasing South African and African science globally.  If need be, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 event will be presented virtually.
 
We will continue with the preparations for the hosting of the 2021 World Science Forum, which will be convened as a celebration of international solidarity in science, demonstrated by cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, and as also an interrogation of the role of science in social justice.  
 
I must report that I attended the 2019 World Science Forum in Budapest and formally received the handing over of the hosting of the next Forum.

Our Department will be paying particular attention to expanding the NSI to include social and community-based innovation systems that can draw on the creative potential of all our people.

This includes our Regional Innovation Support Programme (RISP), which is implemented through a Programme Management Unit (PMU) that has been established at the CSIR.

We also commit to increase the spatial footprint of innovation by establishing five Living labs in two rural communities in the Eastern Cape and the Free State, as well as in three townships in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape.
 
Progress has also been made in establishing the Small Business and Innovation Fund.
 
The injection of R1 billion into the small business and innovation space to de-risk the early stages of business and technology development will make these small businesses more attractive to large investors for scale-up.
 
Our Department through Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) is collaborating with global manufacturers and local SMMEs to commercialise HySA intellectual property to support local manufacturing and the export of fuel cell components.  
 
Three demonstration electric scooters with fuel cell range extenders and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure were completed in collaboration with the South African Post Office which will use the scooters to deliver mail.
 
In order to help secure the future of the South Africa's mining industry, the South African Mining Extraction Research, Development and Innovation (SAMERDI) strategy continues to receive funding from National Treasury.

The South African Minerals Council (MCSA) continues to co-fund the RDI partnership at 50c for every R1 contribution from government.

This constitutes the largest Public-Private RDI partnership in DSI and this is also an important pilot in implementing the DSI's White Paper intention to establish RDI partnerships with the private sector.
 
Through Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), we have partnered with Grain SA, the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to establish the Agricultural Bio-Innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP).  
 
This programme leverages funding for initiatives that support increased productivity, improved food security and climate change resilience, and improved livelihoods of small-scale farmers.  

Honourable Members,
 
In partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, we are in the process of formalising an affiliate centre of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a multi-stakeholder partnership initiative.  
 
The core focus of South Africa's WEF Affiliate Centre will be technology governance.   
 
The design, governance, management, and priorities of the centre are currently being finalised for adoption and will culminate in the Inaugural South African Technology Governance Forum incorporating the launch of the South African Affiliate to the WEF Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution this year.
 
My department is also continuing its pursuit of a vigorous African STI partnership programme in support of regional and pan-African STI initiatives.  
 
In particular, we will seek to promote intra-African innovation cooperation, which will advance intra-African trade in high-technology products and services to enable the vision of the African Continental Free Trade Area to be achieved.
 
In the context of South Africa's presidency of the African Union (AU) in 2020, we will continue our efforts to support the implementation of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA), which is the guiding framework for our sector's contribution to the AU's Agenda 2063.  
 
Our science diplomacy has also facilitated privileged dialogues with international partners.  We will also continue to concertedly promote STI cooperation with the EU, including active research and innovation partnerships in the fight against COVID-19.  
 
This brings me to the appropriation of our budget. The Budget Allocation for the Department, in the financial year 2020/21 is R7.4 Billion, and includes allocations to our agencies.

The budget appropriation for the 2020/21 is as follows:

Technology Innovation R1.4 Billion
International Cooperation R116,8 Million
R & D and Support R3.9 Billion
Socio-Economic Innovation Part R1.7 Billion
Administration R314 Million
TOTAL R7.4 Billion

In conclusion, I thank the Honourable President, Deputy President, Cabinet Colleagues, Deputy Minister Manamela, the Chairperson and members of the Portfolio Committee for the support and guidance.

Gratitude also goes to my wife, my staff in the Ministry and to the Director General, Dr Phil Mjwara and the entire Executive Management Committee of the Department, the Boards and Executives of our Entities, and everybody who contributed toward the achievement of our mandate as the department.
 
I thank you