Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says the department’s Research and Development and Support Programme will transfer R693 million to the National Research Foundation to ensure the completion of the MeerKat – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) demonstrator project.
The Minister said this when she briefed the media ahead of tabling the department’s R7.5 billion Budget Vote for the 2017/18 financial year in Parliament, Cape Town, on Tuesday.
“The SKA will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope.”
“Key economic benefits from this investment will be the leveraging of foreign direct investment from the SKA Organisation for construction costs of phase one of SKA,” she said.
The Minister said in the time ahead, the department will focus on the South African innovation of energy security, poverty alleviation and health care funded through the Technology Innovation Programme. An allocation of R1.1 billion is allocated towards this, the Minister said.
Highlighting other key priorities, the Minister said the department would ensure greater economic and social returns from intellectual property generated from innovation activities using public funds.
She said the department will transfer R36 million to the National Intellectual Property Management Office to ensure that publicly funded intellectual property is used to create products, processes and services that contribute to quality of life in South Africa.
“The Department aims to position bio-innovation as a mechanism for achieving government’s industrial and social development goals, guided by the department’s 2013 Bio-economy Strategy.
“Under the Technology Innovation Programme, R156 million is allocated for bio-innovation in the health, agricultural and industrial biotechnology sectors,” she said.
R4.3bn allocated to research development, support
The Minister said in the year ahead, the department would invest in human capital development through the Research Development and Support Programme.
It is through this programme where knowledge generation is increased. The programme is also a source of research funding for higher education institutions.
In the 2015/16 financial year, 4 315 researchers were awarded research grants through programmes managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the department.
“This figure is expected to increase to 4 500 in 2017/18.
“In 2017/18, no fewer than 32 792 pipeline postgraduate students will be awarded bursaries through the NRF/ DST funded programmes,” she said.
She said the department will continue to work towards ensuring that South Africans have access to internationally comparable research and innovation infrastructure.
“Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, 90 new research infrastructure grants will be awarded in response to the needs across the innovation value chain … and the total available broadband capacity provided through the SA National Research Network will be increased to 3 500 Gigabits per second (or 3.5 Terabits per second), which will assist in providing more efficient transmission of data to all research and academic institutions,” she said.