Science needs more money
Cape Town - Science and technology funding must be improved if South Africa is to realise its ambitious national goal of building a knowledge-based economy, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.
"One of the areas that must be addressed is increased support for post-graduate study and for senior researchers plus a more stable funding model for all our research-performing institutions," she told the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote.
Recent research reports from universities and science councils pointed to robust and growing research activity in a wide range of disciplines.
"We are committed to ensuring we build on this wealth of intellectual activity and intend to support our institutions and researchers much more vigorously," she said.
The department was allocated R4.1bn in the adjusted estimates of 2010/2011, and spent 98%.
"Our biggest hurdle is vacancies due to the lack of appropriate skills. We will give this challenge more attention this year."
In this financial year, the allocation was R4.4bn.
Over R200m would be spent on expanding access to the SA National Research Network (SANREN) to ensure that all universities in South Africa were connected by December 2011.
Altogether 62 new research chairs would be established with a total investment in research chairs of R914m by 2013, Pandor said.
TIA is the key agency
An additional 25 post-doctoral fellowships, each worth R180 000 a year, for three years would be created.
Further, R433m went to the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), R1.089bn to the National Research Foundation (NRF), R687m to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), R206m to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), R93m to the SA National Space Agency (SANSA), R32m to the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA), and R11m to the Academy of Science of SA (ASSA).
Pandor said the department intended to create an institutional and policy framework that advanced and sustained a co-ordinated and responsive national system of innovation.
The TIA was the key agency in this regard.
"TIA is now fully operational and has begun to add value to several investment opportunities," she said.
At present 26 investments had been identified, and 11 had a very strong likelihood of enhancing job creation and socio-economic development.
A further 11 others had proceeded beyond proof of concept stage and four were ready for commercialisation.
Over R400m would be committed to this successful investment portfolio.
"We will strive to secure a much larger investment in TIA for 2012," Pandor said.