Govt in huge push to boost innovative ideas from citizens


Johannesburg - Following the recent news that the government would pump over R23bn into the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for innovation, the department has been hard at work to keep up with the trend of digital disruption. 

Imraan Patel, the Deputy Director-General of the DST told Fin24 in an exclusive interview that the department had been involved in numerous programmes to support innovative ideas coming from South Africans.

“It is important that we give life to scientists’ ideas as South Africa has a small but strong science and technology community.

“We are at a stage where we could experiment, learn and eventually make it a success,” Patel told Fin24.

The Council for Scientific Research Institute (CSIR), a subsidiary of the DST, fosters the development of business of aspiring innovators through incubator programmes. 

The CSIR places major focus on its Grassroots Innovation Programme through its Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU), which seeks to unearth rural innovators who will then be incubated into programmes to develop their innovation into a business.

The Grassroots Innovation Programme is currently on the hunt for South Africa’s next innovators and according to Patel they have already unearthed talent for developing technology solutions for the country’s woes. 

He said it was the first time the DST had dedicated an active programme to incubate innovation start-ups. 

“We have seen great value from similar initiatives from other countries," Patel said.

He said that the department was looking at what initiatives were working and then taking that to scale.

“As the department we always have to find ways to give people access to infrastructure.

“Each project needs to show value in its own right, starting from small and medium enterprises, giving them the support they need,” he said.

“In some communities we look at the scale of the challenge and see how we can use innovation to create new opportunities of employment,” Patel told Fin24. 

He added that it was important for South Africans to be at the forefront of the digital revolution which would also create employment for citizens. 

“We need to adopt a responsible research approach. Due to the high levels of unemployment we need people to take advantage of digitisation.

“Digital jobs can provide work to thousands. We need to get more people to do coding as it will become an essential skill, leading to job creation,” Patel said. 

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