Budget supports SMMEs
The Department of Science and Innovation budget announced by Minister Blade Ndzimande has been given a major injection to support small medium and micro enterprises and extend its footprint.
According to the Minister the department would increase its 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.”
He said an 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.
The department through Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) has collaborated 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.
Ndzimande said 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.
“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.”
The budget also places Covid-19 in its crosshairs with Ndzimande saying the pandemic has altered society and negatively impacted economic activity globally.
“Our department is currently engaging with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, 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.”
He said the local manufacturing of a communication satellite would also give the country much-needed data and information sovereignty, and bolster South Africa’s role in the implementation of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy.
“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.”
He echoed sentiments made by other officials that the local manufacturing of vaccines would 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 are earmarked 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.
“Our department funded research on the SolarTurtle and BabyTurtle, which use solar photovoltaic technology.”
He said this technology could be deployed at police checkpoints to ensure that police 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. “
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..
“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.
Ndzimande said the expansion would be a partnership between South Africa, Germany and China.
“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.”
The Department has collaborated 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 according to Ndzimande is expected to 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,” said Ndzimande.