Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has approached parliament to augment its financial resources. The CSIR is tasked to conduct directed multidisciplinary research and technological innovation in order to foster scientific and industrial research, aimed at improving the lives of ordinary South Africans. The entity is housed in the Department of Science and Innovation.
Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations gave the council’s appeal a sympathetic ear and undertook to approach National Treasury to ensure the entity received adequate funding.
Last week the CSIR executive made a presentation to the committee on how COVID-19 impacted the organisation’s operations. The key issues they highlighted during the presentation included budget cuts, under-funding, and procurement as well as tendering for work.
Dipuo Peters, who is the member of the committee, commended the CSIR for the work it had done and continues to do despite its limited budget, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peters said failure to adequately fund institutions such as the CSIR, will affect the country’s capacity to respond to a myriad of challenges such as fighting poverty. She said that the Committee would engage with National Treasury and push for an increase in expenditure on research and development to above 0,83% of GDP.
Currently the CSIR receives the bulk of its income from the public sector and parliamentary grants. About 11% of funding came from the private and international sectors, and two per cent from royalties, licences and other income. The organisation also had to diversify more for the local and international private sectors, and to commercialise technologies in order to balance its income from the public and private sector.
Government’s funding to the entity has been declining over the years, for instance ten years ago, the parliamentary grant made up 29% of CSIR’s income, but in 2020 it is only 26%. The innovation, commercialisation, technology transfer and diffusion programmes suffered R8 million cut, while its support portfolios had been impacted by R29,2 million.
Dr Thulani Dlamini, chief executive officer of the CSIR said because of the financial constraints the organisation would not be able to deliver on its mandate particularly related to public procurement, the parliamentary grant and the need for its recapitalisation and investment requirements.
In his input, the CSIR Board chairperson, Prof. Thokozani Majozi, told the committee the organisation has adopted a new strategy which will put stronger focus on industrialisation, as opposed to its previous emphasis on scientific research.
“The CSIR is mindful of the strong industrial and scientific research component integrated into the new strategy, but it will need more government investment to implement the strategy. If the strategy is well implemented, the CSIR will be self-sustainable in the future,” said Prof. Majozi.
The major drivers for the successful implementation of this strategy were identified as business development and commercialisation, technology transfer and diffusion, governance, values, ethics, people, culture, the fourth industrial revolution and emerging technologies.
The implementation plan of the CSIR has four key pillars and these include strategic clusters, capability development, human capital development and strategic infrastructure.
To implement the new strategy, a total of R4,72 billion has been allocated to these four pillars. The investment will also help the organisation to provide support for the development of new capabilities as well as strengthening the existing capabilities to ensure the CSIR remains globally competitive and relevant. It will also support investment in infrastructure and the development of human capital.
Dr Dlamini said what had set the CSIR apart from academic institutions was its ability to foster industrial and scientific development, but he also decried the fact that recently this ability had been lost and not enough was being done to rectify the situation.
“The CSIR needs to do more, especially in terms of industrial development. The CSIR wants to accelerate socio-economic prosperity according to its vision by collaboratively innovating and localising technologies, reducing dependence on imported technology. It has also contributed greatly to government and society through knowledge and research,” Dr Dlamini told the committee.