The South African (SA) Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators Report (2019) gives a clear picture of how the country is doing in terms of leveraging on its science, technology and innovation assets for human development and the creation of inclusive communities. The main findings can be clustered into the following six broad categories: research and development (R&D) expenditure; STI human capital; STI funding and support; scientific publications and patents; innovation and entrepreneurship; and innovation for inclusiveness and social impact.
- R&D expenditure
SA Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a percentage of GDP target in relation to other upper middle-income countries (UMIC) target is 1.5% (on par with global target). Achieved in 2016/17 is 0.82% (SA). 1.4% UMIC in 2015 was 1.4%.
- STI human capital
The country matches other upper middle-income countries in terms of the production of human capital capacity (formal qualifications), but lags behind in terms of the deployment, development and know-how of its human capital. Ratio of Male (55.9%) to Female (44.1%) researchers in South Africa. Ratio of Male (61.9%) to Female (38.1%) researchers globally. South Africa’s portion of female researchers was higher than the global average. White researchers (50.5%) remained the largest, with African researchers (32.2%) second.
- STI funding and support
Government contribution-R16 428 billion (Government funding of R&D). The initial budget was R14 851 billion. For the first time, Government funding of R&D was more than its R&D budget.
- Scientific publications and patents
SA experienced an increase in the number of scientific publications per million inhabitants. In 2008 there were 192 rising to 350 in 2017. This is a 7% increase. The global average is 307. For research areas related to 4IR, SA has the highest world share of scientific publications in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). SA is lagging behind the average patent applications per million inhabitants for upper middle-income countries.
- Innovation and entrepreneurship
Several key institutions of the NSI are contributing significantly to the success of Operation Phakisa. Ocean economy, mining,chemical and waste, and bio-diversity represents approximately 51.35% of technology’s top 100 organisations integrating innovation, people and technology activities and practices. SA has lost its competitive advantage in terms of medium-technology exports when compared to the average of other upper middle-income countries. This trend is likely to continue beyond 2020. By the year 2020, SA is likely to rank below the lower middle-income countries in terms of the export of low-technology products.
- Innovation for inclusiveness and social impact
The CSIR contributed to Operation Phakisa’s “ideal clinic” concept by developing a prototype for the design of maximum usable space for clinics. SA ranks 113th among countries in the Human Development Index. Factors which prove challenging for SA’s ranking are personal safety, health and wellness, nutrition and basic medical care.