Budget falls short on realizing targets for 2017/18

Innovation has always played a pivotal role in the economic and social development of countries. It is the main source of economic growth and it helps improve productivity which also makes it the foundation of competitiveness and improving welfare.
The success of our education and skills development systems and our capacity to innovate, will become increasingly important as the global economy shifts from resource to knowledge based.
Knowledge economies that have moved beyond manufacturing, rely on networks of insight and innovation, that depends upon the high level attributes of training and knowledge which allows individuals and groups to bring together ideas and learning in new ways.
South Africa needs a more skilled and innovative population.
The department of science and technology is a key driver to realizing this goal, particularly as it relates to innovation for energy, food security, poverty alleviation and health care – which also requires a serious approach to research and development.
According to the Global Innovation Index and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Africa’s investment on R&D to drive innovation is comparatively low, with South Africa spending 0.76% as compared to its member countries which on average invest 2.38% of GDP in R&D.
The expectation of spending 1% by 2019 on R&D is unrealistic given the current economic outlook of a direct influence by rating agencies downgrade.
The budget is supposed to realize the potential of science and technology in social and human development. The disappointing 2% increase of R128 million, will deter the innovation in both government and business from this goal.
The staff compliment in the department decreases by 42, as vacancies will not be filled, of which 17 are critical posts vital for the department of science and technology to perform efficiently.
The spiral effect in staff reduction, will result in reduced targets in a number of indicators. Research and development infrastructure grants reduce from 70 to 30, while new knowledge and innovation products will drop from 35 to 17. 100 fewer interns will be funded in Research and Development related Design.
The decrease of 9% for the Socio-Economic Innovation Partnership, is disappointing, particularly for small-medium size enterprises.
This budget clearly indicates that under the ANC government, South Africa is moving away from being a creator of innovation to an importer of innovation.
Government has neglected to match its policy commitment to improved education and skills with a dedicated focus on innovation and design to drive job creating growth.
The institutions created to promote innovation and research, such as the National Research Advisory Council on Innovation, have been largely invisible and their activities have not been appropriately coordinated or integrated with initiatives in the private sector.
The DA believes that the quality of South Africa’s post–school education and training outputs and the country’s innovative capacity can be strengthened through:
• A coordinated system for post-school education and research driven through a single integrated department.
• Greater collaboration and coordination towards the achievement of shared goals in private sector, public higher, further and adult education and training.
• Stronger incentives for private sector involvement in education, training and research- driven innovation.
• Making sure the regulatory environment supports, rather than inhibits innovation and academic endeavor.
• Dedicated system to ensure that innovation extends beyond research and ideas, to actual design of products, processes and services which contribute to economic growth through entrepreneurship.
The ANC-government has failed to promote innovation in post-school education, and the department’s budget will once again put this in the back burner.
The DA’s proposals can strengthen our post-school education and innovation and make them effective for growth and development.