The latest report from the ministerial review committee on the STI landscape in South Africa was published in June this year. I was eagerly awaiting a new long-term visionary and innovative approach.
The document is available at:
Recently, we have learned a lot from successful countries, including Finland and the Finnish government’s multimillion investment to promote a system of innovation in South Africa. We have learned about the importance of ‘innovation pull’ or the triple helix innovation approach (quadruple helix in economies like ours) as the foundation of a successful national system. I do not, though, see any structuring, promotion, funding or anything in the report to change our system from ‘innovation push’ to ‘innovation pull’ in the latest report.
Innovation push entails government structures which control the NSI, as well as academic deliberations on the country research focuses, money pumped mainly into the early stages of research and government-controlled funding for development at some later stage.
Innovation pull involves private sector participation in the establishment of the STI focus areas, regional innovation systems, living laboratories and science parks – government, private sector and academia playing equal parts in this journey and jointly taking decisions about our technology future.
Questions for discussion/comment: What will change over the next five years? Is the new NSI’s approach one of pushing innovation with a piece of string or the correct one?
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Article written by Rudi van der Walt
Rudi van der Walt is Director of Technology Transfer and Innovation Support at the North-West University. He started his career in the petro-chemical and chlor-alkali industries, whereafter, in the eighties, he lectured Production and Technology Management at Unisa’s School of Business Leadership. Later, he got involved in innovative entrepreneurship through his own material handling business, as the MD of the CSIR’s Technovent and at the Innovation HUB in Pretoria where he has been mentoring innovative start-ups since its inception. Rudi is presently coordinating the proposed North-West Science Park in Potchefstroom. Rudi is a thought Leaderon SAINe.