The department of science and technology needs more than the R7.4bn set aside in the budget for South Africa to stay abreast of global innovations, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.
“I am really quite distressed about our budget for 2016/17 – it is exactly the same as 2015/16,” she said at a media briefing ahead of the department’s budget vote.
She suggested that any “padding” in other departments’ budgets be sent over to the science and technology department.
Evidence showed countries that invested in science and technology during a global downturn did better than others when conditions started improving, Pandor said.
But the South African government, unlike Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, was stuck in old ways when it came to science and technology funding, and would lose out on opportunities if it did not act soon.
“Otherwise we are going to lose people to countries that are marshalling resources in innovation,” she warned.
The sector was important, not only for the Square Kilometre Array and MeerKAT telescope projects, which are attracting researchers from around the world, but it also played a part in finding alternatives to pressing needs in communities, especially on alternative power supply and sanitation technology.
The total budget includes parliamentary grants split between:
– The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – R872m;
– The National Research Foundation – R883m;
– The Human Science Research Council – R290m;
– The Technology Innovation Agency – R382m;
– The SA National Space Agency – R125m; and
– The Academy of Science of South Africa – R23m.