Technological innovation is key in building a competitive economy, which in turn leads to job creation and shared prosperity. AZAPO shares the assessment that South Africa’s innovation system is failed by poor basic education outcomes; poor development of high end skills- as per Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) PhD study, poor funding to support and encourage post graduate studies and poor coordination.
While focus on big science is good for inspiring young people to take up careers in science and technology, a need exists for investment in research focused on finding solutions for real challenges facing South Africans – particularly poor and rural communities.
A key gap in the innovation value chain is in the translation of innovations at Research & Development stage to commercialized products, services and processes. The Technology Innovation Agency was meant to bridge the gap, but it has largely faileddue to poor management and lack of oversight and clear policy direction from the Department of Science and Technology(DST).
In unlocking the positive prospects held by technological innovation and scientific ingenuity AZAPO will:
- Engage the public, especially young people, in science and technology in order to build awareness and appreciation of science and technology and associated careers
- Ensure better coordination and cooperation between Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Education in order to achieve better outcomes
- Invest in the exploration and exploitation of indigenous knowledge.
- Put research aimed at improving the conditions and lives of poor and rural communities through the application of science and technology front and centre of the country’s research agenda
- Support and invest in basic research. While basic research might not lead to immediate improvements or new products, services and processes, it underpins future products, services and process which hold the prospects for future economic benefit.
- Maintain and vigorously pursue the target of investing 1% of GDP into Research and Development
- Give the Technology Innovation Agency a clear mandate which is to:
- support translation of applied research into prototypes of products, services and processes evaluated to have protectable intellectual property or stand to benefit South Africa
- Support protection of South African Developed Intellectual Property(IP)
- Finance and assist South African startups in the commercialization of IP bearing products and services
- Manage equity accruing from State investment is start ups
- Invest in the development of young black and female researchers so as to diversify South Africa’s researcher cohort
- Ensure coordination and cooperation of all the institutions that constitute the system of innovation to guarantee a seamless functioning of the system throughout the innovation value chain