South Africa would need to devote more resources and policy support to science and technology if the country wanted to achieve its ambitions of building a knowledge-based economy, Minister Naledi Pandor said on Tuesday.
She said in her budget vote speech that funding of science and technology should be improved and that post graduate study and senior researches should receive more support.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) received R4,4-billion to boost research and development in South Africa in 2011, much of which would be spent on developing human capital in the sector, as well as on the upgrade and expansion of necessary infrastructure.
Pandor said that the DST’s biggest challenge was filling vacancies, owing to the lack of appropriate skills.
“In this financial year we will continue to expand support directed at growing the pool of active and productive researchers,” she stated.
To this extent, the department intends to establish an additional 62 research chairs this year to focus on technology missions, priority research areas, science and technology for poverty alleviation, engineering and applied technology, as well as fundamental disciplines.
In total, the DST would invest R914-million by 2013 to establish these research chairs. The initiative is aimed at strengthening scientific research leadership and capacity in South African universities.
The expansion of the South African Research Chairs Initiative, which the DST cofunds with the National Research Foundation, means that South Africa would have a total of 154 research chairs by 2014, making it a R428-million-a-year initiative.
The DST would also see to it that an additional 25 postdoctoral fellowships, each worth R180 000 a year for three years would be created.
Further, Pandor said that the department would invest about R1,43-billion in research equipment and infrastructure over the next three years, with one of the most important objectives being to ensure that all public university campuses have broadband connectivity to the South African National Research Network.
“We anticipate modest growth in the outer years of this medium-term expenditure framework to address human resource development and infrastructure renewal in our science councils,” said Pandor.
The DST was allocated R4,1-billion in the adjusted estimates of 2010/11, of which it spent 98%.