Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor says her department will use a significant portion of its 2017/18 budget to develop human capital and modernise research infrastructure.

The department has a total allocation of R7.5 billion for this financial year. “Science, technology and innovation are key to equitable economic growth, underpinning economic advances and improvements in health systems, education and infrastructure,” Minister Pandor said on Tuesday at a media briefing ahead of tabling her Budget Vote in Cape Town.

Minister Pandor said internationally, science, technology and related innovations are recognised as future sources of economic growth, with the potential to create new types of jobs, and provide new solutions to problems trapping people in poverty, such as poor health and water shortages.

She said the National Development Plan (NDP) notes that developments in science, technology and innovation (STI) fundamentally alter the way people live, communicate and transact, with profound effects on economic growth and development.

“The NDP argues that countries that are able to tackle poverty effectively by growing economies that are characterised by strong capabilities in STI, and acknowledge the role that STI can play in addressing the interlinked challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” the Minister said. Minister Pandor said her department has sharpened its focus on the ways in which its work and the work of the broader national system of innovation can contribute to addressing South Africa's most pressing challenges.

“The DST [Department of Science and Technology] adds value to the efforts of the rest of government and industry to implement the NDP by providing cutting-edge science and technology to enable effective decision-making,” Minister Pandor said. Minister Pandor said the department's 2015-2020 Strategic Plan identifies the need to provide decisive support to improve government services and functions.

An audit undertaken in 2016/17 identified at least 19 services or functions where the investments of the DST and its entities are providing support. Minister Pandor said her department will ensure that at least 80% of postgraduate students receiving support through the National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary programme are black, 55% are women and 4% are people with disabilities. “Guidelines are in place to achieve this through the bursary and research support programmes, and the efficacy of these guidelines will be monitored and evaluated annually to ensure the realisation of these goals,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za