The Human Sciences Research Council’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) on Tuesday launched the Business Innovation Survey which will examine the innovation activities in 5 000 enterprises, which are small to very large, and across a range of industries.
The survey will review the entities’ state of innovation in the period from 2014 until 2016.
“One of the most important ways in which we need to do things differently in South Africa is to recognise the changes that digital technology and innovation can bring to our lives and livelihoods. In other parts of the world, business and governments seek solutions in innovative technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, simulation and additive manufacturing, big data and analytics,” said head of CeSTII, Dr Glenda Kruss.
“In May this year, the World Economic Forum meeting in Durban encouraged African countries to recognise that all industries are being disrupted digitally. Government, private sector and civil society actors, each in their own sphere and through partnerships, are urged to unlock the potential of the digital economy, for citizen service delivery, customer experience and innovative solutions, for a better life for all.”
She said the historical constraints on development in African countries, however, mean that there is a high risk of being left even further behind, if the continent does not have the skills or infrastructure to support the high-speed, widely available internet connectivity required.
“This is the rapidly evolving context within which we in the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators undertake our research on measuring science, technology and innovation in South Africa. We need an evidence base of current and potential activity in the national system of innovation, if we are to find new ways to do different things,” said Kruss.
“Through this survey we are interested in big policy questions – how innovative are South African firms in the sectors that are key to our economic growth strategies? Are these firms doing the kinds of innovation that can contribute to employment generating and inclusive economic development? Do we have enough people with the skills to innovate, and to harness the potential of the digital economy? What are the main barriers that firms experience that hinder more innovative activity?”
CeSTII has been conducting these surveys in South Africa on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) since 2005. The previous “nationally representative survey” is now 10 years old, having covered the period of 2005 to 2007.
“Government still uses this evidence to inform its interventions to stimulate innovation. Clearly, we need new, up-to-date and credible data now, if we are to find ways to do things differently,” said Kruss.
Godfrey Mashamba, a chief director at the DST said it is imperative for South African business and State entities to be highly innovative.
He said there is greater need for “proudly South African products” on the market.