Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul;
MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Maruping Lekwene;
Executive Mayor of the Frances Baard District Municipality, Peter Marekwa;
Vice Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University, Prof. Yunus Ballim;
Head of Sol Plaatje University's School of Natural and Applied Sciences, Prof. Aifheli Gelebe;
Director-General of Science and Innovation, Dr Phil Mjwara;
Deputy directors-general present;
Board members and CEOs of science councils and entities;
The Sol Plaatje University management team;
Teachers and learners;
Officials from all spheres of government;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is my pleasure today to be joining you at the launch of National Science Week 2019.
The Northern Cape is an important province in South Africa and to our Department, among other reasons because it hosts our big astronomy projects, the Southern African Large Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array.
Through the SKA we have invested in the upgrading of knowledge centres, created jobs, and provided deserving students with much-needed academic funding.
With our partners, we have contributed towards social and technological development in areas such as Carnarvon, Vosburg, Williston, Van Wyksvlei and Brandvlei.
I am delighted that Sol Plaatje University � the first new university in South Africa after 1994 � is an integral part of these developments and plays a critical role in the production of African intellectuals, with a firm focus on innovation and excellence, in areas such as ICT and data science, heritage studies and palaeosciences.
South Africa is currently considered one of the most technologically advanced countries in Africa, and was rated the most innovative region in sub-Saharan Africa in the 2019 Global Innovation Index.
South Africa continues to advance its position among the world's scientifically and technologically advanced countries, and we are working hard to profile our scientific achievements.
As a Department we are committed to using science, technology and innovation as catalysts for faster economic growth, in the short, medium and long term, as per the National Development Plan.
We are also committed to building the science and technology pipeline, and to broadening representativeness in science and technology, making sure that young people, women and people with disabilities are mainstreamed in science-related careers and education at all levels.
This is one of the reasons we host the annual National Science Week, as part of our efforts to contribute to the development of a society that is knowledgeable about science and critically engages on science, technology and innovation.
The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, or SAASTA, a business unit of our entity the National Research Foundation, has awarded grants to over 100 organisations � public, private and non-governmental � who will carry out activities to popularise science across South Africa from 29 July to 3 August 2019. There will be at least one site hosting NSW activities in each of the 52 district municipalities and metros in the country.
No one should be left out of the solution-driven national discourse that speaks to the value of science in our lives and for our future.
I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to last year's participants in SAASTA's Young Science Communicators competition, who showed their commitment to developing their science communication skills by each writing a piece related to this year's NSW theme, "Facing the harsh realities of climate change".
They are Tlou Masehela, Sabeehah Vawda, Michael Bodunrim, Simone Richardson, Kerryn Warren, Clarissa van der Loo, Carri-Ann Bloom and Anya Eilers.
Thank you for your contribution to making our country conscious not only about science, but about climate change.
This brings us to the theme of the launch today. There is evidence that extreme weather events in South Africa � and the rest of the world � are increasing. Temperatures are rising to unprecedented levels and rainfall patterns are changing.
Climate zones across the country are shifting, ecosystems and landscapes are being degraded, veld fires are becoming more frequent, and overused natural terrestrial and marine systems are under stress.
We are indeed "facing the harsh realities of climate change".
Climate change will slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security and create new poverty traps.
While those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change have generally contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa is the 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases. This is why the government is committed to diversifying our country's energy mix, with the Department doing research, development and innovation on renewable energy.
Delaying actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change shifts the burden from the present to the future, and inadequate responses to emerging impacts are already eroding the basis for sustainable development.
South Africa's scientists are expected to come up with evidence-based, innovative methods to respond to this catastrophic worldwide phenomenon. This was a goal set in 2008, in our Ten-Year Innovation Plan's Global Change Grand Challenge, which has researchers helping government plan for and respond to intensified climate change impacts.
As the Department of Science and Innovation, we remain guided by the National Development Plan, particularly Chapter 5, which seeks to provide high-level direction to ensure that, by 2030, South Africa is an environmentally sustainable society, with an expanded low-carbon economy and reduced emissions, while at the same time reducing poverty, unemployment and socio-economic inequality.
The National Development Plan outlines various climate change mitigation goals and proposed actions to meet the country's environmental sustainability and resilience needs. These include �
achieving the peak, plateau and decline trajectory for greenhouse gas emissions, with the peak around 2025;
having an economy-wide carbon price entrenched by 2030;
having zero emission building standards by 2030; and
absolute reductions in the total volume of waste disposed to landfill each year.
The White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation and its decadal implementation plans will, moving forward, guide the national system of innovation in this regard.
The first decadal plan, which is currently under development, will set out more specific areas in which government will focus its efforts to use science, technology and innovation to deliver equitable social and economic advancement for the South African people.
Our plans will be significant, because of climate change, but also because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We must be able to exploit the 4IR technologies for our ends, but also develop mitigation strategies to counter negative consequences.
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to tell you about some of our climate change mitigation programmes.
One of these is our Hydrogen South Africa initiative, HySA.
o Three centres of competence have been developed: HySA Catalysis (working on platinum catalysts), HySA Infrastructure (working on hydrogen production, storage and distribution) and HySA Systems (working on system integration). They are hosted by local universities and research organisations, and have made considerable progress towards prototyping, demonstration and commercialisation.
o A 2,5 kW hydrogen fuel cell unit based on intellectual property from HySA was deployed at Poelano Secondary School in a rural North West community in April 2018.
o Work was done towards the implementation of fuel cell solutions in the public bus sector using HySA technology, in support of the Department of Trade and Industry programme to roll out hydrogen fuel cell buses in metropolitan areas.
Our Renewable Energy Hub and Spokes initiative focuses on developing national technical capacity in wind, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy.
Research capacity is being built at universities throughout the country � Stellenbosch, Fort Hare, Nelson Mandela University, and the Universities of Pretoria and Cape Town.
Research focuses on specific key components, as well as system design and production.
To delink biofuel production from the food industry, we support research around the development of late-generation technologies in support of the National Biofuels Strategy. This is coordinated via the National Research Foundation Research Chairs and the Technology Innovation Agency's Biofuels Demonstration Programme.
The current work supported includes the use of coal fines together with algae to produce a 10 per cent blended feedstock through pyrolysis.
This work provides the opportunity to use low quality discard coal (i.e. dust and fines), which accrues at 60 megaton per annum.
Regarding energy storage, we have established the Lithium-Ion Battery Programme to initiate the development of advanced energy storage technologies which play an essential role in the integration of solar and wind power.
Advanced storage systems can improve power quality by controlling frequency variations, handle peak loads and reduce costs by enabling utilities to postpone infrastructure expansion.
The focus of the programme is on manganese beneficiation, as well as power-to-gas for renewable energy storage, using hydrogen gas.
The activities are centred on the development of competence and infrastructure for the South Africa energy storage industry.
To bridge the gap from today until the old fossil-fuel based infrastructure is replaced, carbon capture and storage is also part of our programme.
With carbon capture and storage technology, carbon dioxide can be captured, treated, pressurised and stored in geological formations deep underground.
The South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage hosted by SANEDI manages this programme and is now in the process of preparing a geological storage pilot.
A carbon capture and storage demonstration is planned for 2020 and commercial deployment for 2025.
Carbon capture and storage can reduce and potentially eliminate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by existing coal-fired power plants and heavy industries like iron and steel, cement and coal gasification.
In all our efforts, we partner with other stakeholders, and value cooperation and input.
We are gathered here today, because we want to engage with all of you so that you help us to develop more scientific interventions to deal with the challenges that are presented by climate change, as well as other domains, like humans and society, health, biological and food security, Earth and environment, materials and manufacturing, and energy.
As a Department, we launched South Africa's first research infrastructure roadmap for the provision of medium to large research infrastructure across all of these domains.
We are well aware that developing local research, development and innovation capacity in these targeted areas will create an enabling environment for the localisation of technologies in key areas, including local renewable energy potential.
We continue to resource the implementation of the Human Capital Development Strategy for Research, Innovation and Scholarship and, through our public entities like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the National Research Foundation, we continue to provide funding to support postgraduate research students.
The number of postgraduate students supported increased from 12 700 in 2015/16 to about 14 200 in 2017/18.
We also supported a total of 1 019 graduates and students as interns in the workplace through our workplace programmes.
For the past few years, we also have been funding the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enhancement, or DSIDE, programme for capacity building. Many third and fourth-year students, as well as honours and master's students, have gone through the programme at the CSIR.
Under the Thuthuka programme, we supported 1 135 emerging researches with research grants in 2017/18. Of the grant recipients, 83% were black and 63%were women.
Professors Ballim and Gelebe
We, however, remain concerned that a significant number of black and women researchers and academics are not seeking research funding from the NRF. I will be receiving a report in this regard, which I will make public.
In collaboration with other government departments, including the Department of Higher Education and Training, we increased the number of co-funded research chairs in strategic scientific domains from 199 in 2016 to 226 in 2018.
Through the National Intellectual Property Management Office and the Technology Innovation Agency, we will convert as many research ideas as possible into marketable products and services.
We will also upscale our grassroots innovation work following a pilot programme that showed how best to design and deliver support to grassroots innovators. We intend to grow our grassroots innovation support to at least 100 beneficiaries through partnerships with provincial structures, in line with the goal of strengthening provincial systems of innovation.
As I conclude
I believe that South Africa has the potential to be among the world's top 20 scientifically and technologically advanced countries.
In order to realise this potential, it will be necessary to accelerate our efforts to build a society with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This means that we must support science education and promote careers in science.
It also means that we must ensure that our citizens are aware of the importance of science for the growth of the economy and the well-being of ordinary people, and are sufficiently informed about science to engage critically with policymakers.
Aware of this important task, we established a chair for science communication under the DST-NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative.
We will also be monitoring and evaluating all our science communication endeavours. The Human Sciences Research Council, an entity of the Department, is an integral part of this process.
A scientifically literate population will be ready and able to understand scientific and technological developments, and to develop informed opinions on whether the science and technology programme followed by government is aligned to the national development goals and responsive to real challenges.
This launch today provides the basis for the national coordination of science engagement initiatives that will stimulate an appreciation of the role of science and technology in building a knowledge-intensive economy and a better life for all.
We therefore commit to further our collaboration with all sectoral and institutional role players to ensure the dynamic implementation of our Science Engagement Strategy and to achieve the NDP 2030 targets and grow our economy.
I wish all South Africans a fruitful National Science Week.
Source: Department: Science and Technology