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FAQ: South African National Survey on Research and Experimental Development


What is the purpose of the R&D Survey?

The Survey collects data annually on financial and human resource inputs into R&D activities performed in-house in South Africa by firms, universities, science councils/public research institutes, government departments, and NPOs. Data is used across sectors for planning, monitoring and benchmarking purposes. The information it yields is also used by Government to support evidence-informed decision-making on R&D and innovation policy.

Who is responsible for conducting the Survey?

The Survey is administered by the Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators
(CeSTII), on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and with quality assurance provided by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). CeSTII is a specialised research unit based at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), with more than 15 years of experience conducting STI surveys in South Africa.

Is the Survey compulsory?

Yes. The R&D Survey is a component of South Africa’s Official Statistics, as defined in the Statistics Act No. 6 of 1999 and, as such, your organisation is required to participate.

Are Survey results made publicly available?

Yes. The R&D Survey team produce two reports annually: a statistical report and a main analysis report. Reports are disseminated widely and are also publically accessible on the HSRC website (http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/departments/CeSTii/reports-cestii) and the website of the Department of Science and Technology (http://www.dst.gov.za/publications-policies/r-d-reports).

In what ways are Survey reports used?

Access to R&D indicators, such as those provided by Survey reports, provide users with a unique ability to benchmark—by sector, nationally and globally. This in turn can assist policy makers to set strategic direction, engage in responsive policy development and organisational planning, as well as to promote competitive advantage. Survey reports are also used for the development of research policy in areas such as the setting of priorities, determining government research funding investment, science education, and the development of incentive schemes for R&D and innovation in the private sector.

Is data supplied to the Survey protected and securely stored?

All information supplied to the Survey is incorporated under the same legislation protecting the National Census and similar data initiatives of national importance (Statistics Act No. 6 of 1999). No individual data is shared with any party outside of the immediate Survey Team, and all data are stored on state-of-the art ICT infrastructure, protected by stringent data encryption policies.

How was my organisation chosen to respond to the Survey?

Organisations (public and private) that are known to or likely to perform R&D activities are automatically included as respondents in the Survey.

What types of organisation are required to participate in the Survey?

All organisations in which R&D is performed and that are classified as either Business Enterprises, Higher Education Institutions, Science Councils/Public Research Institutes, Government Departments, or Not-for-Profit organisations.

My organisation is not engaged in R&D activities. Is our participation in the Survey still required?

Yes. If your organisation or business has not performed or funded R&D activities for the survey year in question, please respond to Part 1 of the questionnaire that asks whether or not your organisation performed R&D in the survey year in question. You may then return the questionnaire to our survey team, who will update your R&D status accordingly.

My organisation outsources its R&D. Is our participation in the Survey still required?

Yes. Please participate by completing the information on Outsourcing in the questionnaire.


There is no dedicated department for R&D in my organisation. Is our participation in the Survey still required?

You do not need an R&D department to be able to provide answers for the questionnaire. If your R&D is spread across your whole organisation, please provide estimate answers to the questions in the questionnaire. Our in-house experts are available to assist you in developing estimations.

Who within my organisation is responsible for completing the survey questionnaire?

Questionnaires are typically directed by our research teams to the senior management of an organisation, who may, in turn, wish to appoint a relevant contact person to provide the data and/or coordinate the process of data provision. Usually the heads of R&D departments, human resource managers as well as financial managers would be involved in completing the questionnaires, which is why appointing an in-house coordinator can be a useful approach to getting the job done efficiently and effectively. CeSTII researchers are available to your in-house team to assist in any way possible.

How long does it take to complete the survey instrument?

The length of time to complete this survey questionnaire varies, depending on the size of your company/organisation, the availability of information, as well as the complexity of your entity’s R&D operations and records. It is important to note that responding becomes much more efficient once your organisation has previously participated in this survey.

What should I do if the individuals within my organisation do not have access to some of the data being requested in the questionnaire?

R&D is dispersed throughout our company and employee-base. How do we report this?
Provide your best estimate if accurate data are not available. It is a recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to use estimated data when exact data is not available. CeSTII researchers are available to your in-house team to assist should it be required.

I have lost or misplaced my organisation’s questionnaire. What should I do?

If your R&D is spread across your whole organisation, please provide estimated answers to the questions in the survey instrument. If you have lost or misplaced your questionnaire, please email Dr Neo Molotja nmolotja@hsrc.ac.za or call +27 (0)21 422 3344 to request a new one.

Our organisation requires more time to complete the questionnaire. Can we request this?

If you cannot complete the questionnaire by the due date, please email Dr Neo Molotja nmolotja@hsrc.ac.za or call +27 (0)21 422 3344 to discuss your requirement.

How do I return my completed questionnaire?

If submitting electronically, please return your completed questionnaire to your contact person at CeSTII whose details appear on the questionnaire cover. Postal returns should be addressed to: The R&D Survey Team, Private Bag, X9182, Cape Town, South Africa 8000.


How often is the Survey issued?

The Survey is performed annually. This means that respondents can, for the foreseeable future, expect to be contacted on an annual basis. All efforts are made to ensure that timelines for completion of questionnaires are appropriate within each organisation surveyed.

What constitutes Research and Experimental Development (R&D)?

The definition of R&D in the R&D Survey is adopted from the OECD, which defines R&D according to the Frascati Manual. Research: Creative work and original investigation undertaken on a systematic basis to gain new knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society (Frascati Manual, 2015). Development: Application of research findings or other scientific knowledge for the creation of new or significantly improved products or processes (Frascati Manual, 2015). Additional information about the definition of R&D used in the Survey is available on request from CeSTII. The OECD’s Frascati Manual is also available for download from the OECD website.

How will the data my organisation provides through the Survey be used by the HSRC?

The data from the Survey is used for policy driven research and academic purposes. Individual data submissions gathered for the purposes of the survey are confidential and are never disseminated.

Is it possible to have access to micro data on which the R&D Survey reports are based?

Micro data are confidential data which contain information about individual statistical units. The current framework enables access to aggregated data only.

FAQ: South African Business Innovation Survey 2014-2016

What is the purpose of the Business Innovation Survey?

Commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, and performed by the Human Sciences Research Council, the Business Innovation Survey aims to deliver an internationally comparable report on innovation activities in key sectors of the South African economy. Survey results will play a vital role in policymaking for technology, innovation, and economic development.

Why has my company been selected to participate in this round of the Survey?

Statistics South Africa has drawn a random sample of 5,000 firms from the business register in line with its agreement on official national statistics with the Department of Science and Technology—and your firm was selected. The sample consists of a variety of businesses, ranging from very small to very large firms that operate in key industrial and services sectors. Sub-sectors covered by the survey include: financial intermediation; research and development; wholesale and retail trade; manufacturing; architectural and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis; computer and related activities; mining and quarrying; electricity, gas and water supply.

What will my business gain from participating in the Survey?    

A source of business intelligence, the Survey’s results can be used to benchmark your company’s innovation activities against other enterprises in your sector, both nationally and internationally. An added benefit of participation is the opportunity it presents for an internal review of potential business development areas that might not otherwise be explored. The results of previous South African innovation surveys are available online (http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/departments/cestii/latest-results).

What does South Africa gain from my company’s participation in the Survey?

National business innovation surveys provide an essential source of data for evidence-informed policymaking. In addition, the 2014-2016 survey round is being undertaken so that results are internationally comparable.

Is there someone on the Survey’s team that can communicate in my mother tongue?   

Our research assistants are ready to deal with the questions, comments or concerns of Survey respondents. Should you need to speak to one of the research assistants in your mother tongue, they will gladly assist you in South Africa’s official national languages.

I would prefer to complete the questionnaire electronically. How can I do that?   

The Survey questionnaire is available as an Adobe Acrobat form. Should you wish to complete the questionnaire in this way, please write to the research assistant assigned to your company or contact innovation@hsrc.ac.za.

How will my company’s data be managed?   

Questionnaires are stored in secure rooms and captured data is stored on secure servers at the Human Sciences Research Council premises in Cape Town, South Africa. All staff who work on the survey have signed strict agreements on the confidentiality of the data. Your company’s details and firm-level data will not be shared with any third party.


What are the different types of innovation the Survey measures?   

The South African Business Innovation Survey recognises four types of innovation in firms: 1. Product innovation (including both goods and/or services); 2. Process innovation; 3. Organisational innovation; 4. Marketing innovation. This section of the FAQ provides detailed explanations and examples of each, as well as examples of what would not be considered an innovation in each category.

What makes a product or business activity an “innovation”?   

Most people picture an invention new to the world when they think of innovation. In fact, two criteria are important in defining an innovation: 1. Does the product or activity represent significant change or improvement? AND/OR 2. Is the activity or product new to the firm? If the change meets either or both of these criteria, it can be considered an innovation. While a given change could be an innovation for one firm, the same change may not be an innovation for another firm. In answering the Business Innovation Survey, each firm has to decide for itself whether a particular change is new to the firm and/or whether the product, process or service has significantly improved.

When does an innovation belong to an enterprise?   

1. If an enterprise has internally developed and implemented its own significant changes.

2. If the enterprise has significantly improved or modified its existing products, processes, services, methods or delivery processes, either by internal development or by introducing a new idea from external sources.

3. If an enterprise has implemented a new or significantly improved change, which may have originated elsewhere, such as the head office or a subsidiary company, another company, sector or country.

What is a firm’s “innovation expenditure”?   

Innovation expenditure is the amount of expenditure committed to innovation, including current expenditure (personnel, for example) and capital expenditure (for example, buildings or equipment). For the 2014-2016 round of the Survey, we request that you provide: 1. turnover data for two years, and 2. expenditure data for one year. If these data are not available to you when completing the questionnaire, please provide estimates. We also remind you that all firm-level data provided in this section of the questionnaire are kept strictly confidential and are not made public in any way.

What is a product innovation?   

Product innovation relates to both goods and services. When a good or service is introduced to the firm and is new to that firm OR shows significant improvement with respect to the capabilities or planned uses, then the change represents a product innovation. A product innovation may include significant changes in technical specifications, components and materials, incorporated software, user experience, or other functional characteristics of the good or service.

Examples of product innovations that relate to goods and services in the industrial and services sectors        


  • Ticket automation for cash or pay card (e.g. parking systems)
  • New point of sale systems (e.g. scanner cash box)
  • Customised business software (e.g. anti-fraud software that profiles and tracks individual transactions)
  • New multimedia applications (e.g. tablet)    -   
  • New smartphone apps
  • New logistics services
  • Dial in services (e.g. goods delivery)
  • New or significantly improved insurance services (e.g. gap cover)
  • Remote software maintenance
  • Direct clearance with hospitals


  • Inclusion of eco-friendly products in product ranges
  • Introduction of client or loyalty cards
  • Changes to materials e.g. breathable textiles
  • New types of paper for specific printers
  • Improved purity of final mining product
  • Automated tunnel borers
  • Autonomous mine site infrastructure   
  • Online sales or direct sales to end-users
  • New kinds of product certification services
  • Combining solutions, such as technical and consulting services
  • Introduction of extended  warrantees on new or used products
  • Remote software maintenance
  • New information technology applications for client servicing

What is a process innovation?   

A process innovation relates to improvements in production methods, delivery methods or distribution methods. For these process improvements to be considered innovations, they must be new to the firm OR significantly improved. These significant changes include those that relate to specific techniques, equipment and/or software, changes that are intended to improve the quality, efficiency or flexibility of a production or supply activity or logistics, or changes that reduce environmental or safety hazards.

Examples of process innovations by sector   


  • New online banking modules
  • Improved premium clearing systems
  • Electronic Data Interchange
  • CASE tools for customer-specific hardware
  • Introduction of software to identify optimal delivery routes
  • New or improved software or routines for purchasing, accounting or maintenance systems


  • Robotics
  • Digital printing processes 
  • Automated packaging 
  • Computerised equipment for quality control of production
  • Mapping by drone 
  • Smart boreholes
  • Smart volts and vents
  • Installation of automated trucks and drill rigs

What is NOT considered a process innovation?

An increase in production or service capabilities through the addition of manufacturing or logistical systems that are similar to those already in use.

What is an organisational innovation?   

An organisational innovation is intended to significantly improve the firm's innovative capacity or performance characteristics. This can encompass significant changes in workplace organisation, business practices or external relations implemented in the firm.

Examples of organisational innovations

  • A reduction in the number of management levels to create greater flexibility in decision-making.
  • Integrated monitoring system for firm activities (e.g. production, finance, strategy or marketing).
  • The introduction of an organisational division to support new product development in a specific area 

What is NOT considered an organisational innovation?

  • Changes in management strategy not linked to significant organisational change.
  • Introduction of new technology that has limited benefits or is restricted to a small division of the firm.

What is a marketing innovation?   

The implementation of a significant change in sales and marketing methods would qualify as marketing innovation. “Significant” would include improved product appearance and packaging that is intended to increase product appeal and/or consumer awareness.

Examples of marketing innovation   

  • Bundling existing goods or services in new ways to appeal to market segments.
  • Design of new consumer products (e.g. custom appliances).

What is NOT considered a marketing innovation?    -   

  • Routine or seasonal changes.
  • Minor updates in the appearance of packaging.
  • Advertising, unless based on the use of new media or a new advertising technique.