Business Innovation Survey

A CeSTII flagship project

Next to the R&D Survey, the South African Business Innovation Survey (BIS) is a second flagship survey performed by CeSTII for the DST.

Since 2005, CeSTII has conducted four rounds of the BIS, covering the periods 2002-2004, 2005-2007, 2010-2012, and 2014-2016.

In September 2017, CeSTII launched fieldwork for the 2014-2016 round of the BIS and in May 2019, CeSTII launched fieldwork for the first ever agricultural business innovation survey, covering the reference period 2016-2018. In July 2019, results for the 2014-2016 survey were released.

Previous BIS surveys performed by CeSTII have followed the methodology set out in the Oslo Manual.

However the measurement of innovation through these surveys has tried, where possible, to taken into count the distinctive context of South Africa—being in Africa, the global south, and characterised as a middle income country, with both highly and weakly developed economic structures, and pressing socio-economic challenges.

Innovation survey review 2016/17

A number of challenges were faced in the performance of the 2010-2012 BIS. An immediate problem was the low response rate, but this highlighted key conceptual and methodological issues, such as whether the survey is measuring what it should, or whether the methodology is appropriate for the South African context.

Building from these results, and working closely with the DST, in 2016 CeSTII embarked on a comprehensive review of the BIS. Its goals? To reflect on the innovation theory and methodology underpinning the BIS in the context of the review of the third edition of the Oslo Manual, which is currently underway; and to propose amendments to the survey instrument and sample frame in line with current developments across the South African economy. 

The review process was necessarily in-depth and incorporated three components: first, an internal critical self-assessment; second, an external review by a specialist consultant, incorporating an international comparative perspective; and third, the oversight of a BIS Review Steering Committee consisting of BIS stakeholders such as the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), Statistics South Africa, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), and the DST.

To learn more about the review, contact Dr Glenda Kruss, gkruss[at]