National Survey: government continues to support R&D despite pressures on the fiscus

The HSRC's Centre for Science and Technology Indicators (CeSTII) has released the results of the latest national R&D Survey. The full survey report can be downloaded from the CeSTII page on this website.

The National Survey of Research and Experimental Development (R&D) is undertaken annually to monitor the country’s investments in R&D. The survey provides information on R&D funding and performance in South Africa. The data help to profile the size and shape of the R&D landscape and support the production of statistics for use in system-level planning, monitoring and evaluation.

The 2010/11 R&D survey recorded that South Africa spent R20.254 billion as gross expenditure on research and development (GERD), a nominal decrease of 3.3% from the R20.254 billion recorded for 2009/10. With the GERD as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 0.76%, the findings indicate a fourth consecutive decline from 0.93% of 2007/08, 0.92% of 2008/09 and 0.87% in 2009/10. These declines are occurring in an environment of modest increases in GDP.

The trends show that the government’s funding for R&D has been increasing consistently; and from 2007 its contribution towards funding surpassed that of the business sector. This is an important development because the government has continued to increase funding for R&D despite the pressures on the fiscus during the period from 2008 to 2010. This has resulted in some shifts, where the higher education and science councils sectors have both increased their contribution to overall spending on R&D compared to the situation in the mid-2000s. By investing in these sectors, the government is able to boost the capacity for new knowledge creation and drive strategic research initiatives that have specific outcomes for development. This includes, for example, the advances in health research, particularly on HIV/AIDS vaccines and cancer treatment, the five pilot plants to test feasibility for mineral beneficiation processes and technologies, and the hydrogen and fuel cell technology programmes.

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