Water innovation in South Africa: mapping innovation successes and diffusion constraints
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Because of its long experience with water scarcity, South Africa has built a highly active research and innovation capacity in the water sector, which is spearheaded by the Water Research Commission (WRC). As a result, South African scientists have been among the significant contributors to new knowledge creation in the water innovation domain, especially in water treatment technologies. This innovation dynamism has however not been translated into a large-scale harnessing of technological innovations to avert the looming threat of water shortage. This paper combines innovation diffusion theory with the technology maturation framework to explore the main factors that help explain the pace of innovation diffusion in the South African water sector. Data from key informant interview analysis as well as available secondary sources indicate that financing constraints and technical validation difficulties are among the main hurdles limiting the ability of innovators to scale up their inventions for commercialisation. Adoption costs and lack of municipal support budget are the most important factors that limit the ability of low income rural households to adopt water innovations. Policy measures to
support diffusion strategies are necessary to ensure that innovators have the means to overcome the multiple diffusion obstacles that they are confronted with.