HSRC attends Science Forum South Africa 2017

News Roundup

Delegates interact at the HSRC booth at the 2017 Science Forum South Africa

The 2017 Science Forum South Africa (SFSA 2017) took place at the International Convention Centre of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria, in December.

More than 260 speakers covered themes such as “Preparing people for the knowledge economy”, “Open science and open innovation for Africa’s development”, “Science transforming society” and “Innovation shaping the industry of tomorrow”.

Started by the Department of Science and Technology in 2015, the SFSA brings together thought leaders, scientists, government representatives, industry leaders, civil society organisations and policy-makers.

The 2017 forum was opened by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who highlighted the fact that South Africa’s National Development Plan and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals identify science as a crucial instrument for growth and development. Ramaphosa said that “in a rapidly changing global economy, our continent must invest in the development of young scientists to reap the economic and social benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution was a major topic of discussion at SFSA 2017. We are currently in the midst of this revolution, which is characterised by new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body.

At one of the panel discussions titled “Transformative Innovation Policy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the HSRC’s Dr Hester du Plessis, pointed out that “social innovation is an important part of technological innovation”. Instead of society following technological trends, technological innovators need to consult with society in order to maintain a healthy balance. (See article on page 22.)

The SFSA 2017 showcased African science and also ignited conversations on topics such as open science, science diplomacy, science communication, the enabling environment for science, technology and innovation, the fundamental role of academies of science, human capital development, and investing in global research infrastructure within the context of a world in transition. Many of the sessions reflected on the importance of increased investments in African science and innovation.

At the closing ceremony, several scientists from the African continent received Science Diplomacy Awards. Prof. Phuti Ngoepe of the University of Limpopo received the Human Capital Development Award for his efforts to leverage international cooperation to support the career development of young scientists in Africa. Prof. Arun Kulshreshtha, the outgoing director-general of the Non-Aligned Movement Centre for Science and Technology, received the International Peace Understanding and Solidarity Award for successfully ensuring the centre succeeds despite limited resources.

The former CEO of the HSRC, Dr Olive Shisana, received the Science Diplomacy Award for putting science at service for fostering international friendship and for her contribution to advancing South Africa’s position in the global science arena.

Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s director-general for research, innovation and science, received the Excellence in Global Science Award for his contributions to the strategic South Africa-EU science partnership. Dr Heide Hackmann of the International Council of Science received the award for harnessing scientific advice for multilateral decision-making for demonstrating exceptional leadership in facilitating the merger of the International Council of Science and the International Social Sciences Council.

In closing, Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, emphasised that “international collaboration is imperative for the advancement of not only African, but global science.” – report by Ithuteng Sekaledi.