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Innovation Policy

To deliver on the DA’s vision of an Open Opportunity Society for All, we must ensure that our education system equips South African job-seekers with the skills they need to succeed.

This requires an integrated system of post-school education and training which provides a range of pathways for both young job-seekers and adult learners to obtain qualifications and skills that can help them be successful in the world of work.

To be a winning nation, South Africa must also be a place where new ideas are generated. This should include ideas to improve the way we deliver services, ideas to connect people to each other and with the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives. It should include ideas for new products that can generate income, ideas to improve the efficiency of processes in both the public and private sector and ideas to solve our key societal challenges – for example in education, health, housing, social protection and job creation.

We must establish support innovation that allows us to take ideas and turn them into new products, processes, services and technology that meet particular needs.
Innovation has always played a decisive role in the economic and social development of countries: it is the main source of economic growth, it helps improve productivity, it is the foundation of competitiveness, and it improves welfare. (World Bank, 2010)

As the most important basis for competitive advantages in the global economy shifts from resources to knowledge, the success of our education and skills development systems and our capacity to innovate will become increasingly more important.

On a manufacturing level, the economic success stories from countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore show us that dedicated national strategies and actions to unleash innovation can change the economic destiny of a nation. Since 1960, South Korea has grown from one of the five poorest countries in the world to the 11th richest country in the world. Between 2009 and 2012, South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita averaged US$22 590 (versus US$7 508 in South Africa). South Korea managed this economic turnaround primarily through quality education, an unrelenting focus on innovation (specifically product innovation and design), and the development of products for niche markets in the global economy.

Knowledge economies that have moved beyond manufacturing rely on networks of insight and innovation that depend upon high level attributes of training and knowledge which allows individuals and groups to bring together ideas and learning in new ways. For example: the knowledge economyin Silicon Valley is driven by a multiplicity of high level skills as well as effective models for knowledge-sharing.

To bring us closer to the 8% economic growth that we need to create jobs and improve lives, we need an innovation system that can turn ideas into solutions for our social challenges and that can support the development of knowledge-based products and services in which the South African economy can be competitive.

South Africa can be a flourishing centre of innovative development and we are starting to establish the building blocks to deliver the kind of education, training, research and development opportunities that will equip enough people with high-level skills to meet the needs of an expanding economy.

But we are not there yet. The World Economic Forum still considers South Africa’s “inadequately educated workforce” as one of the key constraints to doing business in South Africa.

Critically, South Africa has neglected to match its policy commitment to improved education and skills with a dedicated focus on innovation and design to drive job creating economic growth. The institutions created to promote innovation for growth (such as the National Advisory Council on Innovation) have been largely invisible and their activities have not been appropriately coordinated or integrated with initiatives in the private sector.

Our investment in research and development (R&D) to drive innovation is comparatively low. We are moving further away from our targeted spending of 1% of GDP, whilst in 2010, member-countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) invested, on average, 2.38% of GDP in R&D.

The DA believes that the quality of South Africa’s post-school education and training outputs and the country’s innovative capacity can be strengthened through:

  • A coordinated system for Post-School Education and Research driven through a single, integrated department;
  • Demand-driven education, training and research institutions that meet social demands and develop the high-level skills and research that we need to grow the economy;
  • Greater collaboration and coordination towards the achievement of shared goals between role players in the private sector; in public higher, further and adult education and training institutions; in vocationally oriented training; in local, provincial and national government; and in entities with a mandate to coordinate innovation.
  • A streamlined institutional environment in which all stakeholders have clear mandates that feed into national strategic priorities;
  • A much greater focus on vocational training;
  • Support for occupational and professional education in dedicated institutions;
  • Consolidation in the training environment for adult basic education and training;
  • A differentiated support model for universities to ensure that they are able to deliver on their teaching, research and community interaction functions;
  • The use of telematics and distance learning to expand education opportunities;
  • Stronger incentives for private sector involvement in education, training and research-driven innovation – with a specific focus on pushing R&D investment to more than 1% of GDP;
  • Innovative mechanisms to bring brilliant minds together;
  • Making sure that the regulatory environment supports, rather than inhibits innovation and academic endeavour;
  • Dedicated systems to ensure that innovation extends beyond research and ideas to the actual design of products, processes and services that can contribute to economic growth; and
  • Strategic roll-out of flagship projects that showcase South Africa’s attractiveness as an innovation-driven investment destination.

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