Hon Chairperson, hon members and ladies and gentlemen, science and technology are rarely the first things one thinks of when one talks about our major challenges as a nation, and few people fully appreciate the toil and investment that go into the generation of knowledge, discovery and invention.
The National Development Plan, however, identifies the important role of science, technology and innovation in achieving our country's longer-term objectives. As many of you will recall, Minister Pandor appointed a high- level committee to conduct a comprehensive review of the South African National System of Innovation, Sansi. The committee's report, which was released last year, makes a number of useful recommendations, including that the Department of Science and Technology should strengthen its links with the private sector. I am pleased to report that we are making good progress in implementing a number of these recommendations.
Firstly, the department has secured R500 million over the next three years from the Economic Competitiveness Fund to strengthen innovation and research partnerships with industry. Secondly, an international expert committee has been appointed to develop a framework for a national integrated cyber infrastructure system. Thirdly, we are convening the first multistakeholder science, technology and innovation summit in July this year to strengthen co-ordination between government and the private sector. [Applause.]
Finally, also arising out of the committee's recommendations, all under Minister Pandor's leadership, I appointed a panel to conduct a review of the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA, earlier this year. The panel has completed its work and its report was presented to the newly appointed TIA board yesterday.
The total appropriation to the Department of Science and Technology for 2013-14 is R6,2 billion. About 92% goes to our science councils and agencies, as well as to other research institutions, including universities, which the department supports in various ways. The reason for this is simple: Our main mandate is to fund and direct research and human capital development in a strategic and co-ordinated manner.
The Department of Science and Technology has four main programmes. These programmes represent distinct but complementary ways of promoting Sansi and harnessing science and technology to benefit all South Africans. The Research, Development and Innovation programme is at the heart of our efforts to drive innovation in strategic areas. This programme focuses on space science, biotechnology, health innovation and energy.
The announcement made a year ago, that our country, together with eight other African partner countries, is to host the greatest portion of the Square Kilometre Array, SKA, radio telescope, was a massive acknowledgement of the capabilities of our scientists and engineers, and of the advances our country has made in science and technology. The SKA will be one of the biggest scientific projects the world has ever undertaken. [Applause.]
This year marks the start of the detailed design and preconstruction phase of the SKA project. The construction of the 64-dish MeerKAT has commenced and will be completed by 2016. On its own, the MeerKAT will be the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. When it is completed, the SKA, with its 3 000 dishes, will be the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world by far. [Applause.] We have been given almost R2 billion for the SKA project over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, period and, since this is a global project, this investment will leverage significant international resources.
World-class science is already emanating from our KAT-7 precursor instrument. Local and international astronomers have used the instrument to observe repeating radio outbursts from a neutron star system known as Circinus X-1. Their results have just been accepted this week for publication in a prestigious journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. A global media release on this ground-breaking science coming out of South Africa has just been issued.
Maybe there is life out there, somewhere on another planet. We just don't know. However, what we do know is that the SKA will be able to pick up even the faintest of extraterrestrial signals and cast light on some of the mysteries of the universe. It therefore came as no surprise to us when the Director of SA's SKA Project, Dr Bernie Fanaroff, was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe for his excellent contributions to astronomy and for putting South Africa on the map with the SKA project. He is here with us today in the gallery. [Applause.]
Through the SA National Space Agency, we are further developing the country's capacity to design, build, maintain and possibly even launch satellites. As part of the four-country African Resource Management Constellation, South Africa has begun work on the first satellite. An amount of R272 million has been budgeted this year for this important project. This satellite will greatly enhance Africa's ability to monitor and manage its precious natural resources. A business rescue plan for the company Sunspace has been put in place, and the process of transferring the very rich capabilities and intellectual property into our satellite programme is continuing.
Turning to the work we are doing in energy, there are some exciting developments to report on. Hydrogen SA, HySA, Centres of Competence include the Centre for Catalysis Research at the University of Cape Town, the Infrastructure Centre at the North-West University and the Systems Centre of Competence at the University of the Western Cape, UWC. In February this year, the UWC centre, together with a local company, Melex Electrovehicles, unveiled the first hydrogen fuel cell battery-operated golf cart developed on South African soil. The range of the golf cart is almost doubled by the use of a hydrogen fuel cell. It is pollution free, virtually silent and can reach a speed of 50 kilometres per hour. [Applause.] Golfers out there should be very happy about this.
I am also very happy to report that a memorandum of understanding on the joint development of hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle platforms and technologies has been signed between the UWC, Coventry University and Microcab Industries Limited. The memorandum of understanding will see Microcab using HySA technologies, with the prospect of HySA becoming a major supplier to Microcab.
It is worth noting that even a modest increase in the global penetration of fuel cell-powered vehicles will result in a significant increase in the demand for platinum and will contribute to our target of meeting 25% of global catalyst demand by 2020. Our nation holds almost three-quarters of the world's known resources of platinum, so this will be a very significant development.
There are also huge opportunities in solar energy within our country. The Department of Science and Technology, working closely with the Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency, will finalise the Solar Energy Technology Road Map this year. The value of both solar and wind energy still needs to be unlocked, though, through more efficient and affordable energy storage technologies. Our main focus at this stage is on lithium-ion battery technologies. Some of the novel battery systems we are developing are based on manganese and, given that South Africa has 80% of the world's manganese reserves, this also represents a significant beneficiation opportunity. [Applause.]
By 2015, more than 2,5 million HIV-infected South Africans will need antiretroviral treatment, and it is therefore essential that we have a secure and affordable supply of antiretrovirals, ARVs. Cabinet has given the go-ahead for the Ketlaphela consortium, which was established as a joint venture between the Industrial Development Corporation and Pelchem. This consortium will now proceed with an open process to secure a technical and investment partner for the construction and operation of a facility for the local manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients for ARVs, as well as formulated tablets for government's ARV treatment programme. We will soon issue a request for information to start the process of finding such a partner. With pharmaceutical imports currently contributing substantially to our trade deficit, this mainly state-owned pharmaceutical company will be immensely important to the objectives of government's New Growth Path.
Local researchers and scientists in the area of health innovation are increasingly receiving recognition for their contributions, especially in respect of tuberculosis, TB, and HIV/Aids-related research. Two outstanding scientists received the Order of Mapungubwe at the National Orders ceremony last month: In the gallery is Prof Glenda Gray, who is going to stand up for you now, for her life-saving research in mother-to-child transmission of HIV. [Applause.] Prof Quarraisha Karim also received the award for her work in the field of HIV/Aids and TB research. Unfortunately, Prof Karim is not here, but her husband, Dr Slim Karim, is here with us today. [Applause.] He walks in his wife's shadow. [Laughter.] However, let me tell you, they are a formidable partnership.
Last month the University of Cape Town's Prof Valerie Mizrahi won the Grand Prix Christophe Mrieux prize for her TB research. We will hear more about Prof Mizrahi's research this evening when she makes a presentation during dinner.
I am pleased to report that our bio-economy strategy has been finalised and will soon be presented to Cabinet for approval. We have built capacity, which Minister Pandor is very happy about because she knows how we agonised about this one. We have built capacity and infrastructure, and we have developed value chains in the application of biotechnology to a range of areas: new diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics, improved crops and livestock, and cleaner and more efficient industries. The strategy will assist us in creating a world-class biotechnology-based system of innovation. Over the MTEF period, more than R400 million has been budgeted for the implementation of the strategy.
Towards the end of last year, the Technology Innovation Agency, TIA, in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council, the National Research Foundation, NRF, the University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort Biological Products and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR, launched the Tshwane Animal Health Cluster. This initiative will enable the local animal health industry to develop and commercialise safe, effective and affordable animal health products and services for the benefit of our local livestock industry. The Tshwane Animal Health Cluster is currently funding a portfolio of no less than 29 investments in various animal diseases.
Our International Co-operation and Resources programme has been allocated R148 million for the year ahead. The primary purpose of this programme is to promote the exchange of knowledge, capacity and resources with foreign partners. The Department of Science and Technology has formal bilateral and multilateral arrangements with 62 different partners, encompassing country- to-country agreements, as well as science and technology agreements with international multilateral bodies.
To mention just a few highlights, last year, in partnership with the European Union, we cohosted a planning conference for the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership. The conference set the tone for a new, larger phase of clinical trials to begin in 2014. This, we believe, will also help channel resources from partners to build human capacity and health research infrastructure in Africa.
Early last year, the German-South African Year of Science was launched to celebrate 16 years of successful co-operation between our two countries. Forty-one new collaborative initiatives were funded during the Year of Science, including a schools essay competition. With us today are three of the winners announced at the closing ceremony in Berlin last month. They are - and I hope they will stand up so that we can all see them - Thandeka Nzimande - no relationship to Blade - from Letsibogo Girls High in Gauteng; Zandile Mashabane from Mahhushe Agricultural High School in Mpumalanga and Mukundi Mushiana from Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo. [Applause.]
Our successful partnership with the government of Finland continues to strengthen our innovation capacity. One of the partnership's success stories is RLabs, a community project established in 2008 by Marlon Parker, whose dream was to find a way of using information and communications technology, ICT, to bring hope to young people. Through the Department of Science and Technology's initial investment, RLabs established an academy and outreach programmes that have now reached thousands of youngsters in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, providing free training in web literacy, social innovation and entrepreneurship. More than 1 500 community members will receive training at the RLabs Academy this year. Marlon is with us today. I am sure he will be available to tell you more about this great success story. Marlon, we are very proud of you. Thank you. [Applause.]
Of course, there are a lot of other young people here today. We have some Grade 10 learners from the Garlandale High School, and we have some Grade 12 learners from the Hector Peterson Secondary School. [Applause.] There they are, and you can see the young Einsteins sitting among them over there. [Applause.] This same international programme also provides support to the Africa Institute of South Africa, Aisa. Aisa has generated valuable information and knowledge about Africa on key areas of development, such as governance and security, sustainable development and science, technology and innovation.
Draft legislation providing for the incorporation of Aisa into the Human Sciences Research Council, HSRC, is currently with the portfolio committee. Members of the committee will be pleased to know that I met with the council members last week to discuss some of the key considerations that need to be applied in the process of incorporating Aisa into the HSRC. The council has done sterling work in reviving the institution, and their hard work is well appreciated.
Science and technology is advanced by people - by our scientists, our technicians, our engineers and our computer programmers. Yet, do we have enough scientists and do they have resources to do their jobs to the best of their ability? That is what the Human Capital and Knowledge Systems programme is about, and it is by far the largest of our programmes, accounting for about R2,5 billion of our budget.
The success of our efforts to develop science, engineering and technology human resources depends largely on having sufficient numbers of school leavers with passes in mathematics and science. This means that we have to encourage more learners to choose mathematics and science when they enter Grade 10 and then attract the best performers to science-based careers.
Our 34 science centres play a critical role in popularising maths and science. Although they get support from our Youth into Science programme, they do depend on support from the private sector. In the past two months, we have launched two science centres: the Cape Town Science Centre, which was supported by a number of organisations; and the Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre, which was sponsored by Volkswagen SA. We are pleased to announce today that BMW SA is generously donating educational cars to five science centres across the country. [Applause.] Tomorrow, the Cape Town Science Centre will be the first to receive one of these cars. Allow me to express my appreciation to Mr Guy Kilfoil from BMW SA, who is also with us today. [Applause.] Can you please stand up, sir? Thank you very much. [Applause.]
The SA Young Academy of Science, Sayas, was established in 2011 with the aim of encouraging learners to take science as a subject. Sayas hosted the Global Young Academy General Assembly in May last year, which brought young scientists from more than 50 countries together to deliberate on sustainability. Sayas represents the best of our new generation of highly talented young scientists.
We have a number of instruments that are designed to strengthen research capacity at our universities, including the research chairs and centres of excellence programmes, both managed by the NRF. The SA Research Chairs Initiative is steadily gaining traction, with an additional 35 chairs to be filled this year, bringing the total to 152 research chairs, covering a wide spectrum of disciplines.
Last month, we launched our ninth centre of excellence, the Palaeosciences Centre of Excellence at the University of the Witwatersrand. It will build on the remarkable work done by Wits palaeoscientists over many decades and will showcase South Africa's wealth of fossil evidence of the earliest life on earth and, in particular, the extraordinary discoveries of our early human ancestry at the Cradle of Humankind. The centre will collaborate with a number of institutions across the country, including the Iziko Museum, where the Department of Science and Technology is holding its exhibition today and tomorrow. The NRF has made a call for proposals for four additional centres of excellence and the selection process will take place during the course of the year.
We continue to look for different ways of supporting the research community, especially in trying to make research a more attractive career choice. The Department of Science and Technology has increased its investments over the 2013 MTEF in programmes such as once-off research development grants for qualifying young, black and women researchers to assist them to become established researchers; research career advancement fellowships offered to senior postdoctoral fellows; and sabbatical grants awarded to fast-track the completion of doctoral degrees by academic staff at universities. Don't say it, but I will: Cheers! Thank you. [Laughter.] [Interjections.]
Hon Mnyami Booi, one of our key partners in human capital development is the Department of Higher Education and Training. An agreement has been reached that higher education will be responsible for ensuring the provision of basic research training equipment in universities, while the Department of Science and Technology will fund specialised research equipment.
Competitive high-quality research is simply not possible today without adequate research infrastructure. A total of 139 research and educational sites have now been connected with high-speed networks through the SA National Research Network, SANReN. This has virtually eliminated the digital divide between urban and remotely located institutions. Through SANReN, rural universities are just as able to participate in global experiments as urban universities.
Furthermore, SANReN opens up new possibilities in the way teaching and research is conducted, with the high-speed transport of large datasets, participation in global experiments regardless of physical location, and collaborative online teaching. The investment in SANReN has reduced Internet costs for participating institutions by a factor of more than 10. The Department of Science and Technology will invest about R600 million in the next five years to more than double the international bandwidth of SANReN.
In the area of information dissemination, the Academy of Science of South Africa, ASSAf, has established a high-quality and prestigious open-access journal collection, aimed at serving the South African research community. Scientific Electronic Library Online, or SciELO, as it is known, will promote South African research by enhancing its visibility and making it easier to access. ASSAf's budget has been increased by 40% to allow it to play a stronger role in support of research in South Africa.
Next week we will be launching the National Recordal System for Indigenous Knowledge, the NRS, and the Indigenous Knowledge Bioprospecting and Product Development Consortium the following month. I did not discover or invent these long names, hon members! Together, these interventions will considerably strengthen our ability to utilise - very important - indigenous knowledge as an input into the development of useful products and services. The NRS is the first ever Internet-based national digital system to document indigenous knowledge. You see, when we start talking about indigenous knowledge, hon members start falling asleep. [Laughter.] We must really showcase ... [Interjections.] ... indigenous knowledge. Thank you, Lance. [Interjections.] We have invested R22 million in the further development of this system. Let me turn to our socioeconomic partnerships programme, which has been allocated R1,7 billion, 60% of which goes to our main implementation partners, the HSRC and the CSIR. This programme has two distinct purposes. The first is to apply science and technology to improve the circumstances of the most deprived and vulnerable in our society. The second is to develop research and development partnerships that target opportunities for establishing niche industries and, in so doing, increase the competitiveness of our economy.
One of the key growth sectors is ICT. I am pleased to report that just two weeks ago, Cabinet approved a 10-year ICT research, development and innovation road map, which will assist South Africa to take maximum advantage of the digital revolution.
The Titanium Industry Development Initiative is making impressive progress. More than R75 million will be invested over the next two years through the Titanium Centre of Competence, hosted by the CSIR. A key activity is the development of a novel, low-cost process for the production of titanium metal powder, which will provide South Africa with a global competitive advantage. A pilot plant, with the capacity to produce 2 kg of titanium powder per hour, using this novel process, is currently under construction at the CSIR campus in Pretoria. It will be officially launched next month.
Through donor funding of E30 million from the European Union, the department has been implementing a number of initiatives that use science and technology to make a significant contribution to poverty alleviation, such as in essential oils and aquaculture, and improved human settlement models. Our main objective is to capture the lessons from these initiatives for consideration and implementation by other government departments.
An excellent example of a Department of Science and Technology initiative involving successful intergovernmental collaboration is our pilot education project in the Cofimvaba District of the Eastern Cape. Through this initiative, we are exploring innovative ways to improve the quality of learning and teaching in rural schools. The initiative involves 26 schools in the Nciba District and is being conducted in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education and the Eastern Cape department of education. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has contributed R22 million to the pilot project.
The pilot project will examine how the use of tablet computers can best improve educational outcomes in a rural context and will help us determine which tablets work best, how to deal with important operational challenges such as the recharging of tablets at schools without electricity, and how best to support learners, teachers and parents in the use of new technologies. As a start, over the next three months, 3 000 tablets will be distributed to learners and teachers in 12 schools. [Applause.] It is just a start, as our ultimate objective is that every learner in the country will make use of tablets. Our ultimate objective is to go in that direction. [Applause.] The support has come from the CSIR's Meraka Institute. All 26 schools in the district will be connected to the Internet via satellite and wireless mesh-network technology.
The pilot project is, of course, not limited to ICT, but it will also test different sanitation options, alternative forms of energy and models for improving the school nutrition programme. The HSRC has been contracted to monitor and evaluate aspects of the project and to assist in extracting the policy lessons for the possible scaling up of some aspects to other districts and provinces.
At this point I should say that both the CSIR and the HSRC are doing impressive research in a wide range of specialised areas. For example, the CSIR's capabilities in the field of defence technology have grown to be of a world-class standard. Working with the SA National Defence Force, the CSIR has contributed a number of interventions to optimise technologies used by our patrol teams, both on land and at sea. Readily available tools such as smartphones, geographic information system, GIS, applications, and radio and camera surveillance are integrated into these systems.
The HSRC has been appointed as the South African think-tank incubator for the Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa, Brics, grouping, with Dr Olive Shisana as its leader, in order to co-ordinate Brics work undertaken by researchers at the HSRC and other institutions around the country. The HSRC also conducts invaluable research on attitudes and behaviour regarding HIV and Aids, maintains the long-standing SA Social Attitudes Survey and the SA National Survey of Research and Experimental Development, and performs vital work in trying to bring social scientists and policy-makers together.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the many researchers - many of whom are with us today - scientists and business innovators who are the backbone of our national system of innovation, and I acknowledge our many partners in government, the private sector, the science councils and agencies, with particular thanks to those who serve on the boards of our public entities.
My sincere thanks also go to our director-general, Dr Mjwara. He is the good-looking man sitting over in that little gallery. I saw all the women wake up when I said there was a good-looking man sitting over there. [Laughter.] [Applause.] Thanks to the absolutely fine staff of the Department of Science and Technology - a fact Minister Pandor will attest to - for their dedicated efforts to get science and technology to make a real, lasting difference in people's lives.
I would like to express my appreciation to the portfolio committee for their support, but also for holding us to account. We certainly welcome the oversight work they are doing. It is all in the interest of science and technology making a positive contribution to South Africa and taking our country forward towards the realisation of our dreams and aspirations.
Finally, the people with the most difficult task of all are the people who work in my office. They have a huge management task - that of managing me and, believe me, that is no easy task. Thank you, staff members, for your outstanding work. [Applause.]