Research, Development & Innovation

The Limpopo Development plan conceptualisation is based on the National Development Plan 2030. ‘Our future make it work’ formulated by the National Planning Commission in the Presidency. Limpopo Connexion have two major projects; namely the Broadband and Regional Innovation Systems and implementation plan. Research and development cut across all the above mentioned programmes and projects in providing the required research and support and needs.
Decision markers across the province and globally need to base their decisions on information from reliable and credible sources. They need to learn from the best knowledge and experience available. And they need to know what kind of research could help to make the rights choices and where research has already got results. The time is right for a step change in global “public good” research. The world is changing rapidly in ways that often affect poor countries most. Having said that, what knowledge economy is, which we aim to develop in the future within the context of LEGDP.

Knowledge Economy
The knowledge economy refers to the use of knowledge to produce benefits. The phrase was popularised, if not invented, by Peter Drucker as the heading to chapter twelve in this book, The Age Discontinuity 1969. The concept came to prominence in New Zealand in 1990s to refer to the manner in which various highly-technology businesses, especially computer software, telecommunication and virtue services, as well as educational and research institutions, could contribute country’s economy.
The concept does not focus on IT developments or innovation only but a whole range of matters related to:
Information, information flows, information management, knowledge, knowledge flows, knowledge production, knowledge management, knowledge transfer, knowledge sharing, knowledge translation (innovation) access, knowledge institutions/industries, knowledge services, knowledge trades, Research and Development, Education knowledge supplies and demand and knowledge society.

The interpretation of these issues of these would change depending on the area of focus and issues to be addressed. For many country to begin with matters of knowledge economy there is a need for conceptual operationalization of different sectors. A need for a country wide participation and involvement, massive certain of awareness of the concept and how it applies to different sectors and impact at the national and individual level. An important point to make it that knowledge economy and or activities lead to economic growth and job creation.

Technology development and innovation
Post-apartheid South Africa has succeeded in swiftly opening its economy to international trade and capital flows, and in stabilising the economy while achieving reasonably good growth performance, mainly driven by productivity gains. However, important socio-economic problem persist especially; unemployment, poverty and the exclusion of a large fraction of the population from the formal economy. The country is now in the middle of two more especially economic transitions:
Responding to globalisation and transforming the structure of the economy way from its former heavy dependence on primary production and associated commodity-based industries (OECD 2007)

The same analysis drives home the imperative of building South Africa’s innovation capacity in terms of weathering these transactions. In this context, enhancing innovation capacities is the key to a sustainable improvement of living standards based on productivity-driven-growth (ibid). The innovation context of South Africa today is characterised by resilience and change. Surviving the transition from apartheid, the innovation system of today is still in transition, being redirected toward a new set of goals:-social, economic and global – that differs from those characterised the economy in the 1970s, ‘80s and even the early ‘90s. Many of the critical blocks for robust innovation system are strong in South Africa (OECD 2007).
South Africa has a nucleus of technology strong, dynamic firms. Several of its universities are the brightest on the continent, with some acclaimed internationally, and draw researchers and collaborators from other developed and developing countries. Government commitment to research and development (R&D) is high, with target of 1% of GDP. Guiding the South African R&D context is the National R&D strategy from 2002, being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The new 10-Year Plan for 2008-2018, “Innovation Towards a Knowledge Based Economy”, emphasizes investment in science, technology and innovation (STI); so that South Africa would be global player in science, technology and be more competitive in global economy. The main objectives of the plan are:

  1. Making South Africa a knowledge based economy by 2018 by strengthening human capital particularly in science and technology. INSPIRE initiatives is humble attempt to make a contribution towards this goal.
  2. Investing in R&D and
  3. Creating an international level scientific research environment and addressing the innovation chasm, the gap between research results and commercialisation for socio-economic benefits.

The 10-Year Plan is built on the foundation of the South African National System of Innovation (SANSI). It recognizes that, while the country science and technology system has taken important strides forward, there is a gap between South Africa, and those countries identified as knowledge driven economies. To close th9si gap the SANSI must become more focused on long-range objectives, including urgently confronting South Africa’s failure to commercialized the results of scientific research and inadequate production (in both qualitative and quantitative sense) of knowledge works capable of building competitive economy.
A recent study by global IT research firm international Data Corporation estimated that the technology sector in South Africa would create over 200 new businesses and 9500 new jobs over the next four years, providing evidence that South Africa’s capability of harnessing STI for job growth and wealth generation is improving
A few of the dominant challenges facing the innovation system and the ICT sector of South Africa as it continues to evolve include:
Human resources shortage levels across, mathematics, science and engineering
Insufficient focus on commercialised of the results of scientific research
Lack of design, engineering, entrepreneurial and management actors and R&D capacity, which has led to an “engineering gap”
Role of the state overemphasized in innovation system strategy and thinking and finally
Governance of the SANSI does not adequately foster a holistic approach
Furthermore, despite the growth experiences in the ICT sector, South Africa has been dropping on international measurements of competitiveness and e-readiness.

Addressing the 1st and 2nd Economy in the country
Attention of identified skills and the establishment of the proposed centre will address some economic challenges in the country. Both the 1st and 2nd economy of the country will benefit in a number of ways similarly and differently. The centre will be a resource to both public and private sectors. Some private institutions and public organisations have been informed about the development of such centre in South Africa. These institutions see the benefit particularly in managing their knowledge properly into the products and assets. Addressing the second economy will depend on the definition that is provided. In this problematic second is about:
Creating jobs for rural communities is be lope into the knowledge of rural people, empower people to utilize their knowledge in solving their problems, to use rural knowledge in developing initiatives ways that improve lives of the people in those areas, empower these people to access and utilize knowledge in an integrated way, gathering laymen’s ideas that have a potential for innovation, processing these into real products for economic development and assist them in collecting, managing and utilizing information and knowledge in decision making. Collecting indigenous knowledge is one area that neglected expected for herbal medical knowledge.
The function of the centre as highlighted in the document will improve knowledge management and creation leading to economic developments including that of disadvantaged communities.


Research and development (R&D) and innovation refer to the creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge which could be applied to improve products, processes, applications or technologies (OECD, 1997). The R&D system refers to the network of institutions, rules and procedures that influence the ways by which a country acquires creates, disseminates and uses knowledge. It comprises private enterprises, universities, public research institutes, and the people within them. In short, such a system provides the environment for nurturing innovation, which results in new products, new processes and new knowledge, and is, therefore, a source of a competitive edge for a country’s products and industries in today’s global market (OECD, 1996; Sheehan, 1999; World Bank, 2002). Modern innovation theory sees knowledge creation inseparable from the R&D process, as knowledge creation rests not only on discovery but also on continuous learning and research.
The innovation system plays an important role in acquiring, creating, adapting, and disseminating knowledge, which is crucial for success in the knowledge economy. The innovation system consists of a network of institutions, rules and procedures that affect how the country or region acquires, creates, disseminates, and uses knowledge. Innovation in a developing country does not just concern the domestic development of knowledge on the global “frontier.” It also concerns the application and use of existing knowledge to the local context.
The concept of “innovation” encompasses not only “technological innovation,” that is, diffusion of new products and services of a technological nature into the economy, but equally includes non-technological forms of innovation, such as “organizational” innovations. The latter include the introduction of new management or marketing techniques, adoption of new supply or logistic arrangements, and improved approaches to internal and external communications and positioning.
The concept of a national innovation system rests on the premise that understanding the linkages among the various actors involved in innovation are key to improving a country’s technology performance. These actors include private enterprises, universities, research institutes, think tanks, consulting firms, and others. The innovative performance of a country depends to a large extent on how these actors relate to each other as elements of a broader system. Linkages can take the form of joint research, personnel exchanges, cross-patenting, licensing of technology, purchase of equipment and a variety of other channels.
In Limpopo, where the formal sector is relatively small, an important part of its innovation system concerns the diffusion of modern and more efficient practices to the greatest number of users. This applies to both domestic and foreign knowledge. Limpopo is not doing well in diffusing knowledge and technology, especially in its key competitive sectors such as agriculture, mining, logistics & services, manufacturing, biotechnologies, tourism, etc. Limpopo should transform itself from a net importer to net exporter of goods and services produced from these sectors.
The development of these key strategic focus areas, service clusters and other priority sectors, especially their competitiveness in increasingly global markets, will depend much on how well they are able to utilize novel methods, research, technologies, innovation and apply them in the marketplace within their respective sectors to create a sustainable competitive advantage for their own benefit.
The province needs to undertake efforts to improve the productivity of agriculture, industry and services. Such efforts must include strengthening technology diffusion institutions, such as agricultural and industrial extension agencies, productivity-enhancing organizations, technical information agencies as well as the expansion of more efficient firms, specialized suppliers of capital goods and inputs, consulting and technology services.
In a world in which trade, investment and production are becoming increasingly globalized, the capacity of countries to develop, acquire, diffuse, and commercialize knowledge is becoming a major source of competitiveness and growth. In many developing countries, the government and/or university sectors play a dominant role in performing R&D and the financing for R&D, which will mainly come from the public purse.
Limpopo should learn from other counties and provinces in developing its regional innovation systems (RIS). An innovative cluster emerges due to three elements, namely, labour market pooling, presence of specialist suppliers, and development of technological knowledge spillovers. RIS attracts many multinational companies and established R&D centres in a country or region. Limpopo should acquire many of the necessary ingredients including the following: good educational institutions, a critical mass of innovative companies, an entrepreneurial culture, and the presence of venture capital.
In moving forward, Limpopo should further energize its innovation system by increasing linkages with academia and industry; strengthening intellectual property rights and the patent regime; enhancing venture capital; promoting R&D by companies; encouraging new R&D niches, as for example in pharmaceuticals; increasing innovation in agriculture; conducting R&D to promote welfare and encourage grassroots innovations; and tapping the Limpopo Diaspora, which is so important in creating knowledge linkages critical for catalysing Limpopo’s future growth.
Limpopo should take steps to improve its overall innovation system further by taking advantage of new knowledge created at home and disseminating it for increased economic and social development. To gain maximum benefits, Limpopo needs to approach its innovation strategy systematically by supporting innovators and entrepreneurs, removing regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles to innovation, and cooperating with the private sector and industry to engage in mutually beneficial activities. Strategies are also needed to develop innovative and “pro-risk” organizations that “learn to dare and dare to learn” and create channels of innovative financing and innovative management.