The vision of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is to create a prosperous society that derives enduring, lasting and equitable benefits from science and technology. Its mission is to develop, coordinate and manage a National System of Innovation that will bring about maximum human capital, sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life for all.
When the DST was established in 2002, it was assigned a leading role in modernising South Africa's economy, and its main focus was on implementing the National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS).
The NRDS has been well received in the science system and substantial financial resources have been committed to attaining some of its objectives. The strategy provides for an integrated approach to human resource development, investment in science and technology infrastructure, and improving the strategic management of the public science and technology system to help with wealth creation and improving people's quality of life.
The DST is now implementing the Ten-Year Innovation Plan in addition to the NRDS. This has enormous potential to contribute to sustained economic growth and a knowledge-based economy by finding ways of bridging the 'innovation chasm' between research results and socio-economic benefits.
The plan proceeds from government's mandate to accelerate and sustain economic growth. It identifies five 'grand challenges' that will receive priority attention from government and researchers until 2018. Significant investments are being made in human capital development, knowledge production and the exploitation of knowledge for commercial purposes.
The five 'grand challenges' are aimed at strengthening the bio-economy, contributing to space science and technology, meeting energy security needs, responding to global change (with an emphasis on climate change), and contributing to a global understanding of shifting human and social dynamics.
A quick look at the events and milestones of the past few years reveal that the country is positioning itself among the global leaders in innovation, science and technology.
Some of the DST's most significant achievements are in the areas of astronomy and space science, information and communication technologies, the bio-economy, technology localisation support, fluorochemicals, titanium, international collaboration, global change, renewable energy, health innovation, palaeontology, human capital development, and fighting poverty through sustainable livelihoods.