Analysis | Adoption and diffusion of advanced ICTs in South Africa’s agricultural sector

“For policymakers to develop, implement and improve policies that facilitate adoption and diffusion while mitigating the potential associated risks, they need to understand the implications involved,” write Buchana, Sithole, and Majokweni (2022) in a new HSRC Policy Brief. “The main policy issue at hand is the absence of evidence-based policy instruments intended for facilitating the diffusion and use of these advanced ICTs in the agricultural sector.”

Download HSRC Policy Brief Adoption and diffusion of advanced ICTs in South Africa’s agricultural sector: Policy issues and implications

Policy Brief Authors

Yasser Buchana (PhD), Senior Research Specialist, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council | ybuchana[at]

Moses M. Sithole (PhD), Research Director, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council | msithole[at]

Pilela Majokweni, Senior Researcher, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council | pmajokweni[at]

Analysis | Policy levers to boost innovation and productivity in South African manufacturing firms

“Current policy instruments to promote innovation do not consider all of the drivers of innovation investment and success, and there is a need for a mix of tools – known as policy levers – that explicitly consider the differential impact of these drivers on product versus process innovation,” argues Kahn (2022) in a new HSRC Policy Brief.

Download HSRC Policy Brief (March 2022) ‘Policy levers to boost innovation and productivity in South African manufacturing firms’

Policy Brief Author

Amy Kahn (PhD), Research Specialist, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council | akahn[at]

Media release | Nation-wide survey of South African business innovation gets underway

Thursday, 24 February 2022 – On 14 March 2022 South Africa’s official Business Innovation Survey gets underway with fieldworkers reaching out to 5 500 businesses over the next six months.

This will be the seventh time the survey takes place in South Africa, which is performed by the HSRC’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators for the Department of Science and Innovation.

Innovation is internationally recognised as a key driver of economic growth. It takes place in many businesses – big, small, micro and informal. Countries are best placed to solve wide-ranging social and economic challenges when innovative products and processes are adopted, and technological capacity is built.

Covering a three-year period, 2019 – 2021, the business innovation survey method uses international measurement tools to compare South Africa with other countries.

The survey collects information about a business’s innovations. This may include new products, new processes, as well as improvements to existing products or ways of working.

“South Africa faces considerable economic challenges, worsened by COVID-19. Measuring our capacity to innovate and thus grow our economy and increase employment is now especially relevant” says Dr Glenda Kruss, head of the CeSTII.

Business leaders will be contacted by fieldworkers from GeoScope, the HSRC’s fieldwork partner for the survey. The survey can be self-completed online or via telephonic interview.

Covering the period 2019 to 2021 the survey will collect data from the sample of enterprises drawn from the business register held by Statistics South Africa. It will include enterprises in:
• mining
• manufacturing
• electricity, gas and water supply
• services, including wholesale and retail trade
• transport, storage and communication
• financial intermediation
• computer and related activities.
• research and development
• architectural and engineering activities
• technical testing and analysis

“Societies that innovate, and create the conditions to nurture innovative practices, prosper and grow. South Africa has long recognised the importance of innovation and several public programmes support innovation,” says Senior Policy Analyst of the Department of Science Innovation, Kgomotso Matjila-Matlapeng.

“We thank the business sector for supporting this important research by contributing their time and insight when approached to participate. We will be guided by the results of the survey and look forward to sharing the findings.”

HSRC and partners would like to send their gratitude to the business sector for supporting this important research by contributing their time and insight when approached to participate.

The survey results will be analysed in 2022/23 and published in 2023.



For media enquiries
Adziliwi Nematandani, HSRC
Join the conversation: #BusinessInnovationSurvey #SAInnovationData

Policy Forum | Agricultural Innovation in South Africa

Join this policy forum to explore new sources of evidence to strengthen agricultural innovation in South Africa. Engage with speakers playing key roles in the sectoral system, including in industry associations, universities, businesses, government, and the media.

Why this policy forum, now

The South African White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (2019) places the modernisation and strengthening of agriculture firmly on South African’s innovation agenda. Vital to food and job security, skills enhancement, and increased competitiveness across local and global markets, the case for strengthening agricultural innovation is compelling and urgent. Agricultural actors—such as producers (smallholder to large-scale farmers, loggers, and fishers), formal agribusinesses (small, medium, and large), industry associations, financial institutions, and policy actors—face diverse challenges. These include: addressing climate change; improving production, processing and market efficiency; ensuring product and facility certification and compliance; and enhancing absorptive capacity for new and emerging technologies, including 4IR. How, then, can the innovation policy agenda be advanced to strategically enable actors to address these and future challenges, and to provide adequate and timely responses that build resilience in this sector?

The evidence provided by South Africa’s first national Agricultural Business Innovation Survey, alongside, for example, the Statistics South Africa Census of Commercial Agriculture, represent key recent empirical contributions to ongoing policy discussions. Using the available data as one of the tools, this policy forum aims to address questions in agricultural innovation from the perspectives of three sub-sectors—farming, forestry, and fisheries, including the actors impacted—and explore routes to address a series of key questions.

Key questions

  • Do existing science, technology and innovation (STI) policy instruments support innovation activity in South African agribusinesses as effectively as they could? Are there types of innovation that do not occur on a wide enough scale, or are ‘below the radar’, that we should promote systematically? What are the different strategies required to promote the distinctive patterns of innovation in different agricultural sub-sectors?
  • In different agricultural sub-sectors, do we need specific funding instruments for R&D-led innovation, technological upgrading, and organisation or non-technological innovation to transform the agricultural, food and nutrition system in a more targeted manner? How can DSI coordinate and align its policy, strategies and interventions with other stakeholders in the agricultural system of innovation, including related government departments, science councils and universities, financial institutions, and industry associations, to address the barriers and constraints?

Zoom link for registration


*Programme Facilitator: Kgomotso Matjila, Acting Chief Director: Science and Technology Investment, Department of Science and Innovation

09h30 | Welcoming remarks

  • Ben Durham, Chief Director: Bio-Innovation, Department of Science and Innovation

09h40 | Keynote address: ‘Innovation and resilience in global agri-food and nutrition systems’

  • Judith-Ann Francis, Independent International Strategic and Policy Advisor on Innovation in Agri-food and Nutrition Systems

10h00 | Scene-setting presentation: Innovation in South African agribusinesses: New empirical evidence

  • Dr Glenda Kruss, Executive Head, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council

10h40 | Research Panel: ‘Directions for policy from the evidence’

Moderator: Prof. John Ouma-Mugabe, Professor of Science and Innovation Policy at the Graduate School of Technology Management, University of Pretoria

  • Dr Albert Strever, Agri-Informatics Expert, Stellenbosch University
  • Dr Marinda Visser, Director: Strategic Projects & Planning: Agriculture, Innovation Africa @ UP Initiative
  • Dr McLean Sibanda, IP & Innovation Expert & Managing Director, Bigen Global Ltd.

11h30 | Finance and Business Panel: ‘Directions for policy and investment from ground level’

Moderator: Dr Mlungisi Cele, Acting CEO: National Advisory Council on Innovation

  • Dr John Purchase, CEO, Agricultural Business Chamber (agbiz)
  • Dr Simphiwe Ngqangweni, CEO, National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)
  • Denene Erasmus, Editor, Farmer’s Weekly
  • Mmabatho Portia Morudi, Farmer & Entrepreneur, II iju Bee Farms and co-founder of The Village Market Africa

12h30 | Policy Panel: ‘Strengthening the agricultural innovation system – the policy response’ 

Moderator: Dr Maneshree Jugmohan-Naidu, Director: Biotechnology, Department of Science and Innovation

  • Sibongiseni Ndimande, Director: Research and Policy Analysis, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
  • Sibonelo Mbanjwa, Director: Climate Change Adaptation-Natural Resources, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment
  • Sibusiso Manana, Head: Agriculture Strategic Technology Area, Technology Innovation Agency

13h20 | Closing remarks

  • Dr Petronella Chaminuka, Principal Economist and Senior Manager: Economic Analysis Unit, Agricultural Research Council

For more information or to contact the organisers please write to:

Policy Forum | State of innovation in South Africa

This high level, evidence-led virtual discussion on innovation and innovation measurement in South Africa on 28 August 2020 will feature key speakers from government, business, universities and civil society.

RSVP required at Eventbrite*

*Zoom link to be supplied on receipt of RSVP

Please note: This event will also be livestreamed on Facebook at the Department of Science and Innovation page.

Reading pack

Why this event, now?

The eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has resulted in rapid pivoting across government, business and civil society, as actors adapt to the plethora of new threats, risks, and opportunities. As the outbreak deepens in South Africa, the role of innovation cannot be overstated in evidence-led planning for the country’s economic recovery. South Africa’s White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, published in 2019, articulates a clear role of innovation in promoting sustainable and inclusive development in a changing world. It is therefore vital to interrogate the evidence we have on innovation, in order to inform the optimal policy mixes, which are fast-changing in relation to the urgencies presented by national and global, but also sectoral, COVID-19 responses.

This high-level policy forum will bring together high-level actors in a virtual setting to:

  • Launch the 2020 South African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators report produced by the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI)
  • Present the latest reviews of the National Research and Development Strategy (NRDS) and the Ten Year Innovation Plan recently conducted by NACI
  • Share on new data sets produced by the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators on behalf of the Department of Science and Innovation, including the Business Innovation Survey, 2014-2016, the Agricultural Business Innovation Survey, 2016-2018, and the Baseline Survey of Innovation in the Informal Economy 2018
  • Reflect on the role of indicators in monitoring the state of the National System of Innovation (NSI), by drawing in key perspectives from business, government, civil society and universities, and explore using evidence how South Africa’s NSI is geared towards inclusive and sustainable development
  • In 2020, we invite thought leaders and decision-makers from business, government, higher education, industry and civil society to consider their experiences and challenges, to highlight critical issues for measurement and policy-making going forward.

Key questions

  • What role can and should innovation play in South Africa’s recovery post-COVID?
  • What adaptations to current policy mixes should be explored, based on new evidence?
  • Do we have the right kinds of innovation measures appropriate to the South African context?
  • What have we learned about innovation from the experience of pivoting to the changes brought by COVID, across business, civil society, universities and government?

Event contacts

  • Rudzani Maila (rudzani.maila[at]
  • Gerard Ralphs (gralphs[at]

Analysis | The pace and direction of innovation is critical to South Africa’s economic recovery*

South African businesses may need to change how they innovate in order to survive the ‘new normal’, say the writers. (Illustration: Adobestock)

*First published on Daily Maverick, 28 July 2020.

Are South African businesses innovating quickly – and strategically – enough to improve their performance in the short to medium term? The results of the South African Business Innovation Survey, 2014-2016, released earlier in July 2020 by the Department of Science and Innovation, can help to answer this question.

Public policy debate about South Africa’s economy right now has tended to focus overwhelmingly on big picture explanations and recovery plans. Missing from this debate is a micro perspective, which places the emphasis on firm-level decisions and how these decisions ultimately drive or constrain business growth.

This is a harder discussion to enter into because of the evidence barrier in firms that are not publicly traded. Usefully, South Africa’s national business innovation surveys, which have been carried out since the 1990s, collect data retrospectively from businesses across the industrial and services sectors, through surveying a random sample of formal businesses, stratified by sector and size-class. 

This method ensures that survey results can be extrapolated statistically to the national population of businesses, resulting in unique and vital data for business leaders, industry lobbyists and government policy-makers, as well as for international comparison.

Most South African businesses do actually innovate

At the aggregate level, the 2014-2016 survey results paint a promising picture of an innovative formal business sector. That is, 69.9% of businesses were trying to innovate through, for example, performing research and development (R&D), training their staff, or purchasing new tech and equipment. And nearly all (96%) of these “innovation-active” businesses actually ended up with an innovation. 

An innovation, as measured by the survey, refers to the introduction to market of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or the use of new or significantly improved process (methods for the production or supply of goods and services). 

From this definition, which comes to us from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) statistical handbook for innovation surveys, the Oslo Manual, the focus is both on novelty (new or improved) and implementation (introduction to market or firm). 

Looking back at the 2014-2016 period, businesses spent 1.97 % of the total turnover on innovation activities. Product innovations were found in 48.2% of South African businesses and process innovations in 34.6% of businesses. Marketing and organisational innovation was also reported for 41.7% and 42.0% of businesses, respectively. 

Encouragingly, businesses that were trying to implement products and/or processes during the period 2014-2016 reported positive product, process and market outcomes of innovation. 

For instance, improved quality of goods and services was considered by most (38.0%) of these businesses as a highly successful outcome of innovation, followed by increased revenue (31.8%), and improved profit margins (30.9%). 

Improved health and safety (27.0%) and reduction in environmental impacts (23.3%) were also rated by these businesses as highly important, compared to financial and quality outcomes.  

By contrast, entering new export markets or increased export market share was reported as a highly important outcome by only 7.5% of these product and/or process innovators.

Execution of innovation could be faster

A deeper dive into the data, however, points to some issues that should concern leaders from business, industry associations and government. 

Key among these issues is that 80.5% of business turnover in 2016 (down from 85% in the 2005-2007 results), was generated from products that were marginally modified or unchanged, with the balance of turnover generated from products new to the market (10.8%), new to the business (7.0%), or new to the world (1.8%). 

Put differently, at the end of a three-year period, only about 20% of total sales were brought about by new or improved goods or services (innovations), and less than 2.0% were accounted for by products considered by respondents as first-of-its-kind in the world.

Commentators may argue that businesses may just have been benefiting from innovations carried out prior to the survey reference period, or that innovation – especially R&D-led innovation – takes time to “bear fruit”. 

These are both legitimate explanations, though would bring little comfort to businesses facing down uncertainty brought about by global dynamics and “exogenous shocks”, like the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Indeed, in the current era of rapid change, driven to a large extent by technological advancement, the pace of innovation in some sectors can result in dramatic consequences for businesses and entire industries. There are countless examples of disruptive or radical innovations that demonstrate this. 

For example, it took Uber’s founders just five years from 2009 to launch ride-hailing services in all the major global capitals, including the South African service in 2013, resulting in what, by 2019, was a business with assets in excess of $30-billion. 

In this context, the company innovated relentlessly, introducing Uber Eats in 2014 and a plethora of market-specific services, like auto rickshaw rides on UberAuto in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. 

Equally, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced massive layoffs by Uber, about 14% of its workforce, and closed 45 offices, in a bid to keep the company afloat. 

And yet, in this extremely challenging business context, the launch of Uber Cash in South Africa in June 2020, represents just one example of how the company is using innovation to pivot towards new business growth opportunities. 

Strategy is key

In the context of the current global Covid-19 pandemic, which is fundamentally changing how businesses operate, South African businesses may need to change how they innovate in order to survive this “new normal”.

Working more collaboratively, for example, could be one strategy. The 2014-2016 survey results show that less than 10% of innovative businesses partnered with government research institutes (8%), universities (6.8%), or private research institutions (4.9%) to develop their innovations during 2014-2016. Indeed, leveraging synergies between formal knowledge producers, such as universities, and businesses through co-creation of innovations is an area of focus for the South African SME fund.

Additionally, reflection on the type of innovation activities in which to invest, against the survey’s data disaggregated by sector could inform firm-level strategy development processes.

It’s worth pointing out that innovation surveys also assess the constraints faced by businesses in deciding whether or not to innovate. 

In 2014-2016, for example, financial barriers such as a lack of funds, or a lack of credit, coupled with market barriers, such as markets dominated by established businesses, impacted on innovation decision-making. 

Much less significant, in this regard, were institutional factors such as legislation, regulation, standards and taxation, or lack of skills. 

It is knowledge of these barriers, and other indicators delivered by a national innovation survey, that provides a critical starting point for businesses and government to consider how to support innovation within the formal business sector. 

Within the context of the country’s economic recovery, leaders across the political, corporate and small business landscape would do well to consider this data, as well as the analysis thereof, as part of their decision-making toolboxes. DM/BM

Dr Moses Sithole, a mathematician and statistician, is Research Director at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. Dr Yasser Buchana is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators at the Human Sciences Research Council. Gerard Ralphs is Policy Analyst and Programme Manager at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators at the Human Sciences Research Council. 

Analysis | Survey shows South African firms in some sectors are highly innovative

Mining and utilities businesses have low levels of innovation. Getty Images

Glenda Kruss, Human Sciences Research Council and Moses Sithole, Human Sciences Research Council

The ‘one good thing’ caused by COVID-19, according to a recent Harvard Business School publication by Hong Luo and Alberto Galasso, is that it has catalysed innovation. This is apparent in South Africa too, where businesses are introducing changes to mitigate the risks of the pandemic. They are adjusting their practices and strategies, introducing new technologies, products and designs, and determining how they can use digital and automated technologies.

But will they last?

The country’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, with the Department of Science and Technology and Statistics South Africa, has released the latest national business innovation survey. The survey helps to answer critical questions facing business leaders, industry groups and government policy-makers. The data can help the country’s understanding of the innovation taking place in businesses, so that more firms can be encouraged to innovate. The survey covered the period 2014 -2016.

How innovative are South African firms and what types of innovation have they implemented?

The survey found that innovation was pervasive across all sectors, but particularly in engineering and technology, manufacturing and trade. A high percentage – nearly 70% – of South African businesses were innovation-active. This meant that they had taken some scientific, technological, organisational, financial or commercial steps towards implementing an innovation. The proportion of innovation-active businesses compares favourably with trends in OECD countries.

But, to respond to current challenges, it is critical to understand what kinds of innovation firms are able to implement, and whether the kinds of benefits that result from them can contribute to business strategies and to inclusive and sustainable growth.

What types of innovation have firms implemented?

Innovation surveys typically measure four types of innovation. These are product, process, organisational and marketing.

The survey found that there were distinct patterns of these types of innovation in different economic sectors.

For example, mining and utilities businesses reflected low levels of innovation. For its part, manufacturing had the largest proportion of businesses with product innovation (59.8%) and marketing innovation (43.4%).

Process innovation was most prominent in logistics businesses (61.7%). More finance (52.0%) and manufacturing (49.1%) businesses reported organisational innovations than businesses in any other sector.

Each type of innovation requires specific forms of support.

Businesses most typically invested in innovation activities that helped them to prepare for technological and organisational change. They did this by training their workforces and investing in new information technology capabilities (Figure 1).

For both the industrial and services sectors, the biggest-ticket item of innovation spend was the acquisition of machinery and equipment.

Figure 1.

A substantial number of innovation-active businesses reported the use or development of advanced new technologies. These included computerised design and engineering, material handling, supply chain and logistics technologies, business intelligence technologies, and green technologies (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

These innovation capabilities suggest that there is a foundation for promoting more innovation that can lead to more positive economic outcomes.

The benefits

Innovation was less likely to have an immediate impact on turnover, and was far more likely to be incremental than radical.

Innovations with high degrees of novelty, such as new to the market or to the world products, did not have a strong effect on the turnover of the businesses that reported product innovations. So, just over 80% of their turnover was generated by goods and services that were unchanged or marginally modified. This was in contrast to a product that was new to the market (10.8%), new to the business (7.0%), or new to the world (1.8%).

Quality improvement was the top-rated innovation outcome for innovation-active businesses. Improved quality of goods and services was considered by 38.0% of product and process innovators as a highly successful outcome of innovation. This was followed by increased revenue (31.8%) and improved profit margins (30.9%).

Similarly, for nearly 50% of organisational innovators, improved quality was the main innovation outcome.

Entering new export markets – or increased export market share – as a highly successful innovation outcome was reported by only 7.5% of product and process innovators.

Innovation-active businesses also accessed national and global markets more than their counterparts with no activity. This included markets in the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia. Businesses with innovation activity were more likely to have sold their goods and services on national markets (58.1%), when compared to non-innovation-active businesses (37.7%).

Firms that were not innovation active were more restricted in their reach. They accessed selected provincial markets (57.4%) more than any other market.

The challenge is to grow the scale and range of types of innovation, to ensure that such outcomes and benefits are more widespread across more sectors and businesses.


Businesses’ perceptions of the barriers to innovation were grouped into four sets of factors. (See Figure 3.) These provide critical insights into potential spaces for intervention.

The most significant barriers relate to market factors. These include market dominance of established firms, too much competition, and uncertain demand. For non-innovation-active businesses, the most widely reported barrier was a lack of demand for innovation.

To address these barriers requires stimulation of new and expanded markets. In the South African case this requires structural economic reforms. There are a number of steps government can take. It can, for example, ensure that regulatory conditions are more conducive for creating new businesses. It can also improve the transport and communication infrastructure.

Government also has an important role in stimulating demand in the context of the economic, social and health challenges of COVID 19.

Cost factors were also significant. These ranged from the costs of innovation being too high, to lack of funds for innovation within the business or from external sources such as government or private equity.

The vast majority of innovation-active businesses relied on their own funds to innovate (77.0%). Only 1.7% relied on government as a source of funds.

This points to the fact that public sector funding can be targeted more effectively to stimulate innovation. Examples include the new Sovereign Innovation Fund proposed in the 2020 budget or the R&D tax incentive.

But it’s equally important to create conditions that make private equity funding more attractive.

Knowledge factors were not as significant. Nevertheless, strengthening the link between innovation and skills development strategies would be valuable.

Institutional factors, such as legislation, regulatory and intellectual property rights frameworks, and infrastructure were not perceived as significant barriers.

Figure 3.

Way forward

In local, national and global contexts, rapidly advancing digital technologies and their applications have opened up the space for innovations as yet unimagined in products, processes, marketing and organisation.

The evidence from the business innovation survey is an invaluable opportunity to reflect on where South Africa’s innovation strengths and challenges lie. It also opens the door to interrogate how existing policies and funding mechanisms can be used more effectively to facilitate business innovation in the country.

Glenda Kruss, Executive Head of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council and Moses Sithole, Research Director, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Results | SA Business Innovation Survey, 2014-2016

8 July 2020 – South African Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, today released the results of the 2014-2016 Business Innovation Survey.

Quick links:

Produced by the HSRC’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) for the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Survey delivers national data on the formal business sector’s innovation performance in the three-year reference period.

“In our current COVID-19 context, these results help us to reflect on the distinctive nature of innovation in South Africa, and point toward spaces for policy intervention so that we can encourage more firms in all economic sectors to innovate,” says Executive Head of CeSTII, Dr Glenda Kruss.

“To respond to the current economic, ecological and health challenges, we need to understand what kinds of innovation firms are able to implement, and whether the kinds of benefits that result from these forms of innovation can contribute to firms’ business strategies and to inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Alongside the annual R&D Survey, the HSRC has performed national innovation surveys since CeSTII was established in the early 2000s. 

“South African innovation surveys follow the widely adopted OECD Oslo Manual methodology to enable international comparisons, and are conducted using a random sample of businesses stratified by size-class and across across the industrial and services sectors,” according to Dr Moses Sithole, CeSTII Research Director and the Survey’s technical lead.

“Data is then weighted to reflect innovation performance across the national population of businesses in those sectors, allowing for a unique snapshot of innovation performance in the formal economy.”

Adds Kruss: “The survey provides critical data on the kinds of barriers that prevent more firms from innovating, whether relating to cost, market, knowledge or institutional factors.”

“We tend to promote ‘islands of excellence’, the small number of firms that innovate at the technology frontier in ways that are new to the world. Most firms however, utilize incremental innovations that marginally modify their existing products and processes, or that are new to the firm and local market. So, it is essential to design policy support mechanisms that can mitigate the constraints on these incremental forms of innovation more widely across the business sector.”

Watch media briefing

South African Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, addresses media on  on 8 July 2020 on measures implemented by the National System of Innovation and Higher Education in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Policy Forum | Is the Western Cape establishing a regional culture of innovation conducive to the needs of business?

The Western Cape Workshop of the National Advisory Council on Innovation’s Provincial Roadshow took place place at InvestSA on 10 September 2019.

Scene-settingProf Crain Soudien (CEO, HSRC) and Dr Mlungisi Cele (Acting CEO: NACI)

South Africa STI Indicators 2019Dr Petrus Letaba (NACI)

Business panel: Critical needs in the Western Cape provincial innovation system, Facilitated by Tim Harris (CEO, WESGRO)

Government panel: How government is creating a regional innovation culture, Facilitated by Dr Glenda Kruss (Executive Head, CeSTII) 

*Video courtesy of the HSRC’s Impact Centre. Special thanks to Antonio Erasmus.

Final Programme & Speakers

Why this event, now?

The 2014-2019 Western Cape Provincial Strategic Plan foregrounds innovation as one of its key economic development goals.

It is necessary to nurture innovation as a key objective within the economic development sphere,” the Plan states.

The objective will be to develop new types of approaches, solutions, processes and materials which will have the potential to clearly identify the region as one which is conducive to creativity, innovation and design. We seek to establish a regional culture that supports and evokes industry collaboration and to scale sustainability, innovations and technology. (p.16)

As the Plan’s strategic cycle draws to a close, the launch of the National Advisory Council on Innovation’s 2019 STI Indicators report, as part of its provincial roadshows, provides an excellent opportunity for critical reflection on progress toward these goals and an opportunity to highlight plans for the new 5-year strategic cycle.

Nested within a national systems of innovation perspective, but with a clear focus on the provincial lens, the programme is designed to catalyse a reflective and formative conversation, between and across sectors, with key business and government stakeholders sharing needs, programming and strategy lessons, and ideas for the future.

About the 2019 NACI Provincial Roadshow: The NACI report assesses STI performance in terms of quality of life and wealth creation, enabled by business performance through innovation, a framework informed by the National R&D Strategy of 2002. In 2019, we invite thought leaders and decision-makers from business principally, but also government and industry associations, to consider their experiences and challenges, to highlight critical issues for measurement and policy-making going forward.

Key questions

  • What does an innovative regional government look like and why is this important in the regional innovation system?
  • What does a regional culture of innovation that is conducive to the needs of diverse industries and the businesses within them look like and how can a region be positioned as an innovative region?
  • How is the Western Cape regional innovation system performing in terms of providing an enabling environment for innovation in order for Western Cape businesses to remain competitive and to create opportunities for job creation and economic growth?
  • How does the structure of industries nationally enhance or circumscribe provincial innovation, particularly in terms of human capabilities and networks?
  • Is the Western Cape geared to respond to new urgencies and global challenges, such as environmental change, and how can business innovation stakeholders play a more active role in this respect?

More info?

  • Gerard Ralphs gralphs[at] | 021 466 8000

*Image credit: Cape Town Film Studios:

Analysis | Nigeria and SA’s innovation performance compared

Nigeria and South Africa are Africa’s largest economies, with a combined GDP that rivals those of all other African nations together. However, GDP growth rates in both countries have stalled in recent years, and major societal ills persist. As middle-income economies that have made a transition from primary industry to services-based growth, Nigeria and South Africa’s innovation performance should concern policy-makers.


As the manufacturing sector comparison illustrates, while firms in both countries use technology acquisition as the key innovation strategy to improve the quantity and quality of their value propositions, Nigerian and South African firms face critical financial and other barriers to innovation.


The services sector comparison illustrates that while services firms in both countries use training and technology acquisition as key innovation strategies to improve the quantity and quality of their value propositions, Nigerian and South African firms face critical financial and other barriers to innovation.

Behind the numbers

These fact sheets represent a joint product of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council and Nigeria’s National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM).

They were produced during a research visit to South Africa by NACETEM’s Dr Abiodun Egbetokun in May 2019, which was sponsored by the InterAcademy Partnership.

Both CeSTII and NACETEM are responsible for the production of science, technology and innovation indicators. Data is drawn from the South African Business Innovation Survey (2008) and from the Nigerian Business Innovation Survey (2010).

Both surveys were conducted using the OECD’s Oslo Manual, allowing for international comparability of data. GDP data was sourced from Statistics South Africa and Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics.


CeSTII is a policy research institute of the Human Sciences Research Council, which performs national studies on R&D and innovation on behalf of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology. Learn more

Contact Dr Glenda Kruss | gkruss[at]

NACETEM is an agency of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Science and Technology that provides critical knowledge support in the area of STI management for sustainable development. Learn more

Contact Prof. Okechukwu Ukwuoma |[at]

Announcement | SA’s first agricultural innovation survey

The Human Sciences Research Council undertakes national science, technology and innovation surveys, in terms of the Statistics Act (No. 6 of 1999). In May 2019, we rolled out fieldwork in the first ever SA Agricultural Business Innovation Survey, covering 2016 – 2018 and including farming, forestry and fisheries.

Between May and August, our research team will collect data from nearly 1,700 agricultural companies, from small to large businesses.

Results were released in April 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions
Survey brochure
South African innovation support programmes

Watch ‘The Future of Farming’ (The Daily Conversation, by Bryce Plank and Robin WestWall Street Journal), for a perspective on agricultural innovations shaping the future of farming.

The story of SA’s innovation surveys

Effective policy-making requires high quality evidence. The Department of Science and Technology (now merged with the Department of Higher Education and Training), as a partner within the national statistics system, is mandated to oversee the collection of statistics on science, technology and innovation. Since 2002, CeSTII has performed business innovation surveys for the Department.

Watch Dr Glenda Kruss, director of the SA Agricultural Business Innovation Survey 2016 – 2018, talk about why innovations surveys are performed in South Africa.

Previous Survey Reports


Recent Presentations

All Tweets and slides from the 2018 Industry Associations Innovation Day 

Follow our blog  or Twitter handle (@BizInnovationSA) for updates from the SA Business Innovation Survey team.

Call for Participation | Innovation Data UserX Design Hackathon

The Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) and the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI) are pleased to invite participation in an innovation data hackathon taking place from 11-13 September 2018.

Express interest now. Registrations close Friday 31 August 2018.

The event will be hosted as part of the 2018 South African Innovation Summit at the Cape Town Stadium.

Our focus? Developing brand new experiences for users of business innovation survey data within the National Science, Technology and Innovation Information Portal (NSTIIP).

“By working in new and creative ways with user communities such as firms, policy makers, media houses, and researchers, this effort represents a significant opportunity for CeSTII to widen participation in and deepen knowledge of the country’s innovation data, which is vital to a more innovative South Africa,” says CeSTII director, Dr Glenda Kruss.

Join a hackathon team, or join the audience

There are limited spaces for individuals to join a multidisciplinary hackathon team of six people per team, and to take part in a facilitated process including a technical briefing, hands-on team mentorship by experts, and a final pitch and judge session.

“NACI will incorporate the inputs from the multidisciplinary teams that are participating at this hackathon event to improve the user experiences of the NSTIIP and also for its upscaling,” says Dr Petrus Letaba, the NSTIIP’s project manager.

Download 2-page hackathon challenge and programme pdf

But there is also an option for interested parties to join the hackathon audience as ‘critical friends’.

“We know that businesses, industry associations, government policymakers, research institutions and the media all have a stake in a strong national innovation dataset,” says hackathon lead facilitator, Dr Pieter Van Heyningen.

“So we are also looking for a strong cohort of people from these groups to help us guide the teams, either as active mentors or as part of our hackathon audience for the opening and closing sessions.”

Says Van Heyningen: “This hackathon is in fact a rare chance for researchers, innovation managers, journalists, creatives, and web developers from diverse sectoral backgrounds, working in a fully catered for space, to rapidly expand their networks and collaboration capacities, while making innovation data work better for the user groups that need it most.”

Hackathon contacts

For more information or if you have questions, write to:

  • Gerard Ralphs, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council gralphs[at], 021 466 8000
  • Dr Petrus Letaba, National Advisory Council on Innovation, petrus.letaba[at]
  • Dr Pieter Van Heyningen, SustNet,

Event | Tweets and slides from Industry Associations Innovation Day 2018

On 25 May 2018, about 60 industry association leaders, government officials, researchers and entrepreneurs gathered at Gauteng’s Riversands Incubation Hub. On the agenda? Innovation, government and Industry 4.0. This post shares the final programme and speaker list, presentations and Tweets from @HSRC_CeSTII.

Image credit: Department of Science and Technology

Programme and speakers

Did you attend? Rate your experience


How much R&D and innovation goes on in South Africa, and how we know this – Dr Glenda Kruss & Dr Moses Sithole, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council

How industry/businesses can leverage CSIR platforms for innovation – Kobus Roux, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research



Analysis | Barriers to innovation: Evidence from South African manufacturing companies 2010–2012

“Studies on barriers to innovation typically focus on the impact of obstacles on the propensity to innovate as well as the factors affecting perceptions of the importance of these barriers,” Moses et al (2018) argue in a new HSRC Policy Brief. Drawing from the South African Business Innovation Survey 2010–2012 dataset, the brief documents factors affecting how companies perceive the importance of a range of barriers to innovation.

The Business Innovation Survey 2010–2012 data allows for an evaluation of various factors that influence a company’s perceptions of different barriers to innovation.

The results presented in this brief do not represent the population of all the business enterprises in South Africa, but only a sample of 128 manufacturing enterprises.

Download HSRC Policy Brief (March 2018) ‘Barriers to innovation: Evidence from South African manufacturing companies 2010–2012’

Policy Brief Authors

  • C Moses (BSc, BSc Honours, MSc), Chief Researcher, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council |
  • Dr MM Sithole (BSc, CDE, PGD, MSc, PhD), Chief Research Specialist; Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council |
  • P Mudavanhu (BSc, BCom Honours, MCom), Senior Researcher, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council
  • N Nkobole-Mhlongo (BSc, BSc Honours, MSc), Junior Lecturer, University of South Africa
  • T Kupamupindi (BSc, BSc Honours, MPhil), Senior Demographer, International Centre for Aids Care and Treatment Programs, Columbia University


Analysis | Can government stimulate innovation through public funding and procurement in manufacturing and services?

In two brand new briefing papers, researchers from the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators at the Human Sciences Research Council investigate firm-level awareness of public funding for innovation in the manufacturing and services sectors.

The Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) is a statistical and policy research institute based at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

CeSTII performs national surveys that underpin benchmarking, planning and reporting on R&D, innovation and technology transfer in South Africa, including the South African Business Innovation Survey 2014-2016.

Our Research Briefs are concise papers based our ongoing work. Their goal? To provide empirical evidence and informed opinion that policy- and decision-makers can use to strengthen the quality of their thinking and action.


Research Brief No. 1*


Authors: Glenda Kruss, Moses Sithole, Cheryl Moses and Hlamulo Makelane


Research Brief No. 2*


Authors: Glenda Kruss, Moses Sithole and Cheryl Moses

*Data presented in these papers is drawn from the South African Business Innovation Survey 2010-2012. Research Briefs No. 1 and No. 2 were first published in April 2018.

Full Report: Innovation in the South African Manufacturing Sector, 2010-2012

Full Report: Innovation in Selected South African Services Sectors, 2010-2012

Some government mechanisms in support of innovation in South Africa

The South African government invests a significant amount of effort into supporting innovation in the South African business sector. This support can either be financial in nature or through support programmes that make access to other resources easier. Given the right support from government, we should expect business to be better positioned to take their innovations further. We report on the extent to which firms access this funding, if they benefit in other ways, and detail the reasons why they do not access public funding.  – Kruss, et al (2018)

Event | Coming up: Industry Associations Innovation Day 2018 – 25 May

InnovationDay_BannerImage_V1 [2160x1080px]
A collaboration of the Department of Science and Technology, and the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators of the Human Sciences Research Council and Business Unity South Africa, the Industry Associations Innovation Day 2018 will take place at The Canvas Riversands, Fourways, on 25 May 2018.

The Industry Associations Innovation Day 2018 is envisaged to facilitate a dialogue between industry association leaders across the range of sectors, thought leaders, researchers, and government, as well as encounter case studies, on how some industry associations are tackling the innovation question with and for their membership.

Register now

The Canvas Riversands

Download one-page invitation you can share around*

On the agenda*

*Note: The agenda has been updated to include speakers from the National Business Initiative, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Information Technology Association of South Africa

REGISTRATION (08h30-09h00)

WELCOME: Joanne Yawitch, CEO: National Business Initiative

KEYNOTE: Innovation, government and Industry 4.0: South Africa’s policy visionImraan Patel, Deputy-Director General, Department of Science and Technology

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP PANEL: The trends we can’t afford to ignore anymore, and what businesses can do about them… Themba Maseko, Business Leadership South Africa (Moderator), Etienne Vlok, Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers UnionNonkululeko Shinga, Department of Trade and IndustryMike Colley, Institute for Futures Research

EVIDENCE PRESENTATION: How much R&D and innovation goes on in South Africa, and how we know this, Dr Glenda Kruss, Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators, Human Sciences Research Council

BREAK (10h45-11h00)

PRACTICE LEADERSHIP PANEL: What industry associations can do to support an innovation agendaHenra Mayer, Innocentrix (Moderator), Dr John Purchase, Agricultural Business ChamberBrenda Martin, South African Wind Energy AssociationPhilippa Rodseth, Manufacturing Circle, Sunil Geness, Information Technology Association of South Africa



Learn more?

Write to Gerard Ralphs gralphs[at], or call 021 466 8000.

Announcement | Ignition on SA Business Innovation Survey, 2014-2016

It’s been an intense but rewarding week for ‘Team BIS’ at the HSRC. We announced the rollout of our 2014-2016 survey fieldwork effort, attended the SA Innovation Summit, and talked and listened to loads of clever and committed people. Who knew doing large-scale quantitative research could be this, well, fun.

Dr Moses Sithole, BIS technical lead, interviewed by Activate radio on 6 September 2017 at the Cape Town Stadium. [Image credit: HSRC/CeSTII]

Ramping up

We’ll remember 5 September 2017 as the day we ramped up Business Innovation Survey 2014-2016, even though behind-the-scenes prep has been ongoing for much, much longer.

Director of the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators , Dr Glenda Kruss, appeared on eNCA and SABC’s Morning Live, before briefing media at a bespoke event arranged at the HSRC.

We were also very lucky to have one of Africa and the world’s leading science journalists in the room, Linda Nordling, editor of *Research Africa, whose feature “Services industries in the crosshairs as SA launches innovation survey” (7 September 2017) delves into the history of innovation surveys in South Africa, and how the 2014-2016 round will differ from previous rounds.

See also article published in Engineering News and Business Report

Adding to the national conversation

When we designed the advocacy strategy for the South African Business Innovation Survey 2014-2016, we saw September 2017 as a month full of important opportunities to add our voice to a national conversation on innovation.

The SA Innovation Summit event, which ends tomorrow, and the SA Innovation Bridge event, which starts next Friday, are now both annual calendar events for South Africa.

They bring together a whole range of actors from the national system of innovation, and beyond, and both events are about making interaction possible within the system, and with other systems, too; to catalyse more innovation, faster.

In attending these events, we wanted to tell our story, but also listen to as many others’ as we can.

To these ends, the Summit which was held at the Cape Town Stadium’s conference venue certainly delivered great value for us.

Dr Moses Sithole spoke about innovation measurement and firm competitiveness on 7 September and we also listened to the innovation stories of companies, like Skeg, who develop product prototypes for all industries, and of entrepreneurs, like the climate-savvy Vicky Shabangu, who is trying to develop a waste management business in Mpumalanga, from scratch.

A few buzz words characterised the discourse on display at the Summit, like ‘disruption’, ‘crytocurrencies’, ‘big data’, ‘systems thinking’, ‘innovation districts’, ‘knowledge regions’, ‘co-creation’, ‘edtech’, ‘fintech’, and so on.

Powerful messages

The Summit was full of powerful messages for innovators big, small or just starting up. The value of networking, exchange, spaces and places, and information were talked up. So was the extremely powerful role of data, digital and disruption in shaping how the economies (and societies) of the future will operate.

For the South African Business Innovation Survey 2014-2016, the take-home messages were equally strong: we need a strong evidence base, rooted in the realities of firms across different industrial, services and informal sectors of the economy, to help with the shaping of responsive policy.

Visual artist James Durno worked with Kgomotso Matlapeng (Department of Science and Technology) and Gerard Ralphs (Team BIS) on 7 September to co-create this image of the relationship between BIS data and policy. [Image credit: HSRC/CeSTII]

Announcement | All the SA innovation survey info you need, right here

This blog has been designed as a resource for interested parties to learn more about the South African business innovation surveys and their data. It’s also a practical resource to support and encourage firms responding to surveys.

Content pillars

We’re blogging in four key areas, which you’ll see across our posts. These are:

  1. The meaning of innovation

2. Innovation indicators

3. Impact of innovation

4. Innovation at large

Our blog writers are based at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) at the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC).

Goals you can achieve on this blog

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