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.




Adziliwi Nematandani, HSRC
Join the conversation: #BusinessInnovationSurvey #SAInnovationData

Event | Save the Date: 24 February 2022

Media briefing and knowledge-sharing webinar for journalists, industry association leaders,
and business analysts

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), together with the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), invite you to join this knowledge-sharing webinar to explore uses of innovation data for organisational decision-making and analysis, and for public knowledge purposes. Innovation scholars from South Africa will use practical examples to catalyse the conversation. The knowledge exchange will follow on from a media briefing with survey leaders announcing the start of fieldwork for the Business Innovation Survey 2019 – 2021.

RSVP on Zoom required by 22 February 2022

Why this event, now

Outside of public policy uses, South Africa’s innovation data are a unique and publicly available source of intelligence for leaders of industry associations, journalists, and business analysts. (To access the data sets, go to For previous survey reports, go to Depending on the type of analysis performed, new insights into the South African business environment can be generated using innovation data. Challenging common-sense perceptions of innovation, by using national innovation data, is important to developing more robust internal or public conversations.

Learn more

Gerard Ralphs | HSRC | gralphs[at]

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: