The Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) is managing to stay relevant, and provides a significant component of South Africa's research and development (R&D).
As science and research outcomes continue to improve South Africa's competitiveness and service delivery, the CSIR believes that it remains a key player in the country's national system of innovation (NSI).
The organisation's latest annual report, presented this week, showcases more than 130 examples of work performed by the CSIR in areas such as safety and security, health, natural resources, infrastructure and services, energy, materials science, and information and communications technology (ICT).
One of the major challenges that the organisation faces is the availability of expert science, engineering and technology (SET) skills.
"The competition for top skills is fierce – particularly in specialist areas or in new fields of science," comments Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, president and CEO of the CSIR.
The organisation has made a dedicated effort to enhance the quality and appropriate quantity of skills. External to the CSIR, it has also implemented programmes aimed at developing future cadres of scientists through bursaries, skills exchanges with international peer organisations and internships.
SET professionals make up 67% (1 512 staff members) of the CSIR's total staff. Of those, 107 are principal or chief researchers of national and international standing. In addition, 678 of the SET professionals hold Masters or PhD qualifications. In terms of representivity, 52% of the SET workforce is black.
The CSIR reports that its intellectual property portfolio and royalty income stands at R9,1-million, while it registered 21 patents over the last year.
Its total operating income stands at R1,2-billion.
Research on the ICT front includes:
* Extending the reach of ICT to promote establishment of affordable broadband access infrastructure;
* Enabling the inclusive use of ICT, aimed at addressing barriers to inclusive access, such as language, literacy and disability;
* Supporting national priorities through ICT, addressing specific needs such as health; education; small, medium and macro enterprises; and rural development; and
* Monitoring and evaluation of the use of ICT to promote adoption and to improve technology products and services.