Science and Technology on 2015/16 National Survey of Research and Experimental Development

The 2015/16 National Survey of Research and Experimental Development (R and D Survey) report released today shows that, despite the economic challenges, some institutional sectors have continued investing in R and D. South Africa’s gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) in 2015/16 was R32,337 billion, an increase of 10,2% in nominal terms on the year before.

GERD as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), a key indicator of R and D intensity in the economy, rose three basis points to 0,80. However, this increase was in a period of slowing economic growth. GDP increased by only 1,3% in 2015, in comparison to 1,7% in 2014 and 2,5% in 2013.

The R and D Survey, carried out on behalf of the Department of Science Technology (DST) with the support of Statistics South Africa, provides statistics on South Africa’s performance in key indicators of R and D expenditure and the human resources devoted to R and D. It is undertaken annually by the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII), based at the Human Sciences Research Council.

In constant 2010 rands, GERD amounted to R24,458 billion, representing a year-on-year real change of 5,0%.

At 5,0%, the rate of GERD growth in real terms has declined from the 8,1% reported in 2014/15. Constrained R and D funding sources in government and the business sector have contributed to this trend.

Except for the business sector, all the other sectors have increased their expenditure, and recorded R and D amounts that, in real terms, exceeded their pre-recession peaks. In nominal terms, the higher education sector and the science councils have contributed a combined 75% of the additional R and D spending. R and D in these two sectors rely mostly on government R and D funding sources.

Business sector expenditure on research and development (BERD), in 2010 rand terms, declined by 1,0%, showing signs of stagnation. R and D expenditure in manufacturing and in mining and quarrying has declined, but the financial intermediation, real estate and business services sector continued to dominate BERD, increasing its proportional share by 2,5 percentage points to make up 42,8% of BERD in 2015/16. The manufacturing sector’s proportional share of BERD is now 32,2%, having decreased over time from 38,8% in 2008/09. The other major industrial sectors each contributed less than 9% to BERD.

For the second time in the series of R and D Survey reports, separate data tables are presented to show the R and D trends of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). About 20 of the SOEs in the business sector regularly report in-house R and D expenditure which, in 2015/16, was estimated at R1,97 billion or 6% of GERD. This amount has declined from a peak of R3,44 billion reported in 2008/09, when SOEs accounted for 16% of GERD. SOEs contribute far more that the reported in-house R and D estimates, as funders, collaborators in R and D, importers of technology and a market for locally developed technologies.

Indicators of R and D personnel continued to improve. In 2015/16, the headcount of R and D personnel increased by 3,5% to 74 931. The ratio of full-time equivalent researchers per 1 000 employed improved too, from 1,5 to 1,7. Key drivers of the expansion are the net intake of researchers, many of whom are doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at universities. About 62% of the postdoctoral fellows are non-South African.

Source: Government of South Africa