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The Entrepreneurial South African State: An analysis of current government action to stimulate innovation and recommendations for future policy and initiatives

Sandiso Sibisi | July 17, 2019

Despite considerable effort from the South African government to drive innovation, the investments to date have not reaped the fruits expected by both government and the private sector. I believe that if we are to realise ‘the new dawn’ in economic growth and transformation the state needs to reorganise itself to be an ‘entrepreneurial state’. This paper will proceed firstly by outlining current government action to support innovation, followed by a summary of the overarching recommendation to develop an entrepreneurial state. Finally it will outline in detail the current problems with government action to support innovation and how practical changes relating to the entrepreneurial state could address these.

Current government action to support innovation

When one analyses government investment and initiatives to facilitate private sector innovation, it is clear that South Africa has not been short of government action. When South Africa became a democratic country in 1994, the National System of Innovation was already in place and was adopted and further advanced by the post-apartheid government. This system of innovation was primarily characterised by the prioritisation of commercialisation of publicly funded research. However, the new regime had a mandate to reform economic structures to address legacy issues, and therefore legacy programmes such as Support Programme for Industrial Innovation Programme, facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), redirected resources to create a more inclusive National System of Innovation. An innovation fund was created on the back of the White Paper on Science and Technology, from which the Intellectual Property Rights and Publicly Funded Research and Development Act (IPR Act) was born in 2008. The next 10 years of South Africa’s National Systems of Innovation witnessed numerous initiatives namely; maturing of the Innovation Fund, an R&D Strategy for commercialisation of publicly funded R&D, an IPR framework, and an Innovation plan from Department of Science and Technology (DST). Last year marked the 10th year since... 

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