The National Commission on Research, Science and Technology announced this week that for the first time since Namibia’s Independence, a substantial amount will become available annually to drive local Research & Development (R&D) in science and technology.
Investment in Research, Science, Technology and Innovation over the past years has been discouraging with figures fluctuating between a miniscule 0.02% and 0.04% of GDP from 2010/11 to 2012/13 according to statistics from the National Planning Commission.
The National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) CEO, Dr. Eino Mvula speaking at the 2nd Information Communication Technology Summit at the Windhoek Country Club this week said that the NCRST through its budget allocation under the Ministry of Education as well as under the specific sectoral budget process will commit 0.3% of GDP to Research and Development annually.
The allocation of funding for R&D has increased from N$256 million in 2014/15 to N$320 million in the next funding cycle to N$380 million in 2016/17. This is excluding investment from the private sector and from regional and international development partners.
Dr Mvula announced at the summit that out of 22 projects presented to a panel of adjudicators, 11 will be funded which include five ICT projects. These projects were part of the commission’s first invitation to researchers to submit projects for funding which starts at N$50,000 per project with a ceiling of N$250,000 for more ambitious projects.
A national steering committee established for the sole purpose of developing a National Programme for Research, Science, Technology and Innovation (NPRSTI) will assist with the evaluation and implementation through yearly reviews of funded projects.
The steering committee is a multi-sector body comprising representatives from the public and private sectors, academic and research institutions as well as from civil society organisations. It is chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of the science commission.
Dr. Mvula said during his presentation that the NCRST does not fund the scaling of companies but only facilitates the process of basic, applied research and the technological development that stems from these innovations.
Namibia currently ranks 109th out of 142 countries in relation to global innovativeness scoring only 28 out of 100 according to the Global Innovation Index.
In comparison, Mauritius ranks 58th although it is classified as a low-income country.
“If we do not improve our ranking we will remain an importer of technology.” Dr. Emvula commented pointing out that the future is dependent on turning Namibia into a knowledge-based economy.
According to the Science, Technology and Innovation Information Platform (STIIP) for Namibia compiled by Unesco, local small-scale innovation systems face considerable regional and cultural disparities along with adverse costs for inputs and organizational challenges at the company level. The negative impact on innovation is greater than in large countries.
A separate survey on Research and Development by the science commission identified several methodological problems noting that research allocations are fragmented between government ministries.
It further found that researcher roles are not adequately defined, stating that even the concept R&D, in some cases, lacks a clear definition.