1 June 2007South Africa’s spending on research and development (R&D) has increased by about R4.5-billion over the last five years, an indicator of the growing competitiveness of the country’s economy.Delivering his department’s budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town last week, Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena said the country’s target of spending 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) on R&D by 2008/09 was now “well within sights.”According to the latest Human Sciences Research Council survey of R&D spending, SA businesses, universities, science councils, government research institutes and non-governmental organisations spent R14-billion, or 0.91% of GDP, on R&D in 2005/06.This was up from R12-billion, or 0.87% of GDP, in 2004/05, Mangena said.Over the same period, the private sector’s share of R&D activity rose from 56% to 59%. “As our business sector engages in innovation and R&D, their returns contribute to economic growth,” the minister said. “We are delighted with this trend.”SA firms score for innovationEarlier this year, the Human Sciences Research Council released the results of the first official South African Innovation Survey – modelled on the survey used in all European Union countries in 2005/06 – showing that more than half of SA’s companies engaged in the development of new products and processes between 2002 and 2004.“Our rate of innovation is well above that of the European average of 42% for 2004,” Mangena told Parliament last week.According to the survey, SA companies spent in the region of R27.8-billion on innovative activities in 2004, representing about 2.4% of the total turnover of all business covered in the industrial and service sectors.While the bulk of this expenditure was devoted to the acquisition of new machinery, equipment and software, in-house research and development (R&D) expenditure accounted for about 20% of total innovation expenditure.“In addition, some 10% of successful innovators in industry received public funding for innovation activities,” Mangena said. “That shows that the funding programmes of government are having a penetrating effect in the private sector.”R&D incentivesThe Department of Science and Technology also worked with the National Treasury and SA Revenue Service over the past year to introduce enhanced tax incentives for R&D.“I must, however, report a concern that few business leaders appear to be aware of the new incentives,” Mangena said. “We urge businesses to carefully examine their production processes, correctly identify their R&D activities, and increase their investments further.”Mangena reported that the lion’s share of the department’s budget over for 2007 through 2009 – about R323-million – would go to developing South Africa’s human resources in science, engineering and technology.The department has also allocated R178-million to provide modern research facilities and infrastructure for the country’s research community.Source: BuaNews
One more episode in the riveting rivalry between Gagan Narang and Beijing Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra will be on show on Saturday as the high voltage shooting competition begins at the Asian Games. Frankly speaking, among all sporting disciplines India are competing in at the Asiad, shooting seems the best bet for medals. Gone are the days when one Jaspal Rana would win us most of the medals, as he last did at the Doha Asian Games.gagan Narang (left) and Abhinav Bindra will reignite their rivalry at the Guangzhou Asian Games.In Gagan Narang, India has a rifle shooter who is willing to shoulder the load and shoot in as many as three competitions with an eye on medals. No doubt, with Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput, Narang could well launch India’s medal tally in the team event but the bigger battle will be in the individual event.For those lucky enough to witness the Beijing Olympics air rifle competition, the sight of Bindra winning the gold and Narang virtually in tears after missing the final is still etched in memory.Much as the two play down the rivalry between themselves as they did at the Commonwealth Games, it is no secret that Narang wants this gold medal very badly. To be sure, Narang has an incredible year behind him. Peaking again and again is not easy, but as he shot below par in the World Cup Finals last month, he is expected to be in blazing form on Saturday.advertisementAnd that should set the tone for the shooting competition on a day when the women’s air rifle event will also be held, where Tejaswini Sawant is a force to reckon with.If the Commonwealth Games is to be used as an indicator of India’s depth and drive in shooting, one should not forget that the hosts are hungry and cunning when it comes to shooting medals.Over the years, China’s depth has only increased, thanks to the demanding schedule they set for their shooters. In a sport where the marksman is basically competing against himself or herself, there is none to blame other than one’s own form.National coach Sunny Thomas has tried to ‘sanitise’ the shooters by not allowing them to talk to the media. Whether it works, we will get to see. But one man who has a similar philosophy while dealing with the rifle shooters is foreign coach Stanislas Lapidus as he also feels the media is indeed intrusive and a distraction for the competitors.Moving away from the rifle, in pistol events the Indians are not favourites to win medals against the consistency and aggression of the Chinese and Korean shooters. However, trap marksman Manavjit Singh Sandhu feels the Indians are in good form.”I can say with assurance that the Indian shooters have come in with good results this year. They are in good form but we will have to wait for the results,” he said, not wanting to hazard a prediction. Sandhu and Mansher Singh are the tried and tested Indian trap shooters from whom a lot is expected here in the team and individual events. Mansher was first part of the Asian Games team in 1982 in New Delhi.For the sheer number of years Mansher has been in the sport — 28 — it’s a tribute to his perseverance. In a sport where age doesn’t really matter, he has been consistent. The Asian Games is the biggest stage next to the Olympics and in double trap as well, India can come good. Ronjan Sodhi’s shooting in 2010 coupled with junior world champion Asher Noria’s explosive talent can be worth medals.