The White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation policy intent 4.5 (use of public procurement as a vehicle to further innovation) and 4.13 (strengthen government’s role as an enabler of innovation). These policy intents allude that strategies should be developed to ensure that government is the first customer when it comes to using locally developed technologies. The policy further reinforces a Cabinet decision that the DSI should explore and implement policy instruments and strategies to enable the exploitation and uptake of locally developed technologies to improve service delivery and enable transitioning to knowledge economy.
Government’s infrastructure build programme is one example where locally developed technologies could be supported and tested. However, a supportive legislative environment is required to ensure the success of new industry development efforts through use of locally produced technology products e.g. in the fields of medical devices, ICT and environmental technologies. All of this depends on the government’s procurement processes being open to innovation and products from technology SMME’s and local innovators.
In order to create an open and responsive policy environment to realise these objectives, the DSI has instituted a Technology Acquisition and Deployment Fund as a policy instrument which is part of the broader strategy to support the deployment and commercialization of locally developed technologies.
The Technology Acquisition and Deployment Fund (TADF) is a funding instrument intended to promote and enable the first-time acquisition and deployment of locally developed technology solutions by government through facilitating the Acquisition and Deployment process and market entry. This instrument also promotes the uptake of local technology products and innovations mainly by the public sector i.e. government departments, municipalities and public entities. It is believed that such acquisition will encourage long – term off take agreements between the technology developer and the user/ client department. It also envisaged that the acquisition process will provide opportunities for exploitation of local innovations to improve public entity operations, enhance service delivery and to address persistent socio-economic challenges.
As a response, the DSI has appointed the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to implement the TADF in order encourage the uptake and deployment of locally developed technologies and create an environment where this can be managed differently by departments and municipalities to improve service delivery and catalyze / stimulate the commercialization of these technologies locally in the long run.
TIA was setup by government, through an Act of Parliament, to stimulate and intensify technological innovation to improve economic growth and the quality of life of all South Africans by developing and exploiting technological innovations. The latter part of TIA’s mandate (technology exploitation / commercialization) has suffered the most due to various reasons, one being the low or no uptake of these innovations by the public-sector due to a number of reasons i.e. non-existent of a conducive policy environment to promote the acquisition and deployment of locally developed technology solutions by government. Sometimes innovative user specification requirements are complex where an innovation does not have track record in the market or requires pre-commercialization support in order to enter the market.