For every R1 invested in the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI), industry had invested R2, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said in Cape Town on Wednesday.
The SARChI, established in 2005, aims to address the shortage of postgraduate supervisors and increase the country’s research output. Research chairs are exempt from the teaching requirements of other academic staff and focus on postgraduate training and research.
“Its aim was to attract top-rank scientists to South Africa to boost our scientific competitiveness,” Pandor said. She was speaking at the launch of three new research chairs, co-funded with the United Kingdom. “It was also designed to encourage South Africans to stay at South African universities in the face of what was seen at the time as brain drain aboard of senior academics.”
Government funds the SARChi to the tune of about R404-million annually, Pandor said. While the total cumulative public investment between 2006 and 2014 was R1.5-billion, the research chairs had used these funds to leverage an additional R3-billion from foreign sources, government departments and industry, she said.
There are now 198 chairs in the initiative, including the three new UK-SA chairs. Two of the chairs, awarded to Dr Stephen Devereux at the University of the Western Cape and Prof Michael Roberts at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, would focus on food security. They would be allocated R1.3-million each by the British Council. The third new chair awarded to Wits University and amounting to R1.7-million, would focus on political science.
“This latest UK-SA bilateral research chairs initiative is the second such initiative after the global environmental health initiative established with Switzerland last year,” Pandor said. “The third will be in nanosciences and advanced materials with Germany.”