Launch of South Africa’s Bio-Economy Strategy – 14th January 2014

The Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, launched South Africa’s Bio-economy Strategy on 14 January 2014.

The bio-economy refers to an entire innovation chain (from research and development to commercialisation) based on biological sources, materials and processes, and aimed at sustainable economic, social and environmental development.

The science-based Bio-economy Strategy, approved by Cabinet in November last year, positions bio-innovation as essential to the achievement of government’s industrial and social development goals.  The strategy calls for industry, science councils, government departments and academia to cooperate closely to ensure that biotechnology and bio-innovations are market relevant and find easier application in South Africa.

At the launch, Minister Hanekom said that the Bio-economy Strategy would take the National Biotechnology Strategy from 2001 to the next level, creating an enabling environment that will allow government departments, industry, venture capital and other stakeholders to move forward with initiatives that will be able to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities of the future.

“We are confident that the strategy we are launching today will address the full value chain, going beyond the mere generation of new technologies to ensuring that technology development is informed by the needs of the country and people, and that social and economic value is generated.  If we look at the sustainable utilisation of resources and encourage role players to work together to achieve common goals, we will be helping to close the innovation chasm,” Mr Hanekom said.

“Our aim is to grow the bio-economy through strengthened partnerships with industry, and to extract the full potential of our living systems through the application of our collective competencies and capabilities.  The benefits to society will include the more sustainable use of resources, the development of new products, and improved job prospects,” he added.

The Bio-economy Strategy is aligned to the National Development Plan, which considers science, technology and innovation key to the South African developmental agenda, as advances in these fields underpin advances in the economy and in society.  It is expected that by 2030 biotechnology and bio-innovation will be making a significant contribution to South Africa’s gross domestic product through the creation of bio-based services, products and innovations, intellectual property management and support for bio-entrepreneurs.

In addition, the strategy recognises and builds on the important contributions that indigenous knowledge can and should play in the development of our bio-economy, and the important developmental contributions of this interface.

South Africa has a comparative advantage because it is the third most biologically diverse country in the world, with almost 10% of the world’s known plant species and 15% of all known coastal marine species, as well as nine unique vegetation types, of which three have been declared global biodiversity hotspots.  It is also home to one of the world’s six floral kingdoms, the Cape Floristic Region.  Combined with the country’s wealth of indigenous knowledge and its established biotechnology capacity, South Africa’s biodiversity is one of the country’s greatest assets.

The Bio-economy Strategy builds on the Department of Science and Technology’s National Biotechnology Strategy and Ten-Year Innovation Plan for South Africa, driving the development of a bio-economy in which the biotechnology sector, the information and communication technologies sector, environmental agencies and the social sciences create holistic solutions for the agriculture, health and industry.

Source: The Department of Science and Technology, January 2014