SA embraces innovation, but education remains a concern

South African executives surveyed as part of a global innovation poll are bullish about the state of innovation in the country and the role that innovation has played in improving the lives of all South Africans. 

The poll, conducted on behalf of GE (formerly General Electric) surveyed over 3 000 senior executives across 20 countries – including 100 in South Africa – for the fourth year. The countries included a spread of both developed and developing countries with all the Brics nations and emerging countries such as Kenya included for the first time this year. 

The results from the survey are in contrast from the negative outlook that was portrayed by the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report released earlier this month, where South Africa slipped to 56th place from 53rd in 2013, and 52nd in 2012. 

Tim Schweikert, chief executive of GE South Africa, pointed out that while innovation was crucial to a country’s competitiveness, it was not the only factor and the quality of education was still a key concern. 

Curricula aligned with business
The survey indicated that 92% of respondents in South Africa felt that school curricula needed to be better aligned with the needs of business. This score is similar to those from countries such as Mexico (93%), Poland (96%), and Australia (90%); but well behind countries such as Germany (80%), South Korea (71%) and Japan (64%). 

The respondents also indicated that not enough financial support is being provided by the government in supporting innovative companies with only 34% thinking that government was doing enough in this area (up from 32% last year). This places South Africa in the same basket as countries such as the UK (37%), Japan (31%) and Brazil (29%), but behind countries like Singapore (83%), China (77%), and the United Arab Emirates (73%). 

Importance of SMEs, startups
However, the results of the survey show that South African companies score ahead of the global average in a number of key areas, including the recognition of the role of small and medium businesses in fostering innovation – 88% agreed that collaborating with SMEs and startups would drive innovative success in the future. This is in contrast to countries like Nigeria, Brazil, India and South Korea where the expectation is that large national companies and multinationals will be the main drivers of innovation. 

The issue of collaboration is one where South Africa stands out from the pack, where 78% of respondents saw the risks associated with collaborating with external business partners worth taking in order to innovate successfully and 65% indicating that they had seen the revenues generated by collaborative activities growing over the past year. 

Another area where South Africa stood out was in the recognition of the role of big data and companies’ readiness to take advantage of it. Big data refers to the collection of large amounts of information either from customer interactions or from sensors linked to machines, vehicles and computers and the analysis of this data to produce useful information. 

Two-thirds of South African respondents indicated that it was essential to use the intelligence gained from big data to innovate successfully, while 42% indicated that their companies were either totally or quite prepared to make the most out of big data, as opposed to a global average of 25%.   

The GE Global Innovation Barometer results were presented at the SA Innovation Summit in Cape Town on September 16 2014. The Mail & Guardian is a media partner of the event. The full report is available here.


Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.