2016 South Africa Science Technology and Innovation Indicators Report

There has been notable progress in the expansion of research capacity in South Africa

There has been notable progress in the expansion of research capacity in South Africa

The National Advisory Council on Innovation (Naci) has released the 2016 Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Indicators Report, which provides data about the performance of the country’s system of innovation.

The 2016 STI indicators report is based on the analysis of the National System of Innovation (NSI) performance between 1996 and 2015. Coincidentally, government is leading a process of reviewing the current 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology and developing the new White Paper on STI, so the 2016 STI indicators report can provide necessary input into the current policy development process.

The STI Indicators Report is released annually by Naci, an entity of the department of science and technology. The 2016 report identifies areas of progress, but also points to the lack of progress in certain areas of the NSI.

Firstly, the NSI human capital pipeline remains constrained. The percentage of matric learners who passed mathematics and physical science with at least 50% remains low. The proportion of matric female learners passing mathematics and physics with at least 60% has been declining from 2008 to 2016. Unsurprisingly then, the undergraduate percentage of science, engineering and technology (SET) enrolment has remained stagnant between 2005 (29.4%) and 2015 (29.7%).  Despite this, at postgraduate level, the proportion of SET enrolment as a percentage of total student enrolments increased between 2005 and 2015.

Second, there has been notable progress in the expansion and transformation of research capacity. The percentage of female researchers (full time equivalent) increased from 2001/02 (38.4%) to 2014/15 (44.1%). The proportion of female academic staff with doctoral degrees increased between 2005 (30.4%) and 2014 (39.1%) and the proportion of black (African, coloured and Indian) female academic staff also increased, albeit slightly.

Third, the international benchmarking of mobile cellular subscriptions indicates that South Africa is doing well in diffusing ICT access through mobile cellular devices per 100 people. This is an important step if South Africa is to seize the opportunities and benefits of digitisation and the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” or new production revolution.

Fourth, the research and development (R&D) intensity, or business expenditure on R&D in the agricultural sector, increased from 0.29% in 2003/04 to 0.66% in 2014/15. This is welcomed, given the declining R&D intensity in manufacturing and other key industrial sectors, and the importance of strengthening research and innovation related to food security.

Fifth, there has been notable progress in knowledge generation. South Africa’s world share of publications increased from 0.39% in 1996 to 0.69% in 2015.

The performance of the innovation system for the country during the period 1996 to 2015 is summarised in Table 1. It shows that there are visible improvements overall with regard to future and current SET capacity. A similar trend is observed for current R&D and innovation capacity, although there is stagnation with regard to the country’s share of publications in the engineering and technology research field. The number of internet users per 100 people is increasing, although this is lagging behind the number of mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people (142 during 2011-2015).  

The power of trademarks

We trade every day, using different marks in the form of slogans, logos and brand names. Who does not know the world’s most famous trademark “I am loving it” — immediately when one sees or hear this slogan, we think of McDonald’s. But do we really understand the significance of a mark or slogan?

Trademarks are regulated in South Africa by the Trade Marks Act (1993). Trademarks are simply the brand name of a product and is the mark, slogan or logo that distinguishes one person’s goods or services from someone else’s. They are a means of communication between buyers and sellers, “connecting people” (Nokia slogan) with products or services.

Trademarks are the reason why consumers choose, for example, KFC over other fast food chicken products.  This consumer choice is highly influenced by the price, quantity, quality of the product and the services of the different competitors.

When one walks into a KFC, we know already how much we will pay, the kind of product or service we can expect and of course the quality we will receive. The association or experience with a specific brand can either be positive or negative and will obviously vary from one consumer to another.

Imagine someone using the Nike tick on some poor quality sneakers? Disastrous!!  This is where the power of a trademark kicks in and ensures that the brand/mark is associated with a certain quality and reputation.  Remember: “Quality never goes out of style” (Levis slogan).  In other words, trademarks prevent other competitors from free-riding on your brand (and hard work and quality) in order to promote their own goods and services, ruining your reputation and deriving profits from it. Hard luck to all the copycats.

Trademarks also make it simpler for consumers to make a choice of product or service between competitors.  Think purple chocolate ... yes that’s right, it’s Cadbury!  Interestingly, colour may also be registered as a trademark associated with a specific product.

It is very important to carefully construct your trademark so that it becomes durable and powerful enough to survive the test of time — as the Apple slogan goes, “Think different”. Generic terms, such as having “fruits and vegetables market” as your trading name when you sell fruits and vegetables should be avoided, since it will not distinguish your fruit and vegetable market from anyone else’s. Furthermore, the words “fruits and vegetables market” may not be entitled to trademark protection, due to such words being in the public domain and available for all for use. Be careful — not all terms deserve protection.

While you have that super mark/brand, protect it by registering your trademark/s with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). In South Africa, we have 45 different classes of trademarks — 34 goods classes and 11 service classes.  This classification is done in terms of the nature of the goods and services in which they are used and a trademark should be registered for each class. It is relatively affordable to register and trademarks always add value to a business or product. So there is no excuse for not registering it – “Just do it” (Nike slogan).

A registered trade mark will also allow you to licence it to third parties in the form of a franchise or it can be sold outright for a specified value.  As the MasterCard slogans goes “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard”.

Trademarks promote innovation, as competitors are forced to come up with their own unique marks, or they may be found guilty of infringing on someone else’s trademark and (potentially) paying a fortune in penalties.

After all has been said, trademarks are an important tool in commerce. Without them, trading would be extremely difficult — and boring.

Dr Kerry Faul is the Head of National Intellectual Property Management Office