Innovation key to new industrial plan - Patel

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cape Town - The government is to focus on innovation to bring about job creation when the Department of Trade and Industry releases a new industrial policy in January.

Briefing the media today on the progress made by the Economic Sectors and Employment Cluster, the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said that if the country hoped to recapture a production foothold, it had to do this by either developing new products or new processes to make products in a better and more affordable way.

Patel said the new policy, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, would lean on lessons learnt from the government's previous sector interventions, while targeting certain economic sectors for relief.

The country's manufacturing volume was back to the 2004 level and the country needed to avoid the pressures of deindustrialisation, he said.

"We are asking hard questions, they should not be broad ideals, they should be implementative plans," said Patel of the new planned industrial policy.

Government is looking to see how the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) can be used more productively to assist in the innovation of products specifically clothing, vehicle production and green jobs to ensure South Africa maintained long-term sustainable advantages.

Patel said the new strategy would require changes to the government's research and development (R&D) incentives and human resource strategy.

He said the lesson of China, which he termed the "big story of industrial production this century", and other Asian countries demonstrated the importance innovation could play in driving economic growth.

China had started with very basic production but was able to move rapidly up the value-chain, from simple to more sophisticated products, this while their speed to market to get goods off the factory floor and into foreign stores had been radically improved, he said.

The Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said the government was looking at ways of developing medicines and cosmetics from indigenous knowledge, this while a ministerial team was considering how to create more green jobs.