Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators

Measuring R&D activity in South Africa

Countries that invest in R&D grow their economies, create jobs and have better human development outcomes. The HSRC, in collaboration with the DSI and Stats SA, has been measuring R&D investment in the public, private and research sectors for more than 20 years, informing policy development to support innovation and competitiveness.

The South African National Survey on Research and Experimental Development (the R&D Survey) is a CeSTII flagship, undertaken annually for the South African Department of Science and Innovation. Each year the R&D Survey reports the latest available data on R&D expenditure and performance across five sectors: higher education, science councils, government, business, and not-for-profit organisations. The survey’s statistics inform science policy development and are used to set government R&D priorities and funding levels, and for monitoring and benchmarking against other countries.

This long-term research helps us understand R&D in the country and map changes over time.

R&D Survey reports

R&D Scholarship

  • Mustapha, N., Kruss, G. & Ralphs, G. (2018). The future of state-owned enterprises in South Africa: why R&D matters.

R&D and Innovation Capabilities in State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are important national assets with a mandate to contribute to sustainable economic growth and South Africa’s broad developmental goals. The White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation (2019) recognises the importance of SOEs in the economy and the need to revitalise them to play a meaningful role in South Africa’s science, technology, innovation and economic development. As key institutions for human capital development and international and national knowledge sharing, the White Paper aimed to position SOEs as innovation-driven for the knowledge economy. But to what extent and how are South African state-owned enterprises geared to perform R&D and innovation?

Based on in-depth case study research with three SOEs—SANEDI, ATNS and SAFCOL—as well as analysis of the academic literature, the Human Sciences Research Council’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators identified dimensions key to effective R&D and innovation ‘gearing’ by these SOEs, including: human capabilities, technological capabilities, networks, research infrastructure and governance. From this research, indicators on R&D and innovation are proposed to guide national policy discussion on the future of SOEs in South Africa.

FAQs: R&D Survey

  1. What is the purpose of the R&D Survey?
    The survey collects data annually on financial and human resource inputs into the R&D activities that are performed in-house by South African firms, universities, science councils, government departments, and NPOs. Data is used across sectors for planning, monitoring and benchmarking. The information it yields is also used by government to support evidence-informed decision-making on R&D and innovation policy.
  2. Who conducts the survey?
    The survey is administered by the Centre for Science, Technology & Innovation Indicators, on behalf of the Department of Science and Innovation with quality assurance provided by Statistics South Africa. CeSTII is a specialised research unit of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), with more than 20 years’ experience conducting STI surveys in South Africa.
  3. Is the survey compulsory?
    Yes. The R&D Survey is a component of South Africa’s official statistics, as defined in the Statistics Act No. 6 of 1999 and, as such, all organisations approached are required to participate.
  4. Are survey results publicly available?
    Yes. The R&D Survey team produce two reports annually, a statistical report and a main analysis report. These are disseminated widely and published on the HSRC and Department of Science and Innovation websites.
  5. How are the R&D Survey reports used?
    Access to R&D indicators, such as those provided by survey reports, provide users with a unique ability to benchmark—by sector, nationally and globally. This in turn assists policymakers to set strategic direction, engage in responsive policy development and organisational planning, and promote competitive advantage. Survey reports are also used to set priorities, determine government research funding investment, science education, and incentive schemes for R&D and innovation in the private sector.
  6. Is data supplied to the survey protected and securely stored?
    All information supplied is incorporated under the legislation protecting the national census and other data initiatives of national importance (Statistics Act No. 6 of 1999). No individual data is shared with any party outside of the professional survey team, and all data are stored on state-of-the art ICT infrastructure, protected by stringent data encryption policies.
  7. How was my organisation chosen to respond to the survey?
    Organisations (public and private) that are known to or likely to perform R&D activities are automatically included as respondents in the survey.
  8. What types of organisation are required to participate in the survey?
    All organisations in which R&D is performed and that are classified as either business enterprises, higher education institutions, science councils/public research institutes, government departments, or not-for-profit organisations.
  9. My organisation is not engaged in R&D activities. Is our participation in the survey required?
    Yes. If your organisation or business has not performed or funded R&D activities for the survey year in question, please respond to Part 1 of the questionnaire that asks whether your organisation performed R&D in the survey year in question. You may then return the questionnaire to our survey team, who will update your R&D status accordingly.
  10. My organisation outsources its R&D. Is our participation required?
    Yes. Please participate by completing the information on outsourcing in the questionnaire.
  11. There is no dedicated department for R&D in my organisation. Is our participation required?
    You do not need an R&D department to provide answers for the questionnaire. If your R&D is spread across your organisation, please provide estimate answers to the questions. Our in-house experts can assist you in developing estimations.
  12. Who in my organisation is responsible for completing the survey questionnaire?
    Questionnaires should be directed to the senior management, who may appoint a contact person to provide the data or coordinate the data provision. Usually heads of R&D departments, human resource managers as well as financial managers are involved in completing the questionnaires. Appointing an in-house coordinator can help to get the job done efficiently and effectively. CeSTII researchers are available to your in-house team to assist in any way possible.
  13. How long does it take to complete the survey?
    This depends on the size of your organisation, the availability of information, and the complexity of your entity’s R&D operations and records. It is important to note that responding is more efficient once your organisation has previously participated in this survey.
  14. What should I do if individuals in my organisation do not have access to the data requested? R&D is dispersed throughout our company and employee-base. How do we report this?
    Provide your best estimate if accurate data are not available. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommends using estimated data when exact data is not available. CeSTII researchers are available to assist your in-house team if required.
  15. I have misplaced my organisation’s questionnaire. What should I do?
    If you have lost or misplaced your questionnaire, please email Dr Neo Molotja nmolotja@hsrc.ac.za or call +27 (0)21 422 3344 to request a new one.
  16. How do I return the completed questionnaire?
    CESTII is moving to online submission through the http://rdisurveys.hsrc.ac.za website. This is quicker and easier to use and stores information from your previous submission for reference. If submitting via email, return your completed questionnaire to the contact person at CeSTII whose details appear on the questionnaire cover. Postal returns should be addressed to: The R&D Survey Team, Private Bag, X9182, Cape Town, South Africa 8000.
  17. How often is the survey issued?
    The survey is annual and respondents will be contacted each year.
  18. What is ‘research and experimental development’ (R&D)?
    The definition of R&D is adopted from the OECD, which defines research as creative work and original investigation undertaken on a systematic basis to gain new knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society (Frascati Manual, 2015). Development is defined as the application of research findings or other scientific knowledge for the creation of new or significantly improved products or processes (Frascati Manual, 2015). Additional information about the definition of R&D used in the survey is available on request from CeSTII. The OECD’s Frascati Manual: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development is available on the OECD website (bit.ly/F-M2015).
  19. Is it possible to access the micro data that inform the R&D Survey reports?
    Micro data are confidential data which contain information about individual statistical units. The current framework enables access to aggregated data only.

R&D Survey Questionnaires

Find questionnaires and codebooks here. You can request questionnaires not listed from cestiidata@hsrc.ac.za.