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Scientific discoveries and the associated development of new technologies are key long-term drivers of economic growth and development. Innovation, technology mastery and the diffusion of knowledge and new products and services into markets are key elements in this growth and result in sustainable improvements in the quality of life of all South Africans.
The White Paper on Science and Technology (1996) created the policy framework for the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) to establish key enabling policies and strategies to inform the strategic development of science and technology in South Africa.
In 2002 Cabinet approved the National Research and Development Strategy as the basis for the National System of Innovation (NSI). The National R&D Strategy requires performance and responses in three key areas: 1) enhanced innovation; 2) providing science, engineering and technology (SET) human resources and transformation; and, 3) creating an effective government S&T system.
It is in this context that the DST has been established as a separate department to ensure that there is greater coordination, integration as well as better management of all government funded science and technology institutions and to provide a holistic overview of public expenditure on science and technology.