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Fri Feb 24 14:38:48 SAST 2017

Varsities lead way in state research

TANYA FARBER | 2016-08-05 07:46:15.0
University lecture room. File photo.
Image by: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

Universities might appear to be on the back foot after a tumultuous year, but their scientific research work is booming.

Spending on research and development in South African universities more than doubled from R3.6-billion in 2007 to R7.3-billion in 2012, led by a 450% increase in government funding for research, according to a study led by University of Pretoria academic David Walwyn.

"Universities now account for 34% of the total research and development performance in the country, up from 19% in 2007," Walwyn says in a paper in the SA Journal of Science.

"[They] have established closer links with the private sector, set up more technology transfer offices . and adopted the commercialisation of knowledge within institutions as a significant component of their mandate."

Walwyn said increased government funding indicated the "growing role" of universities in the "national system of innovation".

His work also found a decrease in the average cost of research, which "suggests the research labour market is being better supplied".

But he warned the 34% decline in business spending on research was "becoming a major impediment to the potential for future economic growth".

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