Investment in human capacity will drive technological growth

18 April 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

Dr Albert van Jaarsveld
Human capital: "The PhD is the driver of our strategy." - Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, vice-president of the National Research Foundation

Investing in people is the best way to prepare the country for technological change and competitiveness, National Research Foundation vice-president Dr Albert van Jaarsveld told delegates at the opening of the Royal Society's centenary conference.

The conference was hosted at the Breakwater Lodge.

In 2006 South Africa was ranked only 45th on the Global Competitiveness Index. The country produced a meagre 0.4% of the world's cited publications.

"There must be some kind of correlation between the health of the scientific enterprise and the kind of wealth that country can generate," Van Jaarsveld said. "But it's not just about innovation; it's about the human systems that drive that innovation."

He urged policymakers to enhance the country's scientific and technical enterprise by investing in maths and science education, sowing seeds through science and engineering research, retaining the best and brightest in science and engineering in higher education and providing an incentive landscape for innovation.

Van Jaarsveld said South Africa would have to increase its share of PhD graduates.

"We must re-look our degree structure, for example provide four years for BA degrees, and identify ways of overcoming the gap between undergraduate and honours levels. The PhD is the driver of our strategy."

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