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Science budget recovers from Covid cuts

Image: GovernmentZA [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

NRF gets back to pre-pandemic totals, but unclear where money will go

South Africa’s science budget has recovered from the severe cuts made to accommodate the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2021/22 budget for the Department of Science and Innovation is R8.93 billion, an increase of R1.3bn over the emergency budget, and R130 million more than the original 2020/21 budget.  

Finance minister Tito Mboweni gave the figures in his 2021/22 budget speech in Parliament on 24 February. 

The projected budget for 2022/23 will increase to R9.13bn and to R9.24bn in 2023/24. 

The DSI’s entities have varying fortunes in the 2020/21 budget. The National Research Foundation will receive R4.72bn in 2021/22. This is R320m more than 2020/21’s original budget, and R630m more than after the pandemic cuts. However, allocations to the NRF will be less in the following years: R4.61bn in 2022/23 and R4.67bn in 2023/24.  A detailed breakdown of how the NRF will spend this money will only be clear once it receives the information from the DSI. 

The South African Space Agency’s budget has been cut, and is even lower than the emergency budget. In 2021/22 it receives R353.2m, a R120m decrease from the revised 2020/21 budget. The Technology and Innovation Agency takes a R16m cut. The Academy of Science of South Africa’s allocation is about the same as the emergency budget. 

There are increases of R238m and R30.7m for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Human Sciences Research Council over the revised 2020/21 budgets respectively.

The South African Medical Research Council will receive a dedicated amount of R100m for vaccine research. 

The budget documents also say the DSI will publish a discussion paper this year on the future of the research and development tax incentive, which is due to end on 1 October 2022.

Cumulatively the DSI will spend R5.3bn over the next three years on local ventilator production, nano satellites, hydrogen fuel cell technology, renewable energy and pilot programmes including the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform.