Swapan Kumar Patra* and Mammo Muchie**
Post-apartheid South African Government had realized the role of technology and innovation for national development. The science and technology based industries are being considered as priority areas. Using the analytical framework of Technological Capability and Network analysis, this paper is an attempt to assess the national capability building in high technology. Patents granted to South African inventors in ICT and Biotechnology industries are considered to measure the technological capability. The patents granted in USPTO during 1970-2014 shows that in recent years there is certainly an increase in patenting activity of South African entities. However, a clear and significant trend is yet to emerge. The study further isolated the high technology patents based on the OECD suggested IPC codes. Among the total 5,264 granted patents about 1,100 are considered as the high technology patents. These high technology patents are grouped into three categories. The categories are South African entity assigned patents (530 patents) foreign entities assigned patents (456 patents) and individually assigned (220 patents) patents. In ICT industry maximum patents was granted in Computers and office machinery and in Biotechnology maximum patents are granted in Medicinal and bioengineering areas related to microorganisms. Amazon Technologies Inc, (34 patents) is the most prolific patentee followed by CSIR, (28 patents). Recently, most of the high technology patents are granted as joint patents. This shows an increasing collaboration among SA and foreign entities. In terms of collaboration, Amazon Technologies Inc, is the most prominent actor among the foreign firms and University of Cape Town, is the most prominent among the SA institutes. The collaboration map shows that the collaborative patents are only among a few institutes. There is scope for indigenous entities to learn and elevate along the value chain. The study concludes with relevant policy lessons regarding the increasing foreign R&D in SA.
Keywords: Technological Capability, Patents, South Africa, S&T Policies
Presented at the African Unity for Renaissance Conference and Africa Day Expo Theme: 2015 and Beyond: Engaging Agenda 2063, Tshwane, 22-25 May, 2015 (paper is under review)