Trade and Industry (dti) Minister Rob Davies has warned that the new technological revolution must not lead to deindustrialisation in SA. He was addressing a conference on industrial development at the CSIR in Pretoria.
“The dti has a directorate looking at new technologies, to understand how we should prepare for the 4th industrial revolution,” he said.
“This process must not lead to the deindustrialisation of South Africa. We must make our companies more tech-savvy. The work we have done is great, but the challenges are even huger.
“Innovation has become more important than it ever was, as we move forward.”
Davies said there are probably at least three domains for innovation:
– innovation that arises from continuous improvement in industry.
– adaptations to local conditions of technologies developed elsewhere.
– greenfields inventions
“We must work more effectively and efficiently to translate research into commercial opportunities to support industrial development. This is important and challenging. We haven’t been as agile and as effective as we need to be.”
He said there are big opportunities in green technologies, as the battle against climate change continues.
“We are going to have adopt new technologies to move to a lower carbon economy. Leaders are multinationals who have invested here,” Davies argued.
“I sit on a World Economic Forum group looking at these issues – robotisation, artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3-d printing…. There are 60 or so of these technologies. There will be disruptive change in production and in all parts of our economic endeavours.
“We need to get ourselves ready for this. For this we will need technologies which are developed elsewhere, but we also have our own technologies on mineral beneficiation, on hydrogen fuel cells.
“A lot of countries say no there will be no petrol-driven vehicles by 2040. We will take account of this with new (auto sector support) programme.”