The National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) is the largest multi-stakeholder forum for science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation organisations in South Africa. It is a non-profit company that promotes SET and innovation and engages with related government policy issues. It was launched in 1995.

From the NSTI to NSTF: The National Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI) was the pre-cursor of the NSTF. It participated in South Africa’s landmark CODESA Convention (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) in 1991. As a result of findings and recommendations of the NSTI, government together with other key stakeholders founded the NSTF in 1995 to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

Aims of the NSTF: The then-Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Mr Ben Ngubane, recognised the body as a science, engineering and technology (SET) forum for consultation and addressing SET issues within the broad SET community. The NSTF was established to oversee the restructuring of South Africa’s national science system and to ensure an integrated approach to science and technology.

First plenary meeting and government mandate: On 28 March 1995, the first plenary meeting of the NSTF was opened by then-Minister Ben Ngubane. The mandate given to the NSTF was to act as the sounding board, communication channel and constructive watchdog of SET in South Africa. Integral to this mandate was the establishment of best practice norms, and to integrate and share the positive advancements being made in SET fields.

Ongoing support from the Department of Science and Technology and all stakeholders: The NSTF has continued to enjoy support from the Ministry and Department of Science and Technology. There has also been continuous support from stakeholders at all levels, from the smallest of businesses to the largest science councils and universities.

Historical milestones

Date Milestone
1996 Contributed and provided input into the White Paper on Science and Technology and other policy and planning processes within government.
Leading up to 1998 Initiated the discussion that led to the declaration of South Africa’s first Year of Science and Technology (YEAST) in 1998.
1998 Established the highly-acclaimed annual NSTF Awards to honour role models and reward excellent achievements in SET.
1998 Participated and added considerable value to initiatives and processes relating to the establishment of the National Research Foundation (NRF).
2001 onwards Played an active role in the evaluation, review and implementation processes of the:

  • National Human Resource Development Strategy – 2001
  • National Development Research Strategy (NDRS) – 2002
  • National Research and Technology Foresight Exercise – 2002
  •  Innovation Indicators – 2005
2001 Initiated debate and discussions on Ethics in SET in South Africa that produced a discussion document and a charter that aimed to establish a National Consultative Council on SET Ethics in South Africa.
2002 Participated in the lobbying for the establishment of a separate government department that would focus entirely on SET in SA. The structure and plans for the new Department of Science and Technology (DST) were presented to the NSTF and its members for comment.
2002 Commissioned a joint study between the NSTF and NACI (National Advisory Council on Innovation): Growth and Innovation Report (NACI, Pretoria 2002) on the interaction between economic growth, science, technology and human capital.
2003 Substantially contributed to the development of the Science and technology division of Nepad to ensure that SET plays its rightful role in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) on the African continent.
2003 Merged membership with the AS&TS Trust (Associated Scientific and Technological Societies of South Africa). Initially the new membership group was known as SETAG (Science, Engineering, Technology and Associated Group). It was renamed proSET (Professional in Science, Engineering and Technology) in 2009. This sector accounts for about 40% of NSTFmember organisations.
2003 Initiated the Brilliants Programme to recognise top matric performers in physical science and mathematics (previously called the Education Recognition Programme).
2004 Aspired to change the face of education in South Africa by initiating discussions and leading national consultations that resulted in the formulation and implementation of the National Strategy for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (NSMSTE)
2002-2004 Contributed actively towards the generation of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development and also participated meaningfully in the organisation and deliberations of the World Summit for Sustainable Development.
2006 Advocated for the review of work permits for SET professionals. This led to workshops and discussions on the effects of the ‘brain drain’ on South Africa.
2007 Discussion of and stakeholder feedback on: the National System of Innovation (NSI) and the Ten Year Innovation Plan
2008 Participated in the preliminary discussions on the establishment of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).
2008 – 2012 Managed the National Youth Service on behalf of DST for 5 years. This benefitted 330 young unemployed graduates.
2008 – 2015 Managed the DST’s Incentive Bursary Scheme for 8 years. This benefitted more than 70 students.