oa South African Journal of Science - Technological performance judged by American patents awarded to South African inventors : science policy

Volume 101, Issue 5-6
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Patents are accepted internationally as a reflection of a country's inventive and technological achievements and are used for monitoring and assessing national systems of innovation. In South Africa, patents are one of the technological indicators monitored by the Department of Science and Technology. This article reports the results of an assessment of South Africa's technological performance based on the number of utility patents granted to South African inventors by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The analysis shows that the country is losing ground in the international technological race. South Africa's shares in the USPTO halved from 0.13% in 1988 to a mere 0.07% in 2001. Finer analysis reveals a small shift towards modern technologies (such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and computers and peripherals) and Science Linkage indicators identify the areas (in particular biotechnology and pharmaceuticals) in which South Africa is producing leading-edge technologies.

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