An assessment of South African technological capability using patent data from WIPO Patentscope database

Swapan Kumar Patra 
 & Mammo Muchie


The Post-Apartheid South African Government has produced three white papers (1996–2008), (2008–2018) and (2018–2028) on science technology and innovation for national development. In all these policy documents, science and technology-based industries are considered as priority areas in socioeconomic development. Using the Technological Capability (TC) framework, this paper is an attempt to assess South Africa’s national TC, using patent data from the WIPO Patentscope database. Patents granted to South African applicants or inventors are considered to measure the TC of South Africa. Data show that in recent years there has certainly been an increase in patenting activity in South African industries and other sectors. However, a clear and significant trend in patents is yet to emerge. Based on the IPC codes, most patents were granted in A61K (566 patents) and G06Q (518 patents). The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa (170 patents) is the most prolific institute followed by the University of Cape Town (148 patents). Although the number of joint patents is limited, the growth in their numbers in recent years shows an increase in collaboration activity among different actors. The University of Cape Town is the most active among the South African institutes in terms of collaborations. The study concludes with policy lessons relevant to the South African context.