This paper seeks to cast light on the issues impacting South African food research. During the first decade of democracy the South African research and development sector has experienced many changes and although the aim of these changes was to bring about efficiency, the research and development (R&D) fraternity is still faced with various challenges in its endeavours to meet the demands from commerce and industry. As a result of continuously changing market demands the food and drink industry has become one of the main sectors that are dependant on novel technologies developed by the R&D sector.
An overview of the broader South African research landscape is given followed by a closer look at the nature and extent of local food‐related research.
In order to meet the demand of industry a new mindset is required amongst research institutions towards providing an array of scientific services that extend intra‐ and inter‐disciplinary boundaries and where long‐term partnerships between food industries and the R&D sector are forged. However, against this backdrop South Africa's national research priorities are increasingly directed towards poverty alleviation and development. Human resources in science and technology have not been developed adequately, which in turn has resulted in an aging and declining scientific population. Thus, a balancing act is needed in order to address the scant human resources while at the same time effectively bridging the innovation chasm. This predicament extends to food researchers who find themselves amidst a well developed and technologically advanced formal industry while at the same time having to address issues relating to a relatively primitive yet lucrative informal food sector.
The paper presents novel information regarding South African food research and places it in context against the broader research landscape.
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