Khotso Mokhele — a microbiologist who discovered his scientific gift brewing beer in his mother's pub — has led South Africa's research funding agency for the last decade.
In this article in Nature, Michael Cherry asks Mokhele how research in South Africa has evolved and what he predicts for its future.
During Mokhele's tenure, the National Research Foundation has extended its funding scope to include social sciences and arts.
South Africa's research spending fell to a low of 0.68 per cent in 1997, but now stands at 0.81 per cent. However, Mokhele says his greatest achievement has been maintaining research quality.
Looking to the future, he says South Africa should utilise its strong reputation in oceanography, astronomy, geology and ecology.
"We need to do two things: concentrate on areas where we have a natural advantage; and interpret what is going on elsewhere and adapt it to our specific needs," he says.