Did you know that Pakistan has a Federal Innovation Board? Well, I didn’t know this very important fact until a few weeks ago when I was invited to make a presentation on “Innovation in the Pakistan IT industry” at an Innovation workshop organized by the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF) and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Karachi.
Visiting the CSF website I was a little confused. Apparently an Innovation Strategy Working Group (I-SWOG) was set up in April 2009 with the purpose of developing a National Innovation Strategy Framework and for the preparation of a National Innovation Policy for submission to the Cabinet. The Board has been created to oversee all activities related to fostering an innovation ecosystem in Pakistan. Now I am not sure if there are two Boards. They had a couple of meetings in May 2009 and then there is no more information on the site regarding any other activities until this Innovation Workshop which I was a part of on March 4, 2010.
I am told that there is a fresh move to reconstitute the Board and actually move ahead with developing a strategy. So let’s see how things progress. I wish them luck.
What I really wanted to highlight in this post was that there is some great stuff happening in Pakistan and some of it is being driven by the HEC. Dr. Sohail Naqvi’s presentation (he is the Executive Director of the HEC) was an eye-opener in many ways. He talked about some of the initiatives taken by the HEC which included the setting up of a Mac Product Design Lab at the University of Gujrat where women come and design some amazing furniture and products. There is a lot of work being done to improve the quality as well as increase the production of citrus and other agricultural produce with amazing results – almost triple the amount that was being produced before. There is work being done in the development of vaccines and much much more. I pointedly asked Dr. Naqvi why some of these amazing initiatives were not highlighted in the press and and different industry events. He responded that both of us were guilty of the same thing because when I made my presentation on Innovation in the IT industry, it left quite a few people in the room wide-eyed. There is so much innovation taking place in our sector that no-one appears to know about. Obviously Sohail and I will both need to get our act together and showcase all the great work that is taking place a lot more.
Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Member Science & Technology Planning Commission talked about the Competitiveness and Innovation in Pakistan’s Manufacturing industry. This was followed by a presentation from Dr. Lars Eklund, Founder of the Scandinavian Competitiveness Group who talked about the different innovation models that had been adopted by various governments in Sweden and Finland.
Breaking for tea, the roundtable was then broken up into 4 groups who then discussed what the objectives of Pakistan’s short and long term innovation system should be as well as the challenges that would need to be overcome.
It was a good session that produced some very useful ideas. However, one needs to see where this will go from here. It was good to see people like Faizan Buzdar of Scrybe participating in the workshop but I wish more young people had been involved. After all this strategy is going to affect them. They should be involved in its formulation. Perhaps I am jumping the gun and there will be some move on the part of Arthur Banyan and his team at CSF and Sohail Naqvi and his team at HEC to take this to the universities for input before a concept paper in finalized. Good luck guys. We are here to help in any way we can.