Is Pakistan ‘innovative’ enough to compete?

This is an opportunity for those who dare to think differently, to showcase their innovation and crazy ideas.

Athar Osama December 08, 2015
Innovation is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Pakistan. The country lags behind in formal innovation rankings issued by a number of entities such as the World Bank, World Economic Forum, and INSEAD. However, as is often the case, there is far more to Pakistan than what usually meets the eye.

Fifteen years ago, when I left Pakistan to study and work abroad, Pakistan was a very different country; people had a lot less money and no smart phones. What it did have was a better quality of life, a cleaner environment, reasonable food prices, and less traffic on the roads. Today, all these things are in much worse shapes than they were then. In 25 years, we will be a country of 300 million people with land area of the size of California, agricultural productivity one-tenth of California, and water resources in a state of extreme stress. Innovation is the only way forward if we want to get rid of that undesirable future. Yet, traditionally, Pakistan seems to have done a rather poor job in supporting its innovators and entrepreneurs.

But this ‘stereotype’ may be about to change.

Pakistan Innovation Foundation (PIF) is a non-profit entity that seeks to champion the cause of innovation and Pakistani innovators. It does so through a series of programs aimed at creating awareness, rewarding and recognising innovation, and carrying out research and advocacy projects to support innovation within the private sector and the society at large.

Supporting those who tend to think differently – and ‘out-of-the-box’ – through social and economic infrastructure is absolutely critical to creating a knowledge-driven and progressive Pakistan. More often than not, innovation is the key difference between developed and developing countries today. Countries that support their ‘crazy’ minds, those who want to change the status quo and do things differently and thus make small advances to better their lot, providing a better life for their citizens.

PIF is hosting its second annual Pakistan Innovation Forum 2015 this year, which focuses on innovators and makers who have ‘made’ something in Pakistan. ‘Make In Pakistan’ is Pakistan’s first and only innovation conference that rewards, showcases and celebrates Pakistani innovators (and innovations).

This is an opportunity for those who dare to think differently, to showcase their innovation and ideas, and come together to meet others like themselves. In the tradition of innovation and makers, such events are regularly organised in developed countries.

PIF is also organising an Innovation Pavilion and Makers Showcase, in collaboration with Mobilink, where 30 to 35 of the most innovative ideas will be on display for innovation enthusiasts and the audience to interact with.

To acknowledge 68 years of Pakistani innovations, PIF has also launched Pakistan’s first national innovation awards to recognise and honour Pakistan’s leading innovators – both individuals and institutions/companies – that have successfully carried out remarkable achievements. Sixty nominees have been short-listed across 12 categories and the final winners in each category shall be announced in the presence of Mr Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister of Planning, Development, and Reform at this event.

The caravan of innovation in Pakistan is moving and taking the country towards, hopefully, a better place in the future. If we want a way out of our current quagmire, we need to make efforts to create the eco-system of innovation and change norms to support innovators as a society.

Let’s all come together to support the Pakistani innovator!
Athar Osama The author has a PhD in Science and Innovation Policy and is the Founder and CEO of Pakistan Innovation Foundation. He tweets @AtharOsama (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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