In business and economics, innovation acts as the catalyst for growth. In today’s global economy, it is a proven fact that innovation is a cornerstone of success for any corporation, society or country. To be in the forefront and to be successful, we must revolutionise our economic structure by innovating with new and better ways of doing businesses, finding more efficient and low-cost processes and products, and shifting the entire mindset of civil society towards incubating creative ideas and generating tangible values.
Our continued lacklustre economic performance is a serious concern for the government and civil society, and the business community at large. While there are many factors that drive economic growth, one fundamental pillar is ominously missing: the use of science and technology to drive growth.
Innovation is the creation of new products, services, technologies and processes; that are made available to the general public, governments, or markets; in order for them to improve their lives, productivity and performance. Innovation refers to doing things differently, but in an improved and a more creative and efficient manner – rather than merely doing the same thing better.
It is unfortunate that a country that has produced a Noble laureate, scientists and engineers who have made us the 8th nuclear nation in the world; and designed some of the best rocket technology available, has not been able to utilise science and technology to propel economic growth.
We need the government’s support in incubating and encouraging innovative thinking. Today, we have one of the lowest agricultural yields in the world, no notable invention to our name, and a total dependence on international assistance for building infrastructure and exploiting our immense natural resources.
We have sadly created a society where innovators are neither rewarded, nor held in high esteem. We don’t have institutions or a financial support structure to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition. We need radical transformation that brings the search for knowledge, science, technology and innovation to the forefront of government support.
An example of a vision that has driven expansion of science and technology comes from India. During Jawaharlal Nehru’s rule, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were consolidated under the Institutes of Technology Act (1961), under which 16 IITs are operating today with a total faculty of 6,500, and an undergraduate and postgraduate strength of over 70,000 individuals. They have churned out an estimated four million engineers and scientists to date, who are driving India’s strong economic growth.
There is no shortage of innovators or creative minds in our country. In international competitions, Pakistani students are amply represented; but they achieve it without state support, using their own resources or funds from private sector supporters.
We need to make innovation a part of our knowledge culture and the government urgently needs to redefine how it plans to pursue its creation. We need a vision which foresees the formation of at least 10 IIT-type institutes over the next decade, and the launch of a ‘Pakistan Innovation Prize’; to be given for innovation in science, technology, medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, economics, and social development.
THE WRITER WORKS IN THE CORPORATE SECTOR AND IS ACTIVE ON VARIOUS BUSINESS FORUMS AND TRADE BODIES.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.