By Professor Dr. Muhammad Bilal Khan
Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan are churning out high-quality research in spite of the meager resources at hand. We have one of the brightest minds in the country who are contributing significantly in their respective fields of study. Pakistani youth carry outstanding talent, which needs to be harnessed for value addition and wealth creation through a progressive and well-defined journey. One such prescription is the Harvard pyramid narrative. Knowledge is the base of this pyramid followed by proficiency in methods, procedures, and processes. The third tier prescribes working in groups, followed by stakeholder engagement for experiential learning and tangible outcomes. Strategic thinking and planning crown the Harvard pyramid. It is at this level that one sees the enterprise as a whole to devise policies and structures that provide a tailwind to the enterprise.
Turning back to research, Elsevier, a leading Publishing House and think tank in their report, rank Pakistan ahead of the BRICS countries in so far as quality of research is concerned. Pakistan is labeled as an underdeveloped nation. Yet, many people do not know that there are many Pakistani scientists and inventions that changed the world. Some of this research has spun out amazing breakthroughs, which have been recognized and appreciated at the global level. For instance, Pakistan prides itself on inventing the fastest process for Biofuel production, which promises to benefit some 30 billion liters of Biofuel consumed annually worldwide. The process earned US as well as WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) patents. Biofuel carries the potential to replace the imported diesel fuel used in the agriculture sector, thus saving precious foreign exchange. The farmland model is considered to be the most feasible means of producing biofuel in which a farmer will require to spare just 2% of his land to cultivate the energy crop to fulfill all his needs for fueling the water pumping and operating farmland machinery.
Trembling of extremities is another area where a Pakistani scientist has offered an out-of-the-box solution to this disabling neurodegenerative disease. Currently, there is no medicine in Materia Medica or a viable treatment in the medical profession that offers a solution to this neurological disorder, other than some palliatives. The novel solution offers an intelligent electronic device, akin to a wrist watch that counters the uncontrolled signals emanating from the patient’s impaired neurological system to stabilize the involuntary tremors. This project secured the first position in the competition of novel devices held in New York. Apart from this, some of the other salient inventions can be cited e.g. brain cell to silicon chip connection, taking Artificial Intelligence computing to the next great level. Plenroperitoneal shunt that changed the world of surgery. Cancer cell detection method. First workable plastic magnet. Controlled-release fertilizer that conserves dosage and provides protracted nutrition to the crops. Introduction of the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures development by well-being, rather than by financial income alone. Now countries are ranked by HDI released by UNDP.
Technology adaptation is another approach that requires skill and training in replication. Probably the best example of technology adaptation in universities resides in the production of cardio vascular devices at NUST. It is an intelligent project that uses German technology to produce cardio vascular stents and associated accessories at a modest and affordable cost in a needy area. The devices produced are approved by the Drug Regulation Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), and being implanted in thousands of cardiac patients across the country.
Professor Dr. Muhammad Bilal Khan
Vice Chancellor, University of Chakwal
The foregoing example demonstrates that Pakistani researchers are able to connect knowledge and education with the economic engine comprising industry, commerce, R&D, products, and services. There is a need to enhance the scope of applied research which is industry-specific, more importantly, we should invest in technologies and projects to exploit indigenous resources.
Provision of funds, creating a conducive and enabling environment, cultivating national pride, and harnessing the immense talent inherent in the youth can do wonders to traverse from a debt-based economy to a resource-based economy in the country. Academia should be made part of policy-making. A recent example is the constitution of multiple consortia comprising of Vice Chancellors of the Universities by the Honorable Governor Punjab to frame recommendations in niche areas such as Energy, Agriculture, STEM, etc.
Lastly, we need to pay heed to the Digital Economy as opposed to Traditional Economy. Digital Economy has emerged as separate strand of online economy that offers immense potential to the youngsters. UNCTAD statistics show that the digitally transformed enterprises currently account for 53.3 trillion US dollars with US, China and Europe being the leading players.
Keeping in view this perspective, UoC (University of Chakwal) shook hands with the e-Commerce giant, Alibaba Company to train 25 Master Trainers under their Global Digital Training Program. The subject training program has been recently completed. The program is worth 34 thousand US dollars, however, Alibaba was gracious enough to offer the program free of cost. Under the agreement, The Master Trainers are required to train 350 participants by the end of 2023. Subsequently, the training module will be embedded in the curriculum commencing the fall of 2024. UoC is currently housing the e-Rozgar program at its campus under the auspices of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). The e-Rozgar Program has generated PKR 3.5 billion through freelancing since its inception. The Digital Economy offers self-employment as well as entrepreneurship opportunities and is well-suited for weak economies where job opportunities in traditional offline economies are limited.
The author, Professor Dr. Muhammad Bilal Khan is the Vice Chancellor University of Chakwal and a Senior Fellow at NUST, Pakistan.