Innovation seems to be the critical factor in economic development and prosperity, when we observe the developed nations in the world like China, Japan, the USA, and many others. We have seen humongous growth in innovation across the globe with the exponential rise in capital with creative ideas by some energetic entrepreneurs and a group of innovators ready to take risks and turn the investment into economic rise.
To make innovations and rise economically in the 21st investment in R&D (Research and Development) is essential, which is the sole catalyst for technological innovation and a production-based economy throughout the world. Those who lack these fundamental has always been left behind in the race.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is far behind in the race for innovation to uplift its economy. Pakistan’s rank in The Global innovation index is 87th out of 132 economies in 2022. Which is very low relative to India or any other innovative country in Asia. Pakistan has never been a country with high aims at research and development achievements to nourish its baffling economy and has always been fighting on the verge of bankruptcy, waiting for the IMF loans and bailout packages to uplift the economy temporally and then waiting for the next bailout package. The highest R&D expenditure of the total GDP of Pakistan was 0.63 percent in the year 2007 which does not compete very well compared to the R&D of the developed economies.
In contrast, our neighboring India is ranked 46th number in the world according to the global innovation index (2021) and is the world’s 5th largest economy with a crown of being one of the top innovative countries in Central Asia and South Asia. Its innovation progress is above average among upper-middle-income countries. The country’s expenditures have tripled in the past two decades and its rapidly growing economy has set an environment for investment in scientific research for capital, manpower, and a large consumer market, which is benefiting the Indian market in the sector of FDI and catching the attention of tech giants like apple and many others.
After the success of the vote of no-confidence movement against the former prime minister Imran Khan, the economic situation got worst due to the political instability and turmoil and the subsequent changes in policies added further instability to an economy already reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Financial Times, the country is on the brink of bankruptcy and the situation is not far from that of Sri Lanka which already declared bankruptcy on 09 July 2022. These economic crises have brought down the Foreign Reserves to the lowest in Pakistan’s history and the country has been hit by mind-boggling inflation.
However, amidst these challenges, it is crucial to address the innovation gap in Pakistan. One critical factor stifling innovation is the insufficient investment in research and development (R&D). The government and private sector must allocate a larger share of their budgets to R&D, fostering collaboration between academia, industry, and research institutions. Encouraging public-private partnerships and providing tax incentives for R&D activities can help create an environment conducive to innovation.
Developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem requires providing access to capital, simplifying regulatory procedures, and offering mentorship programs. The government should establish startup incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurship centers, ensuring entrepreneurs receive the necessary support and guidance to transform their ideas into successful ventures.
Moreover, Pakistan’s education system, although making strides, still faces significant challenges. The emphasis on rote memorization and outdated teaching methods limits critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills among students. To bridge the innovation gap, educational reforms must prioritize practical, hands-on learning, promote entrepreneurship, and encourage interdisciplinary studies.
Another impediment to innovation is the weak intellectual property rights protection that undermines innovation by discouraging inventors and creators from investing in new ideas. Strengthening IPR laws and implementing effective enforcement mechanisms will foster a climate of innovation, attracting both domestic and foreign investment. Besides this, the change in spending patterns is also crucial for the revival of Pakistan’s economy. It must be brought under observations and expenditure should be based on R&D when it comes to the revival of our collapsing economy. Federal regulating agencies must make sure of the policies that are directed toward the export-based economy and local production.
To utilize and practically apply the research conducted with the collaboration of institutes and young and enthusiastic research in the universities being led by the best professors and Ph.D. scholars, cooperation and collaboration must be carried out within the domain of research institutions, Universities, and Industries. Intelligent and competent researchers and policy-makers should be incentivized to promote innovation. Encouraging research solely for the self-interest of university professors, as per the HEC policies, is counterproductive. Implementation of research findings in industrial fields should be a priority.
Also, revamping the education system to prioritize critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills is crucial. Encouraging interdisciplinary studies and practical learning experiences, such as internships and industry collaborations, will better prepare students for the demands of the modern economy.
The Author has a degree in International Relations from the National Defense University Islamabad, currently associated with a cyber security program at the Institute of Regional Studies Islamabad. He Tweets @ZainulAbidin419