DEVELOPED countries around the world invest billions of dollars every year in research and development (R&D) activities. They have linked their research institutions with relevant industries where ideas are transformed into reality and tangible assets for the prosperity and growth of the nation.

While the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia and Germany are active R&D performers, Pakistani research scholars have to deal with multiple challenges in any effort to bring theory into practice.

On a broad spectrum, authentic research needs plenty of time and funds, because financial dependency dilutes the ideas of the researchers.

There is no denying that research work is expensive and it is difficult to sustain it within the limited resources that Pakistani researchers usually have at their disposal.

There are 174 public universities registered with the Higher Education Commission (HEC), but only four — the Quaid-i-Azam University, the National University of Science and Technology, the Lahore University of Management Sciences and the University of Punjab — could secure a position among the top 500 global institutions.

Funded projects shield the innovative ideas of researchers and save them from financial stress. The world’s top-ranked universities align research work with industries, where they give financial support to the researchers and facilitate them in many ways. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, there is a chasm between the universities and the industries, and the research work is not directly inter-linked.

Moreover, Pakistan faces poor governance and administrative issues over research grants which create even more social and psychological problems for the researchers. The HEC funds for research are not properly utilised.

Under such fragile policies, it gets very difficult for the researchers to come up with high-impact ideas, and many of them move to foreign countries in the middle of their degree as these countries value research and support them financially. If the trend continues, it will have negative consequences for the country.

Interaction between academia and industry is the missing link. If we can somehow establish, facilitate and sustain such a link, things can still go bright on Pakistan’s R&D horizon.

Tufail Dawar
North Waziristan

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021

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