Ample R&D allocations to cut reliance on imported tech

March 01, 2024

Ayesha Saba

Increasing investment in R&D is crucial for Pakistan's self-reliance and economic resilience. By allocating more funds in the annual budget, Pakistan can reduce dependence on imported technology, unleash its innovation potential, and pave the way for sustainable development, Ishtiaq Ahmad, Director of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told WealthPK. “Pakistan's over-reliance on imported technology not only drains the foreign exchange reserves but also hampers the development of indigenous capabilities essential for long-term prosperity. The Ministry of Science and Technology has launched the Research and Development Agency (Irada) at the National University of Sciences and Technology (Nust). “The Irada plays a pivotal role in fostering innovation by catalysing collaboration among the defence sector, academia, and industry. At its core, it aims to harness the collective expertise and resources of these key stakeholders to drive research and development initiatives that address critical challenges and propel Pakistan towards a brighter future,” he said.

“There’re numerous technologies that we cannot simply import but instead need to replicate or indigenize. We have institutions like the Pakistan Council of Scientific Research, with centers in Lahore and Karachi, dedicated to the development of laboratory equipment. The PCSIR has successfully indigenized numerous technologies and continues to develop many state-of-the-art innovations locally,” he said. The Nust has also developed Science and Technology Parks in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, where significant developments are underway, including the creation of an electronic voting machine (EVM). Another initiative launched by the previous government, albeit progressing at a slower pace, entailed soliciting lists from the Ministry of Commerce. These lists were aimed at identifying technologies, items, or chemicals currently being imported from abroad. The objective is to prioritize the indigenization of these imports within the country’s domestic framework.

Currently, this initiative is in its initial stages. Dr Ishtiaq emphasized that promotion of research will enable Pakistan to take a strategic technological jump, which was so essential for its long-term growth and sustainable development. “The government's allocation of funds towards R&D is relatively low, approximately 0.1%. Your budget allocation reflects your priorities in various sectors. Pakistan can learn from China's successful experience of spending heavily on research and development. Many of its resources go into developing future technologies and next-generation manufacturing capital.,” he cited. According to the WDI database, Pakistan has never been able to spend even one percent of its GDP on research and development. On average, Pakistan's spending on research and development remained around 0.26 percent of its GDP from 1996 to 2021. China's average annual spending for the same time period accounted for 1.54 percent of its GDP.

INP: Credit: INP-WealthPk