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Technology’s intervention in human life is an inexorable and undisputed fact. The most complex and time-consuming tasks are now completed in the shortest possible time. The world is entering a new industrial era artificial intelligence and automation.

Jobs now performed by janitors, lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, managers, bookkeepers, nurses, electricians, accountants, and salespersons are highly susceptible to being replaced by automation. The blockbuster inventions and discoveries already made and those forthcoming are the results of strong collaboration between universities and industries.

For instance, Vikram Sharma, chief executive of Australian cybersecurity firm QuintessenceLabs, has said: “Academia, government and private industry have all played essential and unique roles in the development of QuintessenceLabs. The growth and success of a deep technology offering such as quantum cybersecurity is a testament to the important contributions of each of the three sectors – to transform the idea into a technology, the technology into a product, and finally, the product to a market-relevant commercial success.”

Universities are the engines of a country, where via research and developments, talented and intellectual academics ponder issues, and solve them. Workable partnerships and relationships between varsities and industries play significant roles in fostering the economic development, economic prosperity and most importantly economic security. No doubt, the primary function of a university is to be a center of knowledge, but the knowledge-based economy and key innovations are the major agents of economic growth. University-industry linkage makes it possible to apply new ways of doing things and new things to industrial production.

When it comes to Pakistan, however, no serious collaboration among universities, academia and industries has been established, because of political turmoil, bad governance, lack of faith among the stakeholders, and lack of vision. Consequently, Pakistan is facing a gap between imports and exports, a low share of global trade, a brain-drain, an unskilled workforce, low education standards and an energy crisis. Despite of its important geo-strategic location, Pakistan’s share of global trade has been declining.

Pakistan needs to design a long-term collaboration setup.

Collaborative programs

Academics from universities, entrepreneurs from industries, and government officials should orchestrate projects in which incentives for all participants are assured. Government would assign projects jointly to high-profile academics and industrial owners. Then, as part of their work, academics would hire students and researchers to run and complete those projects. The outcomes should be transferred to industries, where they are further transformed into products. This process would make academic research meaningful. Industries’ funding to universities and scholarships to students could enhance research productivity. The emphasis must be on creating new things and new ways of doing things.

Assessment of collaboration

A specific body of experts must be given tasks of assessing collaboration process: To what extent is collaboration successful? What are the new ways to further strengthen such relationships? Was the process free of corruption?

It’s not too late for Pakistan. It is the opportune time for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party that came into government under the leadership of Imran Khan after 22 years of political struggles, to install potential linkages between higher education and industry, so that the country opens itself to international trade and investment.

Irfan Khan has written for various media outlets including CGTN, Daily Times, The Nation, Modern Diplomacy, Geopoliitca.ru, Eurasia Review, and Times of Israel. He mainly focuses on the Middle East, South Asia, the new emerging world order and human rights.

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