By Mustafa Z Paras and Ata ul Haq

Engr. Mansoor A. Malik has been Director General with over 33 years of experience in planning, establishing and managing national level, strategic, high-tech organisations. He has been DG Marketing and Industrial Relations Organization (MIRO), DG Technology Incubation Center, NUST, Commandant, College of Aeronautical Engineering, Risalpur, and founding VP TiE Islamabad Chapter. At present Mansoor Malik is Volunteer Chairperson IEEE/TiE Innovation Committee, Islamabad, and Chairman ICT4D Committee at Technology Foresight Project, Ministry of SandT. His experience is versatile in different fields of technology and education. In an exclusive interview Mansoor Malik shares his vision and experience with Technology Times.

What are your milestone achievements of air force?

ENGR. MANSOOR A. MALIK: I was fortunate that in the mid 70s, there were a lot of projects going on in the Air Force with foreign collaboration. I have been for two years in the Defence Industry of America, France, and Germany and especially in the private sector where we had a lot of projects going on. So I learned a lot professionally there. Then I got the first opportunity of inducting F-16 into the Air Force. As one of the founding members that was very challenging for me. And there we take pride and perhaps even shorter than Israeli air force; Pakistan Air Force inducted a high-tech weapon system in the military which was impossible at that time. That was very challenging. But the most challenging thing was the start right from scratch.

Was this industry particularly for defense purpose or was it serving for civilian sector?

The primary focus of AWC was for defense purpose, but my experience in the Private Sector Defense Industries of USA, France and Germany in my initial career came very handy. Most of these defense industries did not have more than 40 per cent of their business coming from defense and the remaining 60 per cent revenue was being generated from their commercial products and services. I studied their models very closely. In 1990, when we gave presentation of AWC to the National Leadership, we introduced a new concept of a “Self Generating RandD Organization” through the usage of Dual-Use Technology Programme. On the part of the financial gurus sitting in our board there were serious reservations about the RandD organizations in terms of their performance being black holes of money going in and nothing coming out. We assured them that if given a chance, we will prove otherwise. We spun off two companies from AWC; namely AERO (Advanced Engineering Research Organization) and L.T. Engineering and Trade Services (Optical Fiber Manufacturing). Till to-date, AERO has exported more than US$100 million of its products and services to various parts of the world and L.T. Engineering has generated more than Pak Rupees 25 billion in the local market as well as abroad. The targets given to AWC, itself, by our national leadership was amazingly achieved before the deadline.

What was your contribution towards pushing forward innovation into RandD industry in public sector?

For nine years – from 90 to 99 – we span off two companies. We produced the first fiber optical company – LT Engineering. Fortunately, within 7 years of its operation, it started generating up to billion rupees revenue per year. We also set up an organization named AERO  through international collaboration and within 10 years of its stay in AWC, we touched more than 100 million dollars of exports to friendly countries in Africa, Middle East, and South-East Asia. In 2000, I was deputed to head the College of Aeronautical Engineering (CAE) as its commandant. Thats how an innovation concept, as a pilot project during my commandant phase at CAE, we launched that. Within one year, the government decided to set up a defense export promotion organization. I was asked, by name, to come over and thats how up to a year in CAE, I came to Rawalpindi and we founded the Defense Export Promotion Organization. I was the founding director for planning and development.

What was your experience while working with NUST as DG of different colleges, centres and institutes?

After 2002, we set up a marketing department of the public sector university the whole idea was going to Islamabad with new objectives, with a new challenge. And when we were leaving the campus of NUST and coming over to the new campus, I and my group took pride. We created a new emblem for NUST and a new slogan and towards describing a new and defining future. Thats how we landed in Islamabad.

You experienced the commercialization of RandD at NUST. What was the outcome of it?

When I joined NUST, I realized that the commercialization capacity was limited. I tried to convince the Rector in this regard and he extended full support to me to set up the Technology Incubation Centre into Technology Innovation Centre. An innovation centre is that you spin off companies, within the university research for commercialization purposes but you also bring in established business houses into your innovations centre for vertical growth in products or process. So we initially hired a capacity of integrating ten startups.

What should be the factor behind setting up new higher educational institutions in the country?

I realized that its a total generational sort of timeline that we are talking about. It means about 20 years are required to change the mindset. That is one aspect. A large number of colleges in the country are now upgraded to universities. So maybe our mindset is still not focused on creating new knowledge but more on teaching. So we got to have more universities creating new knowledge and that new knowledge will then be applied-purpose. Applied sciences and applied research should get more priority and that should be hooked up to our industries.

What could be the strategy of those who have their PhDs especially abroad? Shouldnt we focus on Applied Research and Applied Industry?

The first generation of RandD, actually, are the people who had gone abroad for PhDs. They worked in some areas, they came back and remained stuck to their areas of work. They didnt go to the areas of research where they had no talent. Now the second generation of research is what we are talking about. We got to have the end users in front. Thats how we can change the whole concept strategy. In fact, we dont want to do research in a closed room and then open the room suddenly and then the apple falls from the tree on your head and then do search for end user. You got to have end user right in the front before one even gets the first patent. So this is the second generation of RandD. I think this will bring the universities closer to the term of Applied Research and Applied Industry.

What do you say when we talk of innovations trends in the country?

Innovation absolutely requires no 24/7, no working champion to push it through. We have still not reached the critical mark of having champion of innovation here in Pakistan. Now I will move forward. HEC has taken a good initiative by setting up six ORICs now; you know Office of Research Innovation and Commercialization. Infrastructure is there but where are the champions. Unless and until you have champions to run these ORICs, some champions in space spread over, the innovation will take it.

What should be the model of innovation for Pakistan?

We have about two to three champions, lowest, working in this organization TiE. We are trying to mentor people and make them champion out of whom so we can train but primarily I think HEC has taken this task and we can volunteer our service to HEC at a central level to create champions. We have to quantify also commercialization. If there are 150 universities right now, we should aim for generating 150 million dollars. So we need to produce champions and we need to target ourselves.

You introduced the unique system of national innovation. You said that we should organize the national innovation system. How would it take place?

I had the opportunity of being the member of the SME Policy Preparatory Committee formed by SMEDA. We had proposed the national innovation system in which we had recommended to establish Provincial/Regional/District Innovation Centers vertically linked with the National/International Innovation Centers. We thought that if we define the architecture of national innovation system and then we help create provincial innovation centers (PICs) in all the four provincial headquarters, then they can further down link themselves at the district level. So we recommended a three-tier national innovation system architecture.

What are the success stories of NUST Incubation Centre?

We take pride in graduating the first carbon exchange company. A group of young Americans did that. Nobody ever heard of exchange of carbon at that time. It was about 2005-06 and they graduated out. This is the first fact. Second is that it was very challenging to graduate out the startup company. In ICT sector, it was very challenging. They had tax on more than 100 million rupees business and they had hired more than 100 people. So there were three success stories until my stay there. When I left, two more graduated out. So you can say that there were five startup companies which I initially started. Apart from that, our own organization, TiE, had set up ten startups during last year. So I can take the pride that 15 startup companies have been started by me.

You are also involved in the NUST Outreach Programme. What was that initiative?

In 2005-06, it was a government scheme. They launched an Outreach Programme in which a group of people from a public sector university like NUST and a private sector university like LUMS got together and the whole idea was going to various villages and training the boys and girls for the entrance test. Sitting in the exam, they used to sit together before the entrance test. Then once they qualify, we bear their expense on education, tuition fee, their clothing, etc. This was the LUMS and NUST outreach programme.

Any comments or suggestion for Technology Times?

It is very heartening to note the popularization of Technology Times, the first weekly technology paper of Pakistan. I think you are doing a wonderful job in creating awareness, especially, amongst young people. I would suggest that you have a permanent small corner/column for important innovations. This would help encourage young start-ups and invite others sitting on the fence to get attracted towards the innovation scene of our country. For this purpose, we can have joint collaboration with the TiE Islamabad Chapter. We can help build up the crescendo leading up to February 2013 when we are planning to hold our next Innovation/Entrepreneurship International Conference in Islamabad known as TiE Con 2013. This would be our contribution to sensitize our youngsters so that young people will always look forward to having your Technology Times and looking first at the innovations corner/column to get inspired to play an active part in our Innovation Schemes. Technology Times can play a dominant role in driving innovation in Pakistan.

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