By Syed Khawar Abbas

TODAYS ECONOMIC environment has created a need for finding creative and cost-effective methods for solving complex issues that afflict societies. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) worldwide are increasingly being seen as the catalyst for fostering this innovative approach. This has led to creation of an essential third mission of universities, other than teaching and research, called Knowledge Exchange.

The British Councils Internationalising Higher Education programme in partnership with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan had started a massive programme on Knowledge Exchange in 2011 as a result of which Pakistans first ever Knowledge Exchange Strategy was developed. HEC is the apex body to regulate and promote the higher education in Pakistan. The aim of Knowledge Exchange is to promote the role of universities as not just generators of theoretical research, but as important members of the community that can contribute to development.

As part of their Knowledge Exchange initiative, the British Council held Connect event in November 2011 with an aim to bring together members of universities, industry, government and non-governmental organisations. It was a vibrant and interactive event that aspired to create new collaborations and spark new ideas.

However, the British Council was looking for a way to make it sustainable through some local partnership. Entered Distinguished Innovations, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship (DICE) and “DICE-Connect” happened!

DICE is an initiative of HEC that promotes knowledge-based revolution in Pakistan by motivating people to utilise state-of-the-art technologies for the rapid development of innovative products. However, DICE was more geared towards the use of technology in engineering and lacked other key disciplines like Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Business Education, etc.

The merger of DICE and Connect is a win-win position for both the British Council and HEC as it provides a common platform to all key disciplines in academia, industry, government and non-government organisations to interact, collaborate and share innovative ideas and concepts hence expedite the process of technology revolution in Pakistan. This will also increase the outreach and improve the networking among different disciplines.

The first DICE-Connect event held in December 2012 was attended by Vice Chancellors of numerous Pakistani universities, renowned researchers, eminent thinkers, media experts and students and over 600 participants from different walks of life.

Over 100 innovative projects from diverse fields were displayed by industry and students at the Industrial Exhibition. More than 50 universities and industries participated and around 1500 guests visited the industrial and student project exhibition over the two days.

Addressing at the inaugural session of the event, Mr. Peter Upton, Country Director, British Council Pakistan, highlighted the importance of Knowledge Exchange Partnerships between the academia and the industry. He mentioned that during early 1990s, the UK government policy had already changed the research exploitation system by encouraging them to enhance their technology push. It was not an easy process, and now there are several apex bodies in UK which are involved in managing, funding, measuring and stimulating knowledge exchange in the UK. Each of them has a particular angle and area of specialisation.

Peter also said, “With the revolution in higher education sector of Pakistan, the universities in Pakistan also have the capability of playing a major role in the future economic prosperity. Therefore, we need to promote them, bring them closer to the non-university partners, encourage new ways of partnerships and most importantly beat the drum of their success through proper communication.”

Other speakers appreciated the excellent work being done by universities in building the fundamentals of the economy in Pakistan, helping communities and businesses and bringing together academia and industry. Dr. Khurshid Qureshi encouraged the innovative work presented on DICE platform and said “the only limit to innovation is your imagination”.

Bringing academia, government and non-government organisations and industry on the same platform has always been a major challenge. For successful innovation to take place, a sophisticated innovative ecosystem involving all partners is needed to support and enhance discovery, innovations, IP creation and commercialisation. Knowledge exchange is not just about the commercialisation of science and technology through the creation of spin-offs and patents etc. It encompasses all disciplines, including the arts and humanities.

The next DICE-Connect event is scheduled to be held at University of Gujrat, Pakistan in December 2013. The British Council and HEC are also planning to give away awards at the next DICE Connect for best entrepreneurial university, best Knowledge Exchange University, most innovative university etc in order to promote the culture of knowledge exchange among Pakistani HEIs.

By Web Team

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