STAFF REPORT ISB: Scientists and researchers have called for focusing on achieving greater research efficiency and more intensive transfer of knowledge by means of establishing networks involving research and business. Priority-setting processes are critical in aligning research funding with regional needs and in identifying the research questions necessary to fill the knowledge gaps.

They expressed these views during the two-day meeting of eminent scientists and experts of ECO member states in Islamabad. The meeting was organized by the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Science Foundation (ECOSF), a specialized agency for promotion of science and technology in 10 ECO countries including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

Main objective of the meeting was to ascertain the strengths and ongoing activities of scientific institutions in ECO member states and to prioritize the focus areas of research for funding under SandT Fund of ECOSF. As many as 17 participants from ECO member countries contributed in the meeting.

They said that science and technology (SandT) has undergone considerable changes over the past 30 years. Thus the main goal of the SandT is shifting towards the formation of an effective innovation system for covering the entire sector of generation, transfer and application of knowledge.

In his inaugural remarks, President ECO Science Foundation Prof. Dr. Manzoor Hussain Soomro briefed the participants about the achievements of the ECOSF.

In collaboration with the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the ECOSF has a great potential to pursue the SandT based economic development in the region. This initiative becomes even more important and strategic in the wake of China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor and the China’s “one belt one road”. Dr. Soomro urged the government of Pakistan to support the ECOSF initiative through the Ministry of Science and Technology and Planning Commission.

Later, presentations were made by the country representatives highlighting the SandT activities in their countries along with their priorities research areas. Subsequently, a moderated brain-storming session was conducted to finalize the priority research areas in line with the UN sustainable goals (SDGs).

A presentation on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was also made by the UNDP officer for awareness and capacity building of participants to link their research and academic activities with the 17 SDGs set for 2016-2030.

As an outcome of the meeting of eminent scientists and facilitated workshop exercise, the meeting set regional priority research areas to promote innovation and economic growth in the ECO region. These areas included energy (renewable energy and natural resource of energy, applied/ basic sciences, nanotechnology, biotechnology and seismology), water (water use efficiency, water pollution and recycling), food security, climate change (global warming, environment, nature, ecosystems sustainability, fossil fuels), health and natural resource management.

These priorities specify foundation for making decisions on concentrating public resources in the most important areas of science, technologies and innovations and for commissioning the available scientific and technological potential.

It is pertinent to mention here that ECOSF has established an “SandT Fund” for financing collaborative research among the the ECO member states. The modalities of this “SandT Fund” have been approved by the ECO Council of Foreign Ministers (COM), however, the member states have yet to contribute finances to the Fund.

Later in the same evening, Federal Secretary for Ministry of Science and Technology Fazal Abbas Maken hosted a dinner for the delegates of the meeting where various heads of SandT organizations and diplomats from ECO countries were also present.

On the occasion, the outcome of the meeting was shared by the President ECOSF with the Secretary and the diplomats. In his remarks, Maken appreciated the dynamic leadership of ECOSF and considered the meeting a good start that SandT Research Priority Areas have been determined. He assured full cooperation and support f his Ministry for the ECOSF.

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