The need to innovate

January 29, 2023

Incentivising innovation encourages productivity and development

Share Next Story >>>


e are living in an era in which change is the only constant. Staying stagnant is a death sentence in a constantly progressive world. Whether it is those who are doing regular jobs or top executives in giant corporates or influential leaders of global superpowers, everyone needs to stay relevant, and for that technology innovation is integral. The stress on sustainability is the new driving force for innovation. Businesses such as General Electric (GE) have been driven for improvement for the ecosystem through their Innovation Centre, which is an innovation ecosystem enabler for entrepreneurs and industry to collaborate on their toughest challenges for technology breakthroughs and commercial successes.

Similarly, Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) in Cheshire, UK, has also brought the energy industry and innovators together for a shared platform for partners and the community to innovate together. Innovation can stem from young, inexperienced students. The Innovation Centre of Yokogawa is another exemplary R&D department primarily responsible for innovation activities that target an uncertain, unpredictable future for which new business opportunities are sought.

Pakistan houses some of the best engineering and architectural graduates. Why, then, is that the number of firms in Pakistan engaging in any type of innovative activity is minuscule?

For this reason, many educational institutions in Pakistan have introduced STEM and STEAM education. This entails concepts, ideas, and perspectives around science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. With a special focus on practical learning through robotics, coding, and mechanics, KE, the electric company in Karachi, has shouldered this responsibility successfully by undertaking an Innovation Challenge 7/11+ that allowed students to align education, practicality, and innovation for a robust triangle with sustainable future at the core. Designed for entrepreneurs and startups, the students were challenged to bring forth products and services that aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, circumventing ‘customer experience’ and ‘operational excellence’ under the umbrella of strategic innovation.

Pakistani organisations and the private sector must reorient and reconfigure their priority to encourage and incentivise innovation. It will allow Pakistan to leapfrog and catch up technologically for innovation-led growth, productivity, and development.

Young students were able to showcase the talent that Pakistan possesses; problem-solving skills that also considered green operations in businesses, such as sustainable energy plans, innovative insulator designs, transformers to predict and balance the load, GIS-based grid assets, and health monitoring transformers amongst many others. Out of 300 applicants, three won the coveted top positions, while all the ten finalists were offered the national platform of NEPRA to showcase their products to an even larger audience.

This is the brilliance and excellence that the country needs to drive the economy. The first-of-its-kind strategic Innovation Challenge needs to become a practice across all universities and enterprises. Organisations can encourage and sponsor their employees for innovative ideas that bring operational excellence across value chains. The sheer brilliance of such programmes will enable many more outstanding technological advances that can add value to businesses.

Giving young people the opportunity for lateral and entrepreneurial thinking early on is vital to ensure creative thinking and problem-solving skills, unlocking abilities and potential for both further education and employment, and eventually building a better future. And it can be safely said that KE has approached creativity from a different angle. The Innovation Challenge provided practical experience in innovation and entrepreneurship, enabling teams to bring forth solutions to society’s biggest issues, from tackling pollution to living healthier lives.

The collective impact of all will eventually set the pace for national economies at a macro level setup. Stimulating young minds will not only bring solutions that will emphasise sustainable efficiency but also provide capacity-building, research and development, innovation and ideas, networking opportunity, and mentorship by experts in the industry who ensure guidance to strengthen strategic thinking and build a resilient social structure.

Global businesses have become massive because a large chunk of their budget goes into research and development. If you want to open the door to a better living, then prepare young minds for a livable future tomorrow. We need training, business R&D budgets, grants of patents, industry experts, full-time research scholars in science and technology sectors, research articles published in quality journals in the fields of STEM, and impactful studies to see how innovation can do wonders for a country like Pakistan.

Pakistani organisations, including the private sector, must reorient and reconfigure their priority to encourage and incentivise innovation. It will allow Pakistan to leapfrog and catch up technologically for innovation-led growth, productivity, and development. And this can only manifest if we invest in the right kind of mindset for a better tomorrow.

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi. She can be reached at

More From Political Economy