“Fostering Innovation Culture Is the Key to National Development”

By Wasim Khaliqdad

dr-khurshid-qureshi“Unless we nurture a culture of innovation in  the country and make innovation as part of the DNA  of our nation, it is impossible  to  compete with other countries in the rapidly changing  world.  Developed countries  have  used innovation as a tool to generate wealth for their nations and the  same model is  the  only option  for  the  developing nations.”

These views were expressed by Dr. Khurshid A. Qureshi, the main architect and initiator of  the  Digital  Innovation Competition and  Exhibition (DICE) while talking to News and Views.  Dr. Qureshi was recently visiting Pakistan in connection with the DICE 2011 held  at  University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar.

A visionary leader and a true patriot, he has been working hard to create a culture of innovation  in Pakistan. Working closely with the Higher  Education Commission  (HEC)  and universities in Pakistan  for over 12 years now, he has been very instrumental in bringing free high-tech software worth millions of dollars to several major universities.

“Creating  a  culture  of innovation is our long-term vision, which requires revolution at all levels including not only universities but also colleges, vocational institutes  and high schools.

This is not something unique we are doing, every developed nation of the world has adopted the same strategy,” says  Dr. Qureshi who is a renowned Systems Engineering Expert based in USA and is currently working for a technology company as a Senior Technical Fellow. Prior to that, he has worked for Ford Motor Company as KBE and Systems specialist for more than 12 years. He has a PhD from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor USA, MBA from Xavier University USA and is a graduate of NED University and IBA Karachi.

Giving the example of USA, Dr. Qureshi emphasized that it is only because of innovation culture that  the country has been ruling the world in almost every field of life.

“Innovations  in  mass production in  automotive industry, like Ford and General Motors, resulted in generation of tons of wealth for the  nation.  Similarly, through  innovation, they brought revolution in aerospace and defense sectors. Then In the mid of 20 century the computer  revolution started and US also took a lead in that area.  Yahoo,  Apple and Google, are just  a few  other examples, which have  been generating tons of wealth for the nation through innovations. But the question is why these innovations don’t come from somewhere else.”

He said  that  the  power  of innovation is such that you make one new product and the nation can become self-sufficient, but that is impossible until a culture of innovation is fostered and that too systematically. “Then we must also remember that this process of innovation needs to be speedy because nations around the world now know its significance and are putting their best efforts to take the lead.  And for that,  use of digital technologies, instead of traditional  techniques, is indispensable.”

Elaborating the history of DICE in Pakistan, Dr. Qureshi said that first time it was held at the College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, NUST in 2007.

“Though  we managed  to  attract o nl y a f e w universities and the i n d u s t r y  participation was also limited, still I would say  it  was  a  good event to begin with.
In  2008,  DICE was organized at NED Karachi, where  participation  from universities  improved.

However, 2009 was the pivotal year of DICE success when it was  held  at  COMSATS Institute  of  Information Technology,  Lahore. Over 35 major  universities  from  all over the country participated and 65 projects were exhibited.

Lahore  Chamber of Commerce and Industry came on board and even some of the media  channels  wanted  to become strategic partners. The 2010 DICE at Institute of Space
Technology saw a significant representation of the industry and  several  MoUs  were signed.”

“Last but not the least, 2011 event at UET Peshawar was also a big success in terms of university  and  industry participation. Governor KPK inaugurated  the  event  and appreciated the concept. Even politicians  and  bureaucrats took great interest in the whole activity.  So I  think  that  the inertia has broken and things have really moved on since our humble beginning in 2007.”   

He said that during 2011 event, a separate fund was allocated to support the top projects of the  exhibition  every  year, which will help faculty  and teams  to  develop  their concepts  into  commercial products. “During his visit, Dr. Sohail Naqvi also appreciated the  projects and committed HEC’s funding  for  the  top innovative projects.”

Meanwhile, DICE chapter was also formed at UET Peshawar to  provide  universities  a platform for local events.

“We will have chapter events every year, most probably in April or May and the mega event  will be held around December. We are planning to create more chapters so that academia-industry linkage  is promoted at regional level.” Another exciting initiative of Dr.   Qureshi  is  DICE Innovation Portal, which he will  soon  be  launching  in collaboration with COMSATS (CIIT)  Islamabad,  who have developed the Portal. It will be a virtual match making forum for  industry  and  academia, and  a  directory  of research  projects being undertaken in different universities throughout  the country.

“All  students  and faculty members may become its members.

They will be able to place  their  projects online. Industry from around the  world  will  be  able  to become its members. Initially academia participation will be limited to Pakistan so that the country  benefits  ultimately.

Using  portal,  industry members will be able to send queries, which will be routed to appropriate members from academia, specialized in  that field.  Hence  university researchers  will be able  to know  and  work  on  real industry  needs. So  we  are holding events to  create an innovation culture and then bringing in tools to facilitate its implementation.”

Dr. Qureshi said that the UET Taxila will hold DICE 2012 while the University of Gujrat has reserved its place for the 2013 event. Starting 2012, in addition to engineering, DICE will be open to all domains and disciplines  such  as  social sciences,  physical  sciences, medical  sciences,  arts  and humanities.

“Though we are far from true academia-industry  linkage, still I can say with certainty that we have got on to the right track and things have begun to change.”


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