Islamabad: “Promoting entrepreneurship is a key initiative in growth of any country’s economy. Often the young graduates have excellent innovative ideas but don’t know how to transcend these into sustainable businesses. To accelerate the economic development and entrepreneurship in Pakistan, HEC is launching a unique grant called Innovation Seed Fund (ISF). ISF Is a key component of the Higher Education Development in Pakistan Project (HEDP) and is launched for the very first time,” said HEC  in a statement issued here on Thursday. HEDP will be holistically supporting development of entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem , hence will play a key role in transforming Pakistan into knowledge economy.

HEDP is assisting HEC in its various key higher education initiatives. It is a five-year project (2019/20 – 2023/24) being implemented by HEC with support from the World Bank. It aims to support research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, improve teaching and learning, and strengthen governance in higher education.

ISF grant will provide a package of support and seed funding to early-stage startups through HEC-recognized Business Incubation Centers (BICs) at Public sector universities nationwide. The grant winners will receive up to $35,000 in seed funding in addition to support through BICs in the form of entrepreneurial training, legal  support, financial education, business development service provision, and investment readiness training. The successful start-ups will be connected to a range of funding sources that can help them meet their capital needs during the scale-up phase post program. Initially 15 promising early-stage start-ups will be funded and provided the training and incubation services required to transform them into investable ventures via ISF every year.

As part of the strategic aims of the project, a significant proportion of the grants will be awarded to startups with female founders. The project has already identified key strategic areas for Pakistan economy aligned with Pakistan’s Government Vision 2025. These include Agriculture, Food Resources and Agri Tech; Housing, Construction and Manufacturing; Banking, Microfinance and FinTech; Health Care and Health Tech; Transportation and Logistics; Education and EdTech; E-commerce and Smart Retail; Sustainable Development, Climate and Energy; Emerging Technologies; Creative, Digital Media, Arts and Culture; Metallurgy and related subjects; and other sectors that have potential for growth and impact.

HEC has also conducted a series of pre-launch outreach events focusing all these thematic areas with renowned experts and entrepreneurs from industry. The purpose was to lift the Research and Development (R&D) capacity of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as well as their ability to incubate start-ups / spinoff companies. A comprehensive mapping study of the knowledge & innovation ecosystem comprising of HEC recognized ORICs & BICs across the country was also carried out before launching ISF. The study examined policies, procedures, service delivery, internal capacity and identified gaps for performance improvement. All these will now be addressed step-by-step via ISF program.

All startups located in Pakistan and Pakistani nationals, including students, recent graduates, alumni, faculty members and researchers are eligible to apply for ISF grant. The last date for submission of proposals is January 15, 2022 and further details of this program are available on HEC website at www.hec.gov.pk/site/isf

Author

Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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