ICDF: Harnessing Innovation To Develop Human Capital

Money and assets have become far less powerful in the 21st century than innovative ideas. Look at Facebook, a simple social sharing platform that is now so powerful it can sway elections in most countries. Pakistan needs to nurture its youth to be on the lookout for such innovative ideas to truly survive in the emerging world. Khadijha Tariq talks to Saira Iqbal Khan, Chief Disruption Officer at Innovation Capital Development Forum, to know how they are preparing for the future.

Initiation and Rationale behind the formation of ICDF

Talking about the rationale behind the initiation of ICDF, Saira said “Basically, innovation capital development forum or ICDF is designed and operated as a Think Tank. There was a very solid reason and rationale behind its creation and formation because we have been doing a lot of research and meta-analysis in the last few years.  We also observed Pakistan’s ranking in Global key critical indices, like global happiness index (GHI), Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), Knowledge economy Index (KEI) etc. All these indices for Pakistan are in dismal state and there is no sign that any initiative is being taken by anyone to improve the standing and ranking of Pakistan, which is critical to Pakistan’s smooth transition into the emerging world.  When we studied these indices we observed that on global competitive index global Pakistan was 107 out of 140 countries and its now 109 out of 120 countries in terms of global innovation index. Moreover, on global happiness index, Pakistan stands on the 67th spot out of 156 nations of the world and it falls on 117 out of 140 countries in the economy index.  The need of the hour was to initiate a forum that was different from the rest and could play a pivotal and pragmatic role in improving Pakistan’s standing in the international arena and to help it win respect which will also result in national wealth creation. This forced us to come forward and initiate the innovation capital forum to create awareness of these critical issues.  

ICDF talks about concrete measures and we believe in coming up with the research of consequence. We are working for the betterment of Pakistan and humanity at large

Therefore, ICDF took it upon itself to raise the awareness and involve policy makers and innovative minds of Pakistan to run extremely focused group discussions on national policies vis-à-vis’ global emerging scenario and to highlight the missing links in all national policies and to create an actionable execution plan.  Saira added that the team felt a need create innovative mind sets and intellectual inspirations through intensive engagements. “Secondly, we also had the opportunity to attend similar forums and soon realized that there was no collective measurable impact of such initiatives. Hence we thought that we need to come up with our own signature sauce. We wanted this forum to create a collective impact, carrying it forward in a different manner, as compared to other typical forums of no consequence.” She said the core idea was to provide a platform to the future leaders to share their ideas and problems with important stakeholders. “We decided to come up with focus group discussions, which is basically the USP of this forum. We designed it very creatively, planning focus group discussions where we decided to bring all stakeholders including academia, government, Industry, incubators etc. on one single forum in order to highlight the missing links of the national policy and to find resolution to challenges.”

Format of Panel Discussions

Talking about the format of the panel discussions, Saira said, “We organised three types of labs in these panel discussions. The first one is the red lab which includes hard talk discussions where we get to know and explore the real issues. The number two is the green lab in which we explore the possible sustainable solutions to the outcomes and issues that are highlighted in the red lab. Third type is the blue lab in which we talk about the action plan and everybody contributes.”  Asked if these panel discussions contributed in making a bigger change, Saira said she was very hopeful. “We believe that the three key stakeholders – industry, academia and government – need to play their individual roles in consultation and collaboration to resolve the current problems and challenges faced by the country. For instance, the government should play the role of enabler, the industry needs to play the role of engage and academia is the executioner. Academia will fail in developing and grooming talent without the support of industry and government.” 

Pakistan lacks the element of creativity, innovation or pure definition of the industry in Pakistan. Industry means a complete setup which can produce the products for local consumption of local people. However, everything in Pakistan is imported.

Why Pakistan lags behind in the international arena?

We also asked Saira about the reasons she thought Pakistan lagged behind in international arena. “Pakistan is a country that heavily relies on imports, where parts are imported and assembled and are later distributed to sellers,” she said. “Moreover, industry is not willing to come forward and to give its time in the creation of intellectual capital because they are busy with their works. Pakistan lacks the element of creativity, innovation or pure definition of industry in Pakistan. Industry means a complete setup which can produce products for local consumption of local people. However, everything in Pakistan is imported. Pakistan is not a complete economy, but a transit economy that is away from creativity and innovation.”  Saira was of the opinion that the industry needed to create “champions of innovation” in collaboration with academia, whereby they should create Reinvention Officers so that the technological skill could be transferred to Pakistan and dependence on imports was minimized. This could lead to better current account balance and limited wastage of foreign exchange.  “To encourage the industry to make innovation and creativity part and parcel of their work culture, we have introduced Innovation Champions Award for the Industry (ICA) that we are going to launch soon.”The disruptive force behind UMT’s ICDF, Saira said individual efforts were not sufficient in this day and age. “Collective efforts and forums like ICDF are the need of hour. ICDF is vital for it enables the stakeholders in the industry and academia to sit together on a single platform. We try and set a direction where both the stakeholders can work together for the national cause. Together, we need to find new solutions by challenging conventions to stay ahead of the curve. The countries that have stayed ahead of the pack are the ones that have achieved a certain level in creativity and innovation, invested in human capital and intellectual capital and attained efficiency in management of societies.”

ICDF has taken it upon itself to raise awareness and involve policy makers and innovative minds of Pakistan to run extremely focussed group discussions on national policies vis-à-vis’ global emerging scenarios

Outcomes of ICDF

So are the outcomes of ICDF visible and measurable? Saira said the think-tank was heading in the right direction in terms of attainment of its outcomes. “The outcome of ICDF can be applied in industry to facilitate and propose the best management practices and make them more competitive and create solutions for drawing business sophistication, resulting in higher profitability on more sustainable lines. Not only this, ICDF is also expected to create talented graduates who have the flavor and fervor for innovation. These factors were in our mind when we were designing the ICDF and wanted to come with a very practical and pragmatic initiative to help the people of Pakistan.”  Emphasizing on the role of ICDF and its collective impact on the society, she said “ICDF talks about concrete measures and we believe in coming up with the research of consequence. We are working for the betterment of Pakistan and humanity at large and aim to contribute to the initiation of a billion-dollar unicorn.”

Khadijha Tariq has a masters in mass communication and current is a content editor for academia magazine . She has previously worked as a freelancer academic writer .She can be reached at Khadijha@academiamag.com and tweets at @khadijhatariq