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Technology and Venture Commercialization in Pakistan

by James Thompson, Interim Executive Director of Technology Venture Commercialization at the University of Utah

Universities are generally tasked with the organization, creation and transfer of knowledge.  The most effective Universities transfer this knowledge in three ways: 1. To students 2. Publications, conferences, literature, books, etc… AND 3. To society to make an impact.  Transitioning the knowledge created and organized in a University setting to society represents a vital function of Universities and one primary mechanism of doing so resides in what is referred to as Technology Transfer – at the University of Utah it is called Technology and Venture Commercialization (TVC).  The University Utah has developed a functioning and productive TVC and it was my goal to go to Pakistan to help Universities in that great country determine how best to set up their own TVC.

During my four days in Pakistan I had the pleasure of meeting with various academic, government and business leaders from different organizations across Pakistan and was pleased to make new friends and engage in many productive discussions on innovation, entrepreneurship and their intersection with University research.  Specifically, I met with administrators and faculty members from Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), University of Karachi, Institute of Business Administration – Karachi (where I was given a review of IBA’s marvelous entrepreneurial programs and a tour of their business accelerator), University of Karachi, ISRA University, Dawood University of Engineering and Technology, SMI University, Riphah International University and the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration.  I was also pleased to meet with various government leaders from the Pakistan Higher Education Commission, The Pakistan Science Foundation and the Australian Government Trade Commission in addition to the Vice President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

After my meetings, I have a much better feel for the status of innovation and entrepreneurship on the campuses of various Universities in Pakistan and specifically at MUET.  Overall, I feel the faculty at Universities in Pakistan, specifically MUET, are among the brightest of those I have ever met and have great capacity to innovate in their respective fields.  There is great potential to transfer the innovations developed by these great faculty at Universities in Pakistan and I propose Universities in Pakistan start the process with the following:

  1. Every University needs to develop and implement an Intellectual Property (IP) Policy that specifically delineates who owns and manages IP developed at the University and how are any revenues split with the inventors.
  2. Encourage faculty to invent and disclose such inventions to the Offices of Research, Innovation & Commercialization (ORIC).  To start this process, ORIC’s need to develop and distribute a form for faculty to disclose their inventions to ORIC as well as train faculty on innovation and entpreneurship.
  3. The University ORIC’s need to establish a process for initially evaluating all disclosures coming from faculty.

The path to developing a successful and productive TVC is long and not easy but will be rewarding and has great potential to be a powerful engine of economic growth in Pakistan.