DR ABDUR REHMAN CHEEMA | MUHAMMAD HARIS
The Triple Helix concept, introduced in the late 1990s, embodies a more prominent role for universities in innovation, at par with both industry and government, in a knowledge-based society.
This collaborative relationship and interaction among the three institutional spheres is increasingly producing innovation policies.
The production of new knowledge has to be relocated in shared spaces featuring inter-disciplinarily and economically and socially-relevant research themes. It cannot remain strictly in universities and within inflexible scientific domains and laboratories.
Within the CPEC framework, hardly any attention has been paid to leveraging this economic opportunity for building the technological capacity of the country’s universities
Studies about developing countries adopting the Triple Helix approach has shown that it leads to an increase in scientific productivity.
Within the CPEC framework, hardly any attention has been paid to leveraging this economic opportunity for building the technological capacity of the country’s universities.
While in developed countries, many tertiary education institutions have adapted the triple helix approach — building academic institutions that partner with the government and industry to generate new knowledge, innovation and economic development — many developing countries have yet to fully apply this concept.
The internationalisation of business envisaged in the CPEC offers new opportunities for Pakistani universities if they realign themselves on the basis of the triple helix model.
By building multiple partnerships with government departments, the new Chinese and Pakistani universities can develop their technological capacity by setting up socially useful ventures, technology parks and international research and development centres.
Such initiatives will reshape the relationship of the universities with society by turning the former into an active player in economic development through creating scientific and technological knowledge and innovation that goes beyond mere teaching and research.
To begin with, the Chinese are strong in the information technology, railways, manufacturing and energy sectors. Collaborative leadership built through multiple partnerships with the government, national and international firms could play an important role in pursuing the common goals of academia and industry.
Through networking, the country’s academia can focus their research on the problems faced by the Chinese companies operating under the CPEC.
Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission should incentivise the interaction between firms, public universities and research centres, set up private firms’ incubation facilities at public universities and shared usage of universities’ facilities.
In universities of less developed Balochistan, inclusive entrepreneurial business incubation centres should be set-up so that they can create customised socially useful business approaches.
Learning and building with the Chinese experience of reducing poverty, these universities need to prepare skilled human resource that contributes to local economic development.
With internationalisation experience, universities become open to experimentation, allowing the evolution of indigenous business and social solutions overtime along with building talent for the global industry.
For example, skills development in copper processing, a precious metal extracted from Balochistan, can help Pakistan save the cost of repurchasing the same after refinement from China.
Through networking, the country’s academia can focus their research on the problems to be faced by the Chinese companies under the CPEC and develop home-grown solutions.
The federal Higher Education Commission and provincial governments along with regional universities must offer Chinese language courses for this concept to integrate seamlessly with the companies.
Universities can approach Chinese entities and the government to identify those technical skill areas which are expected to be needed and, accordingly, design diplomas and short courses to develop required human resource.
One could even anticipate the importance of teaching Chinese language to locals along the CPEC route that may become useful for the hospitality industry.
While COMSATS Institute of Information and Technology has pioneered the China Study Centre in Pakistan solely dedicated for China-centric research and related educational and cultural activities; there is also a room for collaboration at the university level with Chinese private sector firms. This can foster research on the social, economic, environmental, and political impacts of the CPEC at the local and regional level.
Published in Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, March 6th, 2017