The current situation of R&D institutions has not been alone shaped by the internal factors,constitution and dynamics of these organisations Market ,demand and external environment has also contributed to the malfunctioning.
First of all the market is small,fragmented and even unpredictable.Industrial growth has been slow.Lowering down of tariffs has discouraged import substitution and indigenisation.Exports remained focussed on one or two sectors in manufacturing.The local industry itself is not R&D based which could have generated a demand for research services.The low margin of export industries does not permit any surplus for R&D expenses.The R&D fund created for textile industry has acted as a subsidy which has been mostly passed on to the buyers in terms of lower prices in a highly competitive market.
The large manufacturing sector is weaned on external support or has most of the testing facilities itself.They have the capital and credit and are least prone to risk and enterprise that is involved in R&D.There is ,however, a SME sector which is willing to innovate and take the risk.There is a large SME sector involved in the manufacturing of plant and equipment.Processes based on local research and material can be interactively converted to process,products and plants.This is a circuit of desis,with whom communication has to be established.They are not sophisticated,donot understand complex theories but do undrestand the mechanics.They donot have large research funds and deep pockets and thus only concessional rates can be charge from them initially.They are perfect eligible partners.
There is some market of testing services for raw materials,intermediates and finished products.Some times materials are to be substituted or products have to be certified.International companies are operating in this sector.Textile industry routinely requires such services whereby expensive courier cost and waiting time is involved.Most of the afore-mentioned discussion has ,however,taken place in the context of PCSIR and chemical based industry and research issues.
Pakistan made a beginning in the Energy sector R&D 1970s with the establishment of National Silicon Technologies Center.The center was later converted to PCRET(Pakistan Coucil for Renewable Technologies).The focus has not shifted from solar energy which had its ups and downs. Solar Energy now is poised to explode into fast growth and good times have come for PCRET and solar R&D.Solar power is being projected to be competing with grid power in a decades time.Already solar projects are coming up.It is time to energize PCRET and bring it in tune with the times so that through the support of local R&D ,solar power induction is facilitated in the country.Market is not a problem in this sector,although strategy to capture the opportunity has to be developed. Consideration may be given to merge PCRET with NUST or convert it into a teaching cum R&D institution.(to be continued)