28 universities start-ups win HEC Innovator Seed Fund

ISLAMABAD-As many as 28 startups hailing from different universities in the country have won the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) Innovator Seed Fund (ISF) under the Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) Program for grant of up to Rs.10 million each for their groundbreaking innovative business ideas. 
In this connection, HEC held a two-day National Pitching Competition under ISF, wherein as many as 65 startups competed with their innovative entrepreneurial startups in the areas of Agriculture, Food Resource and Agri Tech, 
E-commerce and Smart Retail, Education and EdTech, Emerging Technologies, Health Care and Health Tech, Housing Construction and Manufacturing, Sustainable Development, Climate and Energy, and Transportation and Logistics. 
The winning startups teams were from different universities across Pakistan, making the participant pool diverse and inclusive, whereas the jury consisted of 14 notable entrepreneurs/ industry experts having ample experience in their relevant fields.
ISF is an initiative of HEC’s World Bank-funded project, titled “Higher Education Development in Pakistan” (HEDP). 
It provides entrepreneurial support and seed funding to early-stage startups through HEC-recognized Business Incubation Centres at public sector universities of Pakistan. 
HEC received 205 concept notes this year after the ssadvertisement of ISF Call 2022-23 in January, out of which, 144 startups submitted their Full Business Proposals. 
Finally, 65 startups were shortlisted for the pitching competition after passing them through different phases of scrutiny and evaluations.
The chief guest of the event was distinguished business and industry expert, Mr. Sohail P. Ahmad, who has served in several notable positions in significant companies. Managing Director (MD) National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) Ms. Noor Amna Malik, Country Operations Manager World Bank Pakistan Gailius Draugelis, Senior Economist World Bank, Ms. Inga Afanasieva, and Vice Chancellors of various universities graced the event with their presence.
Addressing the ceremony, Sohail P. Ahmad congratulated the winners and reiterated the important role youth and budding entrepreneurs have to play to make Pakistan as leading economy of the world.
 He also advised all startups to not limit their dreams and consider this day as their destination but encouraged them to take this as a refreshing point that will build their urge to do more.
He also shared tidbits from his rich entrepreneurial experience and informed the winners about the most common problems they will encounter on the way, along with the most effective ways to deal with them.
Earlier, in her opening remarks, Ms. Noor Amna Malik stressed the need to create a favourable environment for researchers, entrepreneurs, and startups in Pakistan.
She noted that the Pakistanis, having found a suitable workplace abroad, come up with remarkable outcomes, which she said is “a testament that we have a rich mine of raw talent that needs an opportunity to shine.” 
She underlined that ISF has provided that opportunity to youth as each startup was worth being awarded the grant if they had unlimited funding. 
She also encouraged the government and industry leaders to play their role in providing such platforms for entrepreneurship so the full potential of the country’s talented youth can be tapped.
It is worth mentioning that HEC awarded 15 ISF grants last year, and Chairman HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed doubled the number of grants seeing the enthusiasm of the participants and the quality of their innovative startup ideas.

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