The present global and even our South Asian region era is witnessing significant changes on a scale that have not been witnessed for almost a century and Pakistan also needs to keep pace. These have come about primarily in the shape of rapid industrial growth being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. Ironically, what to talk about rapid industrial growth, we here on the contrary are currently struggling instead with de-industrialisation. Why do we find ourselves in this position and on the continuing slide due to consistent poor economic management, I will revisit this topic in another piece, but for now, let’s try to understand how the world is advancing by consciously investing in technological research and essentially by successfully linking industry and these new scientific cum technological innovations. Interestingly, it is Asia that is today spearheading such enhancements (China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan); Sadly, Pakistan is not even in the frame!
In 2022, the five major economies of the world, namely the United States, China, the European Union, India and Japan, continued to upscale their Research & Development (R&D) expenses in cutting-edge technologies. Asia has already secured the top four spots in terms of spatial distribution among the top ten global innovation hubs: China, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong (China). Additionally, these four along with South Korea ranked amongst the top 15 in the Global Innovation Index 2022. International innovation has moved towards multi-polarisation, forming a tripartite confrontation between ‘the US, Asia and Europe’. Asia’s capacity for scientific and technological innovation improved dramatically in 2022 with the main reason being that Asia bar far was the most successful in manifesting these innovations into industry, which today is being referred to as the fourth industrial revolution that is primarily in Asia, unlike the previous ones that happened in the West. The Asian breakthrough innovative endeavours have of late come about in highly advanced fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), Quantum Computing, (altogether) New Energy and Biomedicine. As a result, new ecosystems and industries in the global science and technology sector have evolved, in turn significantly reshaping the patterns of economic and social development across the world in general Asia in particular. Whereas, as a result, the well-being of Asians has been influenced positively by these groundbreaking developments, there is a general cost associated with it, which is making lives difficult for laggers like us. Meaning, of late we are seeing a re-emergence cold war environment and the negative competitive trends of the past seem to have come back in the shape of technological ‘choking’, ‘decoupling’ based on political preference, and ‘supply chain severance’ as a war strategy—for example, we seen a lot of manufacturing shift from China to India in recent years. As a result, a sort of uncertainty in global affairs has surfaced and essentially in research and innovation where just a few years back we could see strong cooperation (for example between Yale & Fudon), but this is no longer the case anymore.
The dawn of the future is already upon us and the Asians are emerging as the leading players in global scientific, technological, innovative, and industrial revolutions—the fourth industrial revolution. To maintain this momentum, it would be paramount to consistently increase expenses in these fields, redefine the national legal and policy frameworks, encourage independent innovations, prioritise the monetisation and application of scientific and technological advancements, foster high-quality exchanges and collations, transfer innovations to commercial manufacturing, and the most important, to ensure it is led by the private sector to optime costs, efficiency and delivery. Regrettably, Pakistan has paid little attention to such critical developments and instead of boosting its private sector to find such synergies between technology and industry, we have been too busy either crowding them out or simply taxing the daylights out of them to sustain the state’s extravagance; The previous quarter’s figures tell us that incremental debt in Pakistan’s private sector fell by almost 98%. No marks for guessing which way we are heading!