Research and Development (R&D) may have become a popular catchphrase in the developing world at large, but in Pakistan its significance is not realised in the least and funding for R&D has steadily reduced in the last decade. The current budgetary allocation for scientific research and development stands at a measly 0.29 per cent and calls are being made by the planning, development and reforms minister to increase the budget to at least 0.5 per cent in 2016.

Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) chairperson Dr Shahzad Alam revealed that the government allocated between Rs200,000 to Rs300,000 for R&D. The allocated amount is an insult to the nation whose progression in the technological arena is stunted, especially when there are multiple ministries that are created solely for scientific research. The minimum R&D spending recommended by Unesco for developing countries is 1pc of the GDP, while our Minister for Science and Technology Rana Tanvir is still planning to urge the government to increase funding to 1pc a long two years later.

While we barely have any data to measure the amount that the Private sector spends on R&D in Pakistan, patent activity is an effective indicator to measure its success to a certain degree. In 2006, there were 5,314 patent applications filed in India and 122,318 filed in China whereas in Pakistan, a barely noticeable 91 patent applications were filed. This figure reflects well on our inadequate contributions relative to neighbouring countries.

It is a fact that future economic progress will be driven by the invention and application of new technologies. R&D is one category of spending that develops and drives these new technologies. Whereas private sector firms are prone to focus their R&D on “applied” projects, where the payoff is to benefit them, government spending is a must for the broad benefit of the nation. The solution to the energy and economic crises lies in science alone.