Acting High Commissioner for Pakistan to the UK Mr Muhammad Ayub inaugurated UPSIGN (a UK registered charity) Pakistan challenges related four-day symposium from 30 Nov to 3 Dec 2020. He appreciated the efforts of UPSIGN in bridging science and innovations collaborations between UK and Pakistan and globally.

On Day 1, Food security with key theme of Nourish, Grow and Sustain together led by Dr Khalid Mahmood (UPSIGN Agri Food Co-lead), discussed the challenges faced by Food Security in Pakistan. Prof Mukhtar Ahmad former chairman of HEC chaired the session giving the background of Pakistan food security facing the challenge from climate change. Dr Khalid Mahmood, emphasised the need for a system approach to address food security, food safety and nutrition. Ms Shandana Gulzar Khan (Member Pakistan National Assembly and chair on subcommittee agriculture products) shared her thoughts on govt policy to support commercialisation of agriculture sector and role of research collaborations.  Prof Mumtaz Cheema (Memorial University) covered the importance of smallholder farmers that play a key role in meeting the food demands of a growing population.

Prof Nicola Lowe delivered a “Systems Thinking” approach to addressing malnutrition in Pakistan which Pakistan is facing 45% children under the age of 5 years. Prof Lisa Boden from University of Edinburgh and Dr Ayesha Riaz discussed a One Health approach, which focuses on improving contingency planning for endemic, zoonotic and emerging novel infectious diseases.

The panel was chaired by Prof Asif Ali, VC, MNSU, Multan, the panel members were Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, chairman, Pakistan Agri Research Council (PARC), Prof Bob Rees, Scottish Rural University College (SRCU), Dr Simon Holland (Al-Qaswa Innovation), Ayesha Ahmed (PakAgriMarket), Aysha Gulzar (JE Austin), Prof Muhammad Imran (University of Glasgow).The panellists discussed the need to adopt Climate smart agriculture which requires less water and is resistant to pests and diseases. Other topics that were discussed included the use of digital technologies and the role that women are playing in agriculture production.

On day 2, the webinar led by Dr Parveen Ali (UPSIGN Healthcare co-lead) explored the opportunities and challenges associated with upskilling Pakistan’s future healthcare workforce.

Dr Shabnum Sarfraz provided an overview of the current healthcare scenario in Pakistan as well as recent efforts to manage healthcare during the rise of the COVID19 period. Professor Raisa Gul questioned whether Pakistan is self-sufficient with regards to the supply and demands of healthcare workforce. Professor Abdul Bari Khan discussed the usefulness of public private partnerships in provision of healthcare as well as the factors that affect such relationships. Mr Mike Nithavrianakis spoke about opportunities available for ambitious healthcare partnerships between the UK and Pakistan and how further relationship between UK and Pakistan can be developed and strengthened.

On Day 3, the topic was “Knowledge Transfer and Exploitation from Pakistani & UK Universities”, which was chaired by Dr Farroq Shah from UPSIGN.  In the plenary address,   Prof Atta ur Rehman spoke about recent and forthcoming knowledge economy projects which are underway and spoke of “the importance of translational research through policies and creation of creative skills for high value exports”.  Prof. Shoab Khan spoke about “bridging the gap” between industry and academia and the importance of mentoring young entrepreneurs. The final speaker Prof Jawwad Darr discussed the way in which UK universities  help academics along the journey from invention to exploitation and how many of the leading universities have more “flexible” approach to managing IP developed in the university. In the panel session, the speakers and chair were joined by Dr Shah Rukh Abbas (NUST), Dr Aqif Chaudhry (COMSATS Islamabad), Dr Sara Saeed Khurram (CEO Sehat Kahani) who shared perspectives on how industry should better link to universities, options for translating research.  The panel also felt we should do more to support female entrepreneurs who need mentors in industry and that there is a distinct lack of knowledge and support on how companies can spin out from public sector universities with the founders taking the lead.

On day 4 the global ready graduates event sought to look at what skills are needed to prepare Pakistan’s graduates in order to enable them to get the most out of postgraduate studies outside of Pakistan.

The webinar was chaired by Ms Madiha Sajid, lead education UPSIGN opened by a pre-recorded speech from Christian Turner, the UK High Commissioner who spoke about the importance of bilateral partnerships for the benefit of both nations.  The keynote talks from Dr Atta Ur Rehman stressed the importance of online and blended education for teaching. The Deputy British High Commissioner, Mike Nithavrianakis spoke about the importance of linking and harnessing the diaspora.  Professor Jawwad A. Darr (UPSIGN Chairman) spoke about the importance of training academics to support PhDs in Pakistan and also this would lead to them being able to better prepare undergraduates who want to do overseas PGs.

Dr Maryam Raab spoke about the links between Pakistan and UK and how the British Council is supporting them.  Dr Adeela Shafi spoke about the need to give graduates coming overseas the ability to cope with the challenges of having to adapt to the overseas systems and improve writing skills in certain subjects where it was needed.  Prof Abu Bakr spoke about the fact that it was possible for Pakistan’s graduates and postgraduates to enter scholarship programmes and top university jobs if they were sufficiently supported and prepared

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