Interview By Engr. Asghar Hayat.
Dr. Shahzad Alam is the Director General PCISIR Laboratories Complex Lahore. He took charge of the Chairman PCSIR on September 17 , 2015, no doubt a daunting task. He received his doctorate from University of Leeds, UK in 1991 and then did three Post Doctorates at Mechanical Engineering Laboratory Tsukuba, Japan. His current field of specialization is Nano Materials, Laser and Plasma Hybrid Sprayed functional coatings and bio materials. He has worked in really advanced areas of Science and Technology and contributed handsomely.
Among his contributions are the establishment of Pakistan Institute of Technology for Materials and Advanced Engineering Materials (PITMAEM), under a PSDP project of the Ministry of Science and Technology. This is indispensible for the country in order to keep the country abreast with the technological revolution taking place in the world. The institute under his supervision is contributing a lot of industrial capacity building, export enhancement, import substitution and human resource development.
Dr. Shahzad Alam has more than 100 research publications published in the journals, conferences/symposiums local and abroad and 22 technical reports. He is a co-author of three proceedings of international conferences and member of prestigious national and international societies and associations engaged for the promotion of materials science. He has supervised a number of Ph.D and M.Phil students.
Engineering CAP met up with him to get some of his candid views on various aspects of Science and Technology. Following is the result of the meeting .
EC: Tell us about your role and your induction in PCSIR?
Science and technology plays a key role in the development in any country. In Pakistan you know better, Science & Technology is not given much importance. When I joined PCSIR in 2015 the economic condition of the organization was miserable. Condition was so bad that government was thinking of dissolving this prestigious organization. When I assumed charge, it was a big challenge for me to restructure it. I did my best to change the mindset of people and making them to take ownership of the organization. We started “PCSIR continuous excellence program”, through which we developed Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s. We developed 22 indicators to check the performance of any scientist or an engineer. We even also developed the indicators to mointor the performance of chairman. We started this program at a massive scale. Right from the Chairman to lowest level, targets of each seat are clearly defined. The achievements are monitored on 90 day basis. The scientific and technological performance and financial output of the organisation increased hundred fold by this system.
EC: Tell us about PCSIR and tell what is it’s role in Research and development?
Research & development is the main function of this organization, specially R & D related to industrial problems. At this time we have more than 72 need based R & D projects. We did not have R & D funding earlier. As our financial condition improved because of excellence program. Instead of taking help form government allocated 200 million for “R & D endowment fund” by our self. Now we are catering our need based R & D projects from profit. If we look at developed world, the countries that have developed have spent huge money in R & D. In our country we have very little spending on R &D. We have state of the art testing facilities and well trained man-power. We have more than 400 tests certified with ISO 1702 certification. The report we produced is acceptable to whole world. We have set up all over the Pakistan. We have 9 major testing laboratories and research complexes and seven technical institutes as well. We believe that technical man-power is necessary for economic development. Students can also get admission in technical training after matriculation.
EC: What is the importance of youth in science and technology and how can we utilize them?
The young people, which today is almost 52% of the population is a big asset of our country, if properly utilized. Youngsters are our main strength but unfortunately we are not channelizing them. We need to give proper direction to our youth. We need to channelize the energies of youth. If youth is properly channelized, this is a force which can play important role in country’s development. Government should work on policy for youth in which guidance as well as career counseling should be provided to them. We need to move towards innovation. Youngsters should be trained in a way that they should start their own companies instead of searching for government jobs. After establishing companies youth should be facilitated to work on innovations, so that their productions could be exported. We need to develop a culture of innovations. In our syllabus innovations are totally discouraged. At the school level children should be trained in a way that they should move towards innovation, they should think of developing new things.
My schooling is from Lahore. I have done Engineering from Punjab University and completed my PHD from England. I have done three post doctorates from Japan. There are very few people in the field in which I am working. My field of interest is nanotechnology and plasma spring.
We need to develop “Science, Technology and Innovation parks”. If we look at china we will come to know that it has progressed due to focus on innovations They have established technology parks and an ecosystem for scientific development. All of their energies are focused on it. In our country it was neglected sector in the past but now the present Minister for Science & Technology and Secretary S & T are giving this sector prime importance and soon we will get good news in this regard.
EC: How Private sector can be involved in Government- Industry- Academia triangle?
I think there are three partners in sustainable industrial growth of a country. In these first one is government, second one is industry and third one is research based R & D organizations. Industrial development is achieved when this triangle works in an effective way. At this time government, industry, R & D organizations are working separately in their domains. Industry has its own issues. R & D sector has its own problems and government has its own limitations. I think for meaningful industrial development these three stake holders should sit on same table and discuss. In the success model of developed countries these three work very closely with each other. In our country this triangle is very week, we need to strengthen it.
EC: How can we get international funding for R & D sector?
First of all I want to tell you we did not receive R & D funding earlier, but this time Minister of Science and technology made great efforts to provide us this funding. This time due to these efforts we received huge R & D funding for government of Pakistan. Yes there are large number of international donors, we can dialogue with them, we can share ideas with them and convince them for funding. Efforts in this regard are on the way.
EC: How private sector can be involved in this funding?
This is good question; I think private sector works on its own interests. When their interest is not fulfilled they will not provide funding. We need to watch the interest of private sector. When they are assured that they will get return of their investment, they will definitely invest. I think there are ways to provide them incentive which can be provided to them to make them ready to invest in these research projects. Simply if government announces tax relaxation for these organizations, they will love to invest.
EC: What is Message for Engineering Cap?
I congratulate engineering cap for choosing important topic i.e Science & Technology and publishing magazine on it. You are making efforts to highlight issues related to engineering science and technology. I think this sector is very important. We need to work together, I think all the stake holders including media should sit together to find out our national requirement. We should make a think tank which should find out areas for R & D funding. After indicating areas we should go in the search of funding. We should find the appropriate donors. After finding funding we can see who can deliver it. We should facilitate donors and also should give time line to them.
EC: What are the factors behind your success?
I would like to say that it is blessing of God due to prayers of my parents. One thing I want to tell my youth is that there is no shortcut for success. If you want to get success in any field you should work with honesty and dedication.
EC: In your opinion, whereabouts is our youth lagging? Where do they need to improve?
One thing I want to say is that the concepts of our youth especially degree holders are not clear. They get admission in good institutions and get good grades but their concepts are not clear. They even don’t know the meaning of what they are speaking of. If we want to get better results from youngsters we will have to develop innovative skills in them. One thing that is missing in our country is Career Counseling, youngsters need guidance at every step of their career. We need to hire career counseling experts in our schools and institutions.