Remarks at the MOU Signing for Science and Technology

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, Islamabad | February 4, 2016

(As Prepared for Delivery)

It is an honor to join you today to launch this new chapter in the American-Pakistani partnership in science and technology.

Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training, Engineer Muhammad Baligh Ur Rehman, thank you for taking the time to join us today. Professor Doctor Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, thank you for organizing this event and inviting me to mark this occasion.

Eight months ago, American officials sat down with many of the leaders gathered here today for the inaugural meeting of the Education, Science, and Technology Working Group. The objective was twofold. First, to renew our joint commitment to education and science. Second, to plot a path to greater economic development and improved standard of living for all Pakistanis.

The agreement we sign today is a big step on that path. Since 2005, we have jointly funded over 3.56 billion rupees worth of scientist-led research projects at more than 40 different institutes and universities in both America and Pakistan. Together, we are sponsoring timely research, building connections among our scientists, and strengthening the capacity of Pakistani research institutions to support industry competitiveness.

We are honored to have in the audience with us today a number of recipients of the latest phase of grants funded by this program. These scientists, engineers, and students are looking at ways to improve water sanitation, increase crop production, reduce and treat disease, and strengthen civic institutions through technological advances. The value of research conducted through this initiative is evident to all of you.

In the most recent round of grants, there is one project on drug-resistant pathogens which will help influence how patients in hospitals in the United States and Pakistan are treated. Another on groundwater pollution will help develop products to purify water, potentially bringing potable drinking water to thousands of communities across the world. Yet another project will research how cloud computing can be used to manage government processes. It has the potential to simplify bureaucracy and promote more transparency and accountability in government.

These projects represent more than research for research’s sake—they represent essential efforts to improve lives and increase economic development. Every country, regardless of its size, resources, or economic objectives, now understands the role science and innovation play in the global marketplace and in economic competitiveness; and every country, in order to secure its place in the global marketplace, must explore avenues of collaboration that will spur new ideas and build capacity in its science and technology sector. Research and development are the backbone of economic development, and these projects are necessary investments in both our countries’ economic future.

In fact, we are doubling this program with additional funding from the Higher Education Commission, the U.S. Department of State, and USAID. Together, we are committing nearly nine hundred fifty million rupees to this program, with its track record of success. The increase demonstrates the high value we place on investments in science and technology.

These activities also fit into a broader agenda. Last October, President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif agreed in Washington to work together to advance the objectives of the Global Health Security Agenda and the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and USAID are now working together with the government of Pakistan to enhance Pakistan’s capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious diseases. The applied research that comes from this next phase of science and technology grants will help us achieve this goal.

We know many of the challenges that face us all do not stop at borders and cannot be solved by a single nation working in isolation. Climate change, water management, energy generation, food security, and disease outbreaks are only a few of the issues that require international collaboration and the free exchange of ideas. I am confident this collaborative program will continue to generate solutions to these challenges for both our countries.

Thank you.