MIRPUR (AJK)-AJK President Sardar Masood Khan stressed a need for making collective efforts to foster innovation and entrepreneurship through higher education and industrial growth.

He expressed these views while addressing the inauguration ceremony of the Distinguished Innovations, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship (DICE) - 2017 Mega Event held at the state-run Mirpur University of Science and Technology (MUST) on Monday.

The president praised DICE, MUST, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the British Council for the their efforts in bringing together a large number of faculty members and students making innovation and entrepreneurship a part of the national DNA, helping generate wealth, self-sufficiency, and effectively making digital technologies available to the masses of Azad Kashmir.

Azad Kashmir has a vast network of educational institutions, highest overall educational score, universities focusing on cutting edge disciplines such as science, technology, business management, information technology, and women graduates entering into the market thereby making its landscape ripe for transition and a welcome sight for entrepreneurs, he said.

The president said that Azad Kashmir was the land of transformation and opportunities. He added that an economic revolution is unfolding led by transformative initiatives in road infrastructure, energy, industry, agriculture and telecommunications. He added that soon 3G and 4G technology will cover the entire territory of Azad Kashmir and in due course ground will be prepared for the next generation - 5G.

He said that in the next six to seven years, with the completion of the Neelam-Jhelum, Gulpur, Karot and Kohala hydropower projects, energy capacity is set to grow threefold from the current 1,650 MW to 4,500 MW. In 10 to 15 years, he added, Azad Kashmir will be able to increase its hydropower generation to 8,000 MW, helping meet Azad Kashmir's own industrial and household demand and enabling it to contribute an estimated surplus of 6,000 MW to Pakistan.

"The real game changer will be the Special Economic Zone to be built in Mirpur under the auspices of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This will be further buttressed by other mega CPEC projects like the Mansehra to Mirpur Expressway, and Kohala and Korat hydropower projects." said President AJK.

"Azad Kashmir has vast mineral deposits of marble, granite, phosphate, graphite, bentonite, bauxite, gold and coal, in varying quantities, along with some of the finest reserves of ruby, sapphire, topaz and tourmaline. Modern means of mineral extraction for maximum output while protecting our eco-system is our focus," he said. Through research, enterprise, use of sophisticated machinery and public-private partnerships, minerals can be extracted through modern means to gain maximum output; all the while concentrating our efforts in promoting lapidary craftsmanship promoting production of high-priced end products, he further added.

He said that in the future reliable road network and a chain of motels, theme and sports parks, and development of reservoirs, sanctuaries and historical sites will help attract and absorb the growing number of tourists coming to AJK. This, he said, will equally appeal to small and large scale local and foreign investors.

The president urged building a knowledge based economy and exploiting the full potential of Azad Kashmir owing to its high literacy rate, emphasis on higher education, trained workforce, youth bulge consisting of 60 percent of the population, availability of raw materials, and a strong and sizeable diaspora.

He urged that with various dominant sectors shaping the future markets of AJK, it is imperative to build an early interface between the curricula and skill sets of the educational institutions with the existing and emerging markets making skills taught at schools and colleges more compatible with the workplaces.

He said that innovation will not flourish without dynamic entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurs in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan, when contemplating new businesses and startups, must fully acquaint themselves with the operating environment and then try to set new trends. "Adaptation of existing technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship can move in tandem, as we forge ahead towards a modern economic system," he added.

He sai­d that the collaboration between DICE and MUST would help match skills and jobs, and reduce mismatches which have been the leading cause of unemployment in AJK.

In his welcome address, Mirpur University of Science & Technology (MUST) Vice Chancellor Dr Habibur Rehman highlighted the curricular and co-curricular activities in over 22 disciplines of science, engineering, technology, social sciences, and business administration for the dissemination of quality higher education harmonious to the need of the modern era entirely under the spirit of the high criteria set by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC).

He particularly referred to the innovative skills and spirit among the varsity students of all the disciplines being studied under the umbrella of MUST, the only public-sector world-class varsity of science and technology in Azad Jammu & Kashmir .

Dr Khurshid Qureshi, chauirman & Founder of USA-based DICE Foundation, Director HEC Dr. Arshad Ali, Dr. Waqar Aslam, Specialist of Computer System Engineering also addressed the ceremony.

DICE Chief Dr Khurshid Qureshi announced to establish DICE Tourism Centre at MUST declaring it as the strategic partner of his organisation (DICE) with prime focus to encourage and promote tourism industry in the scenic Azad Jammu & Kashmir territory.