Admittedly, Research and Development (R&D) in Bangladesh is a much neglected sector of the economy. A look at the poor condition of research, especially, at the universities or at the different government-run research facilities is enough to make the point clear. This is also evident from the government's budgetary allocation with R&D comprising only 0.01 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) at TK 1.53 billion. No wonder that our rating on the Global Knowledge Index-2020 has been dismal (112th among 138 nations). But at a time when we are in the process of transition to a middle-income economy, it is expected that we present a better image of ourselves before the world community. What is important to note at this point is that emphasis on R&D does not mean that we have to be on a par with the advanced nations in the area of fundamental research in various fields. On the contrary, our focus should be more on such researches as would benefit our industries directly by way of making them more productive and efficient through innovations so they can compete on the global stage. The only way to achieve that goal is to invest more in R&D. And it is not only the government that should increase its budgetary allocations for research in the academia, the private sector including affluent people should also come forward to finance academic as well as non-academic researches and innovative activities at various levels.
On this score, the government would do well to provide tax incentives to businesses and individuals willing to support R&D activities. This would help promote the required linkage of the academia with the industry as well as create the desired R&D ecosystem in the economy. All these issues came under the spotlight afresh at a recent virtual discussion event in the city attended by business leaders, educationists, government leaders and experts in relevant disciplines. The creation of a sustainable and commercially viable R&D ecosystem as desired is inextricably linked to the kind of curricula being followed in the academia to award degrees at the graduate and post-graduate levels. Unfortunately, such degree-holders find it hard to land jobs compatible with their specialisation. Clearly, this is indicative of a mismatch between the demand and supply of skilled manpower in the job market. This lacuna has to be addressed and that would require restructuring the existing curricula followed in our present education system so that those are geared to developing the skilled manpower that the industries would like to hire. It has been observed that many local industries, most of them being first generation ones, often hire experts, or mid-level managers from abroad to train their employees or even run offices. Needless to say, the shortage of skilled personnel at home compels these companies to go for such costly alternatives. But when 38.6 per cent of the graduates at home are unemployed and, worse, 2.0 million new entrants are joining the country's 63.5 million-strong job market annually, we should work fast to develop our own manpower to replace the foreigners in our industries. The government for its part should formulate a policy to reform the education system to make it skills-oriented and pro-industry. In fact, an education system that is supportive of the industry is also helpful for research and development to flourish.