Two-day startups pitching competition under ‘Innovator Seed Fund (ISF)’ programme Tuesday kicked off at the Higher Education Commission (HEC), where collectively around 65 startups would pitch their innovative business ideas in front of the jury comprising a variety of industry and business experts. Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the key objectives of HEC and various grants are being offered aimed at accelerating the socio-economic development of the country. Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed graced the occasion as chief guest at the opening ceremony. While addressing the audience, Dr Mukhtar said that it was heartening to see startup-centered events like ISF frequently happening in Pakistan from HEC’s platform. He congratulated all the competitors for their efforts to do something extraordinary and beyond their comfort zones to bring some positive change in society. Dr Mukhtar continued by saying that youth must take advantage of such opportunities and find innovative solutions to the problems surrounding them. “Keeping in view the current situation of the job market of Pakistan, it is incumbent upon youth to be job providers instead of job seekers,” he added. ISF, an initiative under Higher Education Development in Pakistan Program provides a package of support and seed funding to early-stage startups through HEC-recognized Business Incubation Centers (BICs) at universities. ISF had initially received 205 concept notes against the available funding slots. The received concept notes were from different thematic areas including Agriculture, Transportation, Logistics, Housing, E-commerce, Digital Media, Construction, Food Resources etc. Out of total received concept notes, 175 were shortlisted and were given pitching training. Furthermore, 65 startups were shortlisted for today’s pitching competition before the final award ceremony for 30 winner startups scheduled for September 1, 2023, at Pak-China Center, Islamabad. The grant winners will receive up to Rs. 10m (equivalent to $35,000) in seed funding in addition to support through BICs in the form of entrepreneurial training, legal training and support, financial education, business development service provision, and investment readiness training. Last year 15 ISF projects were awarded while this year 30 ISF projects will be awarded in various key thematic areas ranging from Education EdTech, Creative & Digital Media Arts to Sustainable Development, Energy & Climate and Health-tech and E-commerce.