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PolyU – Advocating social responsibility

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The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

PolyU’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge fosters innovation and social responsibility

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 5:56pm

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Innovation is inseparable from entrepreneurship, and so is social responsibility. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has therefore aimed to promote entrepreneurial culture of "Do Well Do Good" spirit at its 5th Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge (GSC) competition. Other than cultivating social responsibility, the GSC helps widen students' horizons to the world and foster exchanges with overseas talent.

The GSC is PolyU’s international business plan competition conducted once every two years. It unleashes the entrepreneurship potential of the young generation by creating a unique platform for academic and cultural exchanges. It offers valuable exposure to the business community and turns ground-breaking ideas into real-world solutions.

This year, 40 teams (180 students in total) from 22 countries has come to Hong Kong to participate in the competition this week (June 24-30), including 20 university teams and 20 secondary school teams. They were rigourously chosen from more than 250 submitted applications from Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia and Europe.

During this week, students will present their business plans to the judging panel, comprised of locally and world-renowned entrepreneurs, business leaders, principals, professors and venture capitalists. After the semi-finals, the five finalists from each division will continue to optimise their proposals based on feedback from international advisors, and go for a second round of presentation to compete for the Gold, Silver, Bronze, Commendation and Best of the Best Commercial Award. Winning teams in each division will receive a trophy as well as a cash prize. Each team member will receive a certificate.

An international socially responsible entrepreneurship eco-system

“The GSC is not only a competition, but also a life-changing experience for participants who will be networking with like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors and judges,” says Professor Angelina Yuen, Vice President (Student and Global Affairs) at PolyU. “This paves the way to future co-operations, especially for young entrepreneurs looking for potential investors. In previous years, some participants secured funding with the help of judges to run their start-ups. It is simply an on-going international entrepreneurship eco-system.”

While the competition assessment is based on the innovation and creativity of a product or service, market analysis, management model and financial viability of the business plan, a major focus is put on social impact and sustainability, such as eco-friendliness and care for the needy.

“Apart from being passionate and innovative, entrepreneurs have to practice social responsibility,” says Prof. Yuen, who recalls many previous winners that have had made a significant positive impact on society, such as the bronze awardee in 2015, the National University of Singapore, who caters to the ageing population issue.

Another example is the Bangladeshi team who won the gold award in the university division in 2013 and leveraged bamboo fibres to produce eco-friendly and disposable sanitary pads, which was previously an unaffordable luxury item for local ladies. A simple idea eventually matured into a game-changing invention which not only achieved entrepreneurial success, but made the world a better place.

“We look forward to seeing more fresh ideas this year that not only do well in business, but also do good for mankind,” Prof. Yuen adds.

“We have also taken the latest technology into account. Participants are required to produce videos for online promotion of their business idea, which is almost a must for businesses nowadays. The video clip that has the most support online from each division will win the Best of the Best Commercial Award.”

Seeing a wider world in an inspiring journey

In addition to competing for these awards, the teams will have the chance to join entrepreneurial seminars to meet leaders of successful start-ups and pick the brains of international professionals throughout the week.

According to Mr Eric Lo, Associate Director, International Affairs Office of PolyU, a special highlight is the presence of Professor Hau Lee from Stanford University in the “Global Youth Leaders Summit 2017”. Prof. Lee will speak on “Creating IN and OUT Values Through Entrepreneurship Innovations”, and share how value chain innovations help entrepreneurs in developing economies grow their businesses.

Mr Lo adds that the GSC participants will also attend the Summit which will focus on social entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation and sustainable communities. “The GSC teams will be joined by other local and overseas student audiences at the summit and lectures series”, he explains. “Hundreds of aspirational young people from diverse backgrounds will come together to engage in critical dialogue, share ideas and open their eyes to different cultures and value systems.”

GSC participants are also able to get a taste of life at PolyU as they will reside in the student residence halls and receive a tour of different college facilities, accompanied by PolyU Student Ambassadors.

“The participants will visit local start-ups for a glance on everyday business operations,” says Mr Lo. “There will be cultural and heritage tours to local attractions too.”

When the GSC week in Hong Kong is over, delegates will have the choice of going to a second destination – Zhongguancun, a technology hub in Beijing, where they will be meeting business incubators and young entrepreneurs to further enhance their understanding of the business environment in the mainland.

The GSC was made possible due to the generous sponsorship from the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, which enables PolyU to provide all visiting delegates free airfare and accommodation.

Opening minds・Shaping the future

All in all, the GSC helps students strengthen their leadership and develop global competencies including self-awareness, communication, team building, embracing diversity and difference, and more, empowering young people today to start becoming leaders of tomorrow.

A celebratory activity for PolyU’s 80th anniversary, the GSC echoes the University’s anniversary theme of “Opening Minds・Shaping the Future”. It is one of PolyU’s latest initiatives to embrace internationalisation in today’s highly globalised world, which is of critical importance for building a sustainable, thriving and harmonic future for Hong Kong.

Throughout the years, PolyU has been providing pre-entrepreneurship fundamental education and seed funding for students, graduates and alumni who have an ambition to start their own businesses. As of May 31 of this year, the University has provided 50,000 hours of training to more than 400 young entrepreneurs. It also supported the establishment of more than 200 start-ups, of which over 70 percent are still maintaining operations.