Showcasing PolyU’s research innovations
Delegates attending the inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation & Impact Summit, co-hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and THE, were able to see first-hand how PolyU's research and teaching have helped improve the everyday lives of people in Hong Kong, the mainland, Asia and the wider world.
More than 100 leading higher education professionals, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and policy-makers from around the world participated in a series of workshops focusing on PolyU’s research innovations in four niche areas, namely, space, aviation and railway; sustainable urban development; human-centered innovation; and hospitality. The workshops were held ahead of the two-day summit which was staged under the theme of “Powering Universities Economic and Social Impact through Innovative Research and Teaching.” The summit was a key celebratory event of PolyU's 80th anniversary.
At the Human-centered innovation Workshop, using healthcare as an example, Professor Maurice Yap, dean of PolyU’s Faculty of Health and Social Sciences explained to delegates how different departments combine their inter-disciplinary skills and knowledge to solve problems and provide solutions. For instance, Yap said the Faculty worked with engineers to ensure Hong Kong's new children's hospital located at the old airport in Kai Tak would be as children-friendly as possible.
"Throughout PolyU's 80-year existence, first as a Technical College and Polytechnic and since being awarded full university status in 1994, it has always been in our DNA to conduct research and be involved in projects that benefit the Hong Kong community," said Yap. For example, he said that by combining the efforts and expertise of engineering, information technology, life sciences, medicine, and social science, the university is conducting new research targeting healthy, active ageing and social well-being.
Since design processes in a social context touches many different areas, Professor Cees de Bont, dean of PolyU’s School of Design also emphasised the importance PolyU places on cross-disciplinary collaboration and partnership cooperation with the wider Hong Kong community. "We go out into the Hong Kong community and work with a range of stakeholders to ensure we design with, rather than design for," de Bont said. He explained to delegates that design solutions are far more likely to be welcomed and accepted by the end-user, such as the elderly, less-well-off and the disadvantaged, when they are involved in the design process.
Delegates also witnessed a number of award-winning, healthcare related ground-breaking projects innovated by PolyU professors and researchers. For example, with scoliosis, an abnormal S- or C-shaped sideways curvature of the spine affecting two to four per cent of children in Hong Kong, repeated x-ray examinations to monitor their condition put young patients at risk of developing cancer.
However, imaging systems using 3D ultrasound technology developed by professor Yong-Ping Zheng of the Interdisciplinary Division of Biomedical Engineering, along with his PolyU colleagues found a radiation-free alternative. "This system could not have been developed without collaboration" said Zheng. The system is being used in a number of hospitals for trials and research, and has already obtained 20 patents.
In another example of collaboration, delegates learned how PolyU’s Department of Building and Real Estate partnered with the Institute of Textiles and Clothing and the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong under the Vocational Training Council. Together, they produce an innovative new type of clothing for construction workers that speed up sweat evaporation and help to reduce heat stress. Considered cool, dry and comfortable without impeding work performance, the fabric technology used to make the uniform, which received 85 per cent support from workers, has been licensed to the Hong Kong Construction Industry Council for HK$1.00.
Designed by professor Cecilia Li-Tsang at the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, workshop participants saw how her "Smart Scar-Care" pad can be used to treat scars from burns, surgery and trauma more effectively than traditional pressure pads. The innovative design won the Grand Award and Gold Medal with the Congratulations of Jury at the 45th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, 2017.
With short-sightedness or myopia assuming epidemic proportions in South East Asia over the past few decades, showcasing a breakthrough in optometry, researchers from PolyU's School of Optometry explained to delegates how they developed a multi-zone bifocal soft contact lens which slows down the rate of myopia and could possibly stop it altogether.
Clinical trials have shown the new lens to be effective in bringing down myopia progression by about 50 per cent among Hong Kong school children aged 8 to 13. The technology has been patented in Australia, mainland China, the US and various European countries and won the Grand Prize and a Special Gold Medal at the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva.
Delegates also got the chance to view cutting-edge prototypes produced by the PolyU Asian Ergonomics Lab, based on the first-ever digital database of Asian head and face sizes. The database enables designers to make consumer products that properly fit Asian body sizes, while also allowing international brands to develop Asian-fit products for the booming Asian consumer market.
Meanwhile, Xiao Ming Tao, Chair Professor of the Institute of Textiles and Clothing explained how her research work on intelligent fibrous materials, nanotechnology, photonic fibres and fabrics are transferred to a wide range of applications including the health sector.
"By building nano structures inside fibres made into interactive smart textiles worn by the users, it is possible to accurately measure various health conditions or physical performance," said Tao, who is recognised by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the top one per cent most cited materials scientists in the world. She also explained how Nu-Torque Singles Ring Yarn Technology, which produces ring-spun yarn with higher strength and softness, has been licensed to textile manufacturers and adopted by popular clothing retailers across the world. More than 500,000 units have been installed to date.
From monkey-proof waste bins used in Hong Kong's country parks to the revitalisation of streets and public areas to solutions that help people with visual and physical disabilities move independently around the city, Prof Michael Siu, leader of the PolyU Public Design Lab explained to delegates how the university works closely with various government departments to solve challenges through innovative design.