PolyU offers courses that help bring out design skills in managers and managerial skills in creative types TWENTY years ago Hong Kong was a manufacturing centre for cheap and pirated goods. In a few years' time it will be the design hub of East Asia - at least that is what a growing number of government officials, business leaders and academics predict. For decades, Hong Kong companies - many of them small operations - prospered by manufacturing other firms' designs and specifications. As recently as 2003, 84 per cent of respondents in a survey conducted by the Trade Development Council were involved in Original Equipment Manufacturing. Stiff competitive pressures from low-cost manufacturing bases in the mainland and other emerging economies in the region in recent years forced an increasing number of Hong Kong-based companies to move up the value chain. In the same survey, 63 per cent of the manufacturers were involved in Original Design Manufacturing, which means they had at least some input in the design process of their customers' goods. Even more encouraging, 41 per cent were developing Original Brand Manufacturing, compared with just 36 per cent four years earlier. Professor Judy Tsui, dean of the Faculty of Business and director of the Graduate School of Business at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said: 'Over the past couple of years Hong Kong has been increasingly seen as the design services hub of Asia. That is why we have decided to launch an MBA with a concentration in innovation and design management.' The programme will be taught jointly by the university's Graduate School of Business and its School of Design, one of the most respected schools of its kind in the region. Comprising classes in general business and design, it will target managers and qualified professionals in decision-making and strategic management positions in the commercial and creative sectors. Eric Wear, associate head of PolyU's School of Design and MBA (IDA) co-ordinator, said: 'We see people coming from two sides. People in general management need to know more about design and designers need to know more about general management.' PolyU has been offering MBAs with concentrations in specific areas for some time. Professor Tsui said: 'We are way ahead of international trends as we have been offering these for at least five years. 'Top business schools in other countries are only beginning to do so.' All students start by taking common classes in general management. Students focusing on innovation and design management will sit next to students focusing on fashion business, financial services, information technology management and general management in their first year. They will take classes in their focus area in their second year. At least three of these subjects must be courses offered by the School of Design; the fourth can be from the common elective pool open to all MBA students. The programme ends with a common capstone, which brings all the students together again, allowing them to integrate the skills and knowledge they obtained during the programme. Taking two years of part-time study to complete, the self-financed programme comprises 13 subjects or 36 credit units. Between 40 and 45 students will be recruited for the first intake, and applications must be received by next Saturday. 'Looking at the quality candidates interviewed, they are very motivated and senior in what they do. I believe this will lead to the development of [an even stronger] MBA programme,' Professor Tsui said. Classes will start in September. An undergraduate degree in business is not required. While applicants should have had at least three years' working experience at the managerial and professional level, most who enrol in the MBA programmes have about eight years' working experience.