World's leading technology school M.I.T to launch innovation centre in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 9:52am

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is starting an innovation centre in Hong Kong that will allow local university students to develop bright concepts with MIT students from the US.

The MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node, set to launch next summer, will feature a "makerspace" where, in its first stage, around 40 students from both sides will form groups to exchange ideas, turn the best ones into products and test them.

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The space - a version of a lab at the MIT campus in Boston - will offer training for inventors, and provide the tools and materials they need.

For example, medical devices, sensors or robotics could be developed and tested in Boston or Hong Kong. A prototype could then be sent to a small factory in Shenzhen, which would manufacture around 50 products for further testing.

"Hong Kong has a very vibrant and a very mature, successful research environment with very strong institutions," said MIT president Rafael Reif. "It has a very strong innovative environment that is growing by the day."

Charles Sodini, a professor of electrical engineering professor at MIT and faculty director of the centre, said the centre would not only allow students to develop ideas into prototypes quickly, but it enabled access to the Shenzhen ecosystem, "which is second to none in being able to take a prototype to low-volume manufacturing".

This would allow the innovators to quickly identify problems in design and hardware.

Sodini said a team of three would be in charge of searching for a site for the planned 4,000 to 5,000 sq ft centre in the next six months and make preparations for cohorts of MIT students to arrive during the summer. The students would study fast prototyping capabilities both at the centre and in Shenzhen.

Initial funding is being provided by Hong Kong-based MIT alumni and supporters. Although the institute declined to disclose the exact amount, it said the funding would be enough to get the centre up and running for several years.

The centre will be overseen by MIT and advised by a local group of MIT alumni, including Fung Group chairman Dr Victor Fung Kwok-king and Chung Mei International Holdings chairman Sebastian Man Shiu-wai.