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Universities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Polytechnic University gets HK$100 million donation from engineer Otto Poon for smart city and sustainable energy research

Chairman of ATAL Engineering Group says he is glad to have chance to contribute to his alma mater

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 9:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2018, 9:47pm

Top engineer Otto Poon Lok-to has donated HK$100 million (US$12.8 million) to Hong Kong Polytechnic University for smart city and sustainable energy research, the institution announced on Monday evening.

The gift, made under the Otto Poon Charitable Foundation, is the largest personal donation to PolyU in the past decade.

Poon, who is in his late 70s and married to Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, told the Post he was glad to have the chance to contribute to his alma mater.

“PolyU has a good foundation in smart city and renewable energy research,” he said.

The money will be used to support research in these areas and for the establishment of two research institutes – named in Poon’s honour – and two professorships.

Chan Tze-ching, chairman of the university’s governing council, said the donation would be instrumental to PolyU’s continued research in new technologies for smart city, energy sustainability and a greener Hong Kong.

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Last December, the government rolled out a smart city blueprint aimed at improving city management and people’s quality of living.

Poon is chairman of ATAL Engineering Group, which he founded in 1977. Aside from his latest donation, Poon and his companies have given more than HK$3.5 million to the university since 2000.

Awarded the Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2003, Poon has served on numerous advisory committees and was among those who nominated Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she was running in the chief executive election last year.

But the renowned engineer has also been embroiled in his fair share of controversies including an acrimonious divorce, which ended with a settlement of more than HK$766 million to his ex-wife Kay Kan Lai-kwan, about half of his then HK$1.5 billion family trust.

More recently, Poon, along with his second wife, Cheng, were revealed to have unauthorised structures in their adjacent three-storey houses at Tuen Mun’s Villa De Mer.

Poon, a former chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, later issued a statement to apologise but blamed his hectic work schedule for not seeking professional advice when he bought the house in 2012. He added he would remove or modify the illegal additions if necessary.

Back in 2000, the Li Ka Shing Foundation donated HK$100 million to PolyU to support its development in what was at the time the biggest personal contribution it had received.

The university later named an 18-storey building after Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man.

In 2010, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust donated HK$249 million to support PolyU’s Innovation Tower project and a Design Institute for Social Innovation. That is the largest single donation it has received since its establishment in 1937.

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Hong Kong’s universities have long been the recipients of generous donations.

The University of Hong Kong received its largest single donation to date, HK$1.244 billion last year, from the Jockey Club Charities Trust for a Centre for Clinical Innovation and Discovery and an Institute of Cancer Care.

Li also donated HK$1 billion to HKU back in 2005.