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Live Report: HKUST - THE Asia Universities Summit - Conference Day 1

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 9:25am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 6:05pm

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Welcome to day one of our Live Reporting from the CMA Lecture Theater, in the Cheng Yu Tung Building at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) where the two-day Asia Universities Summit is being jointly presented by the HKUST and Times Higher Education.



McDonald now answers a question about university management, and says it should be kept as flat as possible, but more importantly, to create a successful management, good channels of communication is the key.  McDonald then adds, a defining factor of his university is breaking down departmental barriers. Mathieson says at the University of Hong Kong, it is through R&D and showing what the university can do instead of trying to make money for the university that defines its culture. Pascual adds at his university, creating an open environment where students and faculty learn together makes a vibrant collaboration. Adding his observation, Hong says creating ways for students to express themselves in any way they want is an important defining point. With the clock ticking down, but with the audience certainly in no hurry to leave, Mathieson says it is time to adjourn until tomorrow morning. Please join us again tomorrow for day two of our live coverage of the Asian Universities Summit.



Touching on the topic of risk-taking and the fear of failure, McDonald says Strathclyde tries to excite students by exposing them to the possibilities of what they can achieve and the changes they can contribute to the world. Hong says it is neither wrong or correct, but in Asia, the tendency for parents to protect, want their children to be safe in their career choices and follow traditional paths, the less risk-taking mindset is apparent, but innovation is still there. From the audience, a participant says Chinese students that study in Israel usually take about six months before they open up and ask questions, but once they do, they are excellent students and enjoy their learning experience. In the Philippines, Pascual says, it is often the ethnic Chinese that are the risk-takers, usually because of necessity. He adds, that in the Philippines, where in the past it was often females that pioneered entrepreneurship, these days the country has become gender neutral.



With the greatest collection of creative experimental activity found in universities, Alfredo E. Pascual, President, University of the Philippines, says the institution acts as a seedbed for innovation. However, in the Philippines, where there is a rising trend of start-up activities, he says the various successes are not well known outside of the country. For example, a cost-effective rice/corn blend which meets a demand for nutritional needs. He says Filipino marine scientists in collaboration with US scientists to harvest sea snails that offer heath benefits and a new, fast way of detecting dengue fever. "The bottom line is the University of Philippines is getting rid the cultural, political and religious straps that hold back innovation," says Pascual.



Panel member Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde, starts by saying at Strathclyde, the university has implemented an infrastructure to go beyond the innovation rhetoric. "Every one of our students have access to entrepreneur training," says McDonald. "We have also taken a big step up to ensure that our students have international exchange opportunities so they can see innovation in other places and add to their pathway of potential," adds the principal, who co-chairs (with the first minister) the Scottish government’s Energy Advisory Board and chairs the Glasgow Economic Leadership Board and Glasgow Science Centre. "One of the biggest investments in our innovation culture is a multi-million pound investment in our etiology and innovation centre," says McDonald.



Hong says the speed and density in China in the last 10 years have been more widespread than the previous 100 years. "The exposure of young Chinese minds that come from a culture of traditional learning have more opportunities now because diversity is being offered in our universities," says Hong.

With technology institutions linked hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship, Karel Ch. A. M. Luyben, Rector Magnificus, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, says the culture at Delft University is grooming your talent to try new things, and if they fail, never to give up. Luyben then adds that Moots (online learning) have provided students with new avenues to explore. Support for entrepreneurship has also generated successful start-ups. "If you can create an open environment where students and faculty can work tighter and challenge each other, innovation will follow," says Luyben.



Peter Mathieson, President and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Hong Kong, starts by saying the myth that Hong Kong and Asian in general is not a place for innovation is not true and there are plenty of examples of innovation, which is usually driven by necessity. Mathienson gives the example of the take up of mobile payments in China, which leads the world and companies like Alibaba, which has introduced innovation in many traditional areas.

Hong Hocheng, President, National Tsing Hua University adds that innovation and culture in Asia have long worked in parallel in a need-base environment. He gives the instance of Chinese farmers and silk, dams and farming techniques. Hong says the Chinese book "The Great Learning" encourages self-learning, but there are many examples of the fear of taking risk and failing is also prevalent.



It is often said that culture determines the entrepreneurial environment, says John Gill, Editor of the Times Higher Education, who adds that it determines the innovative environment. Is that a true statement? And do cultural differences affect how a university can nurture its students towards creativity and innovation? Is there a better system or better cultural environment for producing entrepreneurs and creative talent? Chaired by Peter Mathieson, President and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Hong Kong, the president and vice-chancellor is joined by Hong Hocheng, President, National Tsing Hua University, Karel Ch. A. M. Luyben, Rector Magnificus, Delft University of Technology, Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde and Alfredo E. Pascual, President, University of the Philippines will provide insights on what drives culture and creativity and innovation.



Rothwell now takes questions from the audience. She says the notion that UK universities are not as good as some other places at commercialising innovation is probably overstated. "The UK may lag behind Singapore and Israel in commercialising ideas, but the UK is as good as most other universities in other places," says Rothwell, who adds after the recent visit by China’s President Xi during his UK trip was a highlight, but now many more international visitors want to drop into what is actually a working environment.



Rothwell says another focus for the University of Manchester, patents, copyright, trademarks, where registering patents and intellectual property has saved the institution considerable sums. Meanwhile, the Manchester Science Partnership has been hugely successful in finding opportunities for university spin-outs and collaboration with international companies that have a presence in the science park. "We also have collaborations through our faculty networks," says Rothwell. The costs of scale-up can be costly. That great saying "don’t turn great universities into second rate companies" often applies, says Rothwell.



Refreshed from lunch, introduced by John Gill, Editor of the Times Higher Education as one of the most respected university presidents in the UK, Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor, The University of Manchester, addresses the topic of "research, industrial engagement, entrepreneurship - finding the right balance". "Everything I am going to talk about is relevant to this summit," begins Rothwell. "Industrial collaboration comes in many forms and with their different challenges," says Rothwall, one of which she explains is sometimes a challenge can be a large organisation trying to understand what universities do. Rothwall refers to the discovery of Graphene and its applications in electronics, structures, membranes and solutions and how to manage multi-partnerships with international and local companies of different sizes and different objectives.



Answering an audience question about the present troubled world at large, Cause says the first place to start is within universities, where it is important to ensure there is inclusive innovation, but adds she can’t think of any universities that don’t try to innovate for public good. Answering a question about being based in an area where there are successful businesses that support universities, Cause says universities everywhere have pluses and minuses. "You look at the area around you, and see where the university can help and benefit from the business environment," says Cause.



Cause continues that universities are an incubator for start-up’s and technology transfer centres. "We would not be able to attract top faculty if we were not able to tell them we were not going to encourage technology transfer," says Cause. She says universities serve a mission more important than short-term gain, and the things that make them different from businesses because they support inclusivity and launch ideas outside the campus wall. "Wherever our universities are located, they are a source that sparks ideas," says Cause. "It’s about creating the right culture and values and taking ideas to impact," she adds.



Cause continues on the theme of diversity by saying universities provide the ecosystems for collaboration, and new insights and discoveries are found and made useful. She gives an example of two Washington University students, one from engineering and the other from aeronautical, came together to make gloves that use Bluetooth to make sign language easier for the hearing impaired. Across many areas, Cause says, University of Washington students are contributing to solving health, climate and social challenges. "To have an impact, you have to look at the areas where you can do well as a university," explains Cause, who due to the location of Washington University, close to the Bill Gates foundation, which focuses on health, health is an area where the institution has a key focus. "We are mission-driven," says Cause, who adds that Microsoft  is an important partner in the university’s Global Innovation drive which includes a soon to be launched partnership with a university in mainland China. "The relationship will be an important relationship, even though our two countries have their differences," says Cause.



With innovation going on everywhere, Cause says universities have a unique role to play in the evolution of innovation. Cause says even though innovation solutions are growing fast, new problems emerging too. While financial incentives are drivers for some innovations, Cause says the big problems that affect the poor, the disadvantaged and those whose lives are held back, universities are a vital source of innovation.  "Using innovation to address the broader range of problems facing societies, needs the positive disruptions that universities can produce," says Cause. She adds that thousands of students at the University of Washington are the first in their families to benefit from higher education, opening up new ways led by new people to use innovation to make radical changes and transform people’s lives for the better. "Universities are the most diverse places where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together to enter a new phase of human innovation, with passion," says Cause.



At Washington University, Wrighton says the infrastructure has been shaped to meet the needs of research and attract financial support. Lavie adds that having role models that students and society can identify with is also important to gain support. A different question, how to cultivate thinking skills? Muscatelli says universities need to be aware not to move into fads. For instance, problem-based learning, instead of a mixed learning approach. "The goal should be to provide students with the space to learn what they need to learn," says Muscatelli. 

Motivation is another driver of encouraging thinking skills, says Lavie. "Personally, I believe it should be about helping your home country and then the world," explains Lavie. Herrmann echoes the concept and adds when students find success and make an anchor in their own country or culture, they are better positioned to make a contribution in the wider world. "Our universities and senior faculty have the duty and responsibility to produce global citizens," says Herrmann.



A question from the audience asking how universities can gain trust from society, Kang says good role models need to be highlighted. "Within our university, we have set up clearer financing system, which can be observed." Another question about universities dealing with competition for funding, Lavie says with about 70 per cent of government funding being spent on salaries and pensions, fundraising are an important function. Muscatelli adds that tensions are emerging over funding, but if governments want to push for active innovation advancement, they must support universities in their basic R&D activities. Herrmann says communication plays a key role in raising funding and the task of a president is ensuring faculty are hired that can engage with the needs of society and basic research.



Panel member Lavie says he believes encouraging people to ask questions and explore from a young age. "In education, the fear of a student asking a question is a block," says Lavie. Professor Herrmann agrees, and points out that for young people to take risks and ask questions, it must be built into the education system from an early age. 

With a photo of KAIST on the large video screens, Kang says his university has made stringent efforts to foster public trust in the university’s ability to find solutions to high-level problems. Another challenge, says Kang, is meeting the demand of SMEs, by applying fundamental and basic research to their needs. "Through sending students on internships, they bring back the problems we can solve in the classroom, the benefits can be passed on to SMEs," notes Kang, who adds that like other Asian cultures, encouraging students to ask questions is on the rise.



Sung-Mo "Steve" Kang, President, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) says at KAIST there is a strong accent on science, technology and society. "At KAIST we place emphasis on quality instead of quantity of research and development," says Kang. Panel member Peretz Lavie, President, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology who has been at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology since 1975 says to create a cultivate innovation, a university must encourage students and faculty to take risks and accept failure. "The ability to challenge and do things outside of the normal order of things is part of the characteristics of Technion students," says Lavie. "The mission of Technion, is to serve the country," adds Lavie. In the last 20 years, Lavie says Technion students have created more than 2000 companies, creating thousands of jobs. "We implement programmes and courses that give students the chance to explore innovation with basic and practical research," says Lavie.



Panel member Wolfgang A. Herrmann, President, Technical University of Munich, talks about the engagement between the university system and industry. "In Germany, a university must not only be seen on the level of the international benchmark, but also part of society. We are not isolated," says Herrmann, who is the longest-serving president of a German university. "The spirit that shapes a university changes over time, and we have seen this with the rise of young entrepreneurs," notes Herrmann, who says German companies are aware of this and are keen to support the interaction between basic science research and engineering endevours. He reiterates that a university needs to be international in its outlook, but anchored in its home environment.



President Tan introduces the distinguished panel of five outstanding speakers and asks how universities can cultivate innovation. Panel member Anton Muscatelli, Principle and Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow, says his university has revised classes to incorporate different areas of science such as basic science and data science and quantum technology. "We are also investing in more financing to support students entrepreneurship and make sure innovation is recognised," says Muscatelli. "We are seeing an interesting time in Scotland between institutions and government and universities are playing an important role in the development," adds Muscatelli.

Fellow panel member Mark, S, Wrighton, Chancellor, Washington University in St. Louis, notes how HKUST has developed over the last 25 years and says the first chancellor attended Washington University. In the US, Wrighton, who has been a chancellor for more than two decades, says there is a trend to pass back innovation benefits as soon as possible. "We have engineers creating devices and solutions that can be used by medical practitioners being produced quicker than ever before," notes Wrighton.



In the world of higher education, with shrinking resources, universities have to balance the interests of different stakeholders. Will the pressure on being more “relevant” and delivering key performance indicators (KPIs) handicap “blue sky” research? How do universities integrate with different stakeholders in stimulating creativity and innovation of the future generation, and producing talents for global advancement? Chaired by Chorh Chuan Tan, President, National University of Singapore, he is joined on stage by Wolfgang A. Herrmann, President, Technical University of Munich, Sung-Mo Kang, president, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Peretz Lavie, President, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.



Question time and Córdova answers a question about ethics by saying everyone must be aware of the possibilities of the research they are involved in. "We need to keep the benefits of the discoveries we make at the forefront of our communications," says Córdova. Elaborating on the "NFS Includes" initiative, Córdova says the programme will address scientific challenges in communities such as the disadvantaged by engaging with leadership at the highest level and looking for ways that practices can be scaled up.

France A. Córdova, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF) of the United States (left), Dr Eden Woon, HKUST Vice-President for Institutional Advancement



Córdova, who was appointed by US President Obama, says growing convergent idea at NSF is a strategic strategy. "NFS is well positioned to foster convergence because of our connection to all fields of science," says Córdova. Another area will include mid-scale research into cyber infrastructure. In the "NFS Includes" initiative, NFS will look at connecting with people that have been left out of science, but have something to contribute. Córdova moves towards the end of her presentation by saying having spoken to leaders and scientists all over the world, today is the most exciting time for innovation. She thanks the HKUST for creating the opportunity to bring together so many university representatives and ends by saying she believes the HKUST’s next 25 years will be even more successful than the first 25 years.



Explaining how in the weeks and months ahead people will learn about new NFS funding and partnerships, Córdova says projects include data mining and human data interface. Collaboration will also include new human technology frontiers. "We will build on research and investigate how new technology can improve human life," says Córdova. The rules of life, predicting phenotype and the key questions needed to predict complex cell systems is another area that NFS will be helping scientists to investigate. In addition, partnerships will be set up to look deeper into the quantum leap and navigating the new Arctic from a biological and social perspective.



Continuing with the second keynote presentation of the morning Summit session, France A. Córdova, Director, National Science Foundation (NSF) offers insights on how the National Science Foundation focuses on both research and entrepreneurship. Córdova screens a short video showing various ways science has improved daily life. Only NSF dedicated to supporting all science and engineering fields with a US$7.5 billion budget provided by the government. "A lot of our research support is for curiosity-based ideas and we never stop pushing the frontiers of science," says Córdova. She says the NFS also provides support for small business technology transfer. "We take great pride at NFS in supporting programmes and partnerships and continue to expand our support to innovate," says Córdova, who elaborates by saying NFS partners with organisations all over the world including projects in Antarctica.



Answering an audience question about recruitment of students, Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), says as a small education facility about 30 per cent of students are looking at basic science with a high percentage interested in computer science. "We see more interest in understanding how to commercialise ideas, but not at the expense of four years of science learning," says Rosenbaum.

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, President, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (left), Dr Eden Woon, HKUST Vice-President for Institutional Advancement



An expert in the quantum mechanical nature of materials, he previously conducted research at Bell Laboratories and at IBM Watson Research Center, Rosenbaum says Caltech has developed networks across the world to further scientific research. However, Caltech, like most other universities, need to be selective about the projects it focuses on. "We are all looking to mould great scientists, but we are also striving to shape people who will be citizens of the world, who believe that big ideas can make a difference," says Rosenbaum. "I invite you all to continue with this pursuit of knowledge," he adds, ending his presentation.



Yang notes Hong Kong’s investment into R&D and says because most of Hong Kong’s businesses are SMEs, they often lack the resources to invest in R&D. On the other hand, Yang says Hong Kong has people strengths and is able to attract businesses and the trust of the world as an international finance centre. Yang highlights how MIT is setting up a presence in Hong Kong. He adds that by the year’s end he is sure Hong Kong will see a Unicorn (A high-value start-up company) in Hong Kong. Furthermore, Yang says Hong Kong is the super connector between mainland China and the world. "Hong Kong will continue to collaborate and focus on our strengths and advantages by re-tooling our people and creating a culture to sustain our environment," says Yang, who adds the government will look to academia to help create and produce new industries and a robust technology culture. 



Nicholas W. Yang, secretary for Innovation and Technology, Hong Kong SAR Government, who is the first secretary of Hong Kong’s newly established innovation and technology bureau in November 2015, begins his opening remarks by saying it is amazing what HKUST has achieved in the last 25 years. He then remarks on the amount of brain power gathered at the Summit. Yang then talks about the fast moving world of change and gives an example that 50 per cent of today’s S&P500 will have left the index within the next 15 years. "Just think about the emergence of Alibaba," he suggests. Yang then moves on to the subject of people. In an aging population such as Hong Kong is experiencing, Yang says it is important that Fintech and mobile technology is investigated to see how they can help an aging population. "The Hong Kong Government is determined to follow the path of innovation and technology," says Yang, who stresses that technology is not just about driving an economy and revenues, it is also a force for good. Yang offers a short history of Hong Kong explaining how it has been through several transitions to become the service economy Hong Kong is known for today. However, he says technology is causing disruption and Hong Kong needs to change again.



To begin our busy and exciting day of presentations by high-profile keynote speakers, presenters, and panel members, Professor Tony F. Chan, HKUST president, offers his welcoming remarks and comments as part of the HKUST’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the university is proud to host so many honoured guests. "Hong Kong where the Summit is convened is a unique combination of advantages, infrastructure, bilingual and rule of law that attracts people and businesses," Chan says the theme of the Summit; innovation is particularly relevant in the Asia area where there are young people and evolving economies. He says the HKUST is already doing this through the collective efforts of faculty and staff and managed to gain a global reputation in just 25 years.



Phil Baty, editor of Times Education Rankings, says he has never seen such an exciting line–up of senior university leaders. Baty says the more than 250 delegates from more than 20 countries will have rewarding time learning from each other at the HKUST, which he describes as the epicenter of an area where exciting things are happening. He adds that HKUST is a wonderful example of what can be achieved in 25 years.



Over the next two days some 30 university presidents from 15 countries and cities from around the globe will provide expert insights on a number of key issues including various challenges facing higher education and research. In addition to presidents of the top universities, other luminaries who will be speaking at the summit include Nicholas W Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the Hong Kong SAR Government; Wei Yang, President of the National Natural Science Foundation of China; France A Córdova, Director of National Science Foundation of the United States; and Chuanzhi Liu, Chairman of the Board of Legend Holdings Corporation and Founder of Lenovo Group Limited.

Considered a rare event to have so many distinguished university presidents gathered in one place, there is certain to be many interesting and exciting insights and observations covering a broad range of university-related topics, so please keep logging in to our live reporting to discover how universities exchange different views and learn from each other.