PolyU – THE Innovation & Impact Summit

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Live Report: PolyU – THE Innovation & Impact Summit - Conference Day 1

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 9:53am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 12:04pm

[Sponsored article] Welcome to the first morning of the two-day inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation & Impact Summit, at Hotel ICON, co-hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and THE. Featuring keynote speeches and a series of thought-provoking panel discussions under the theme of "Powering Universities' Economic and Social Impact through Innovative Research and Teaching, the summit is a key celebratory event of PolyU's 80th anniversary.

World-class speakers include high-profile innovators, entrepreneurs and policy-makers including Charles Chen, Founder of the Yidan Prize and Core Founder of Tencent Holdings Limited; Hermann Hauser, Co-Founder of Amadeus Capital Partners; Candace Johnson, Founder/Co-Founder SES, Loral-Teleport Europe, Europe Online, VATM, GTWN, OWNSAT, Success Europe; Greg Simon, Former Executive Director, White House Cancer Moonshot Task Force and Nicholas Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, HKSAR government. Other influential higher education figures to address the Summit include leaders of renowned institutions from Australia, England, Finland, France, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Spain, the United States.



As we come to the end of the first day of what has been an insightful, knowledge-sharing and inspiring conference, John Gill, Editor, Times Higher Education summarises the presentations and panel discussions with the view that happiness and doing things that benefit society is an important measure of achievement.

Agreeing with the observation, Timothy W. Tong, President, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University says a key goal of PolyU is to help students be productive contributors to society. "This is part of a university's role to help people to be problem solvers," says Tong, bringing to an end the first day of the summit.   

Please join us again tomorrow for the second day of the inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation & Impact Summit, co-hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and THE for what promises to be another day of fascinating insights, keynote speeches and a series of thought-provoking panel discussions.



On the topic of climate change, Johnson says satellites are helping to give scientists the tools to develop solutions. In the future, Johnson expects to see more collaboration between man and machines. Johnson then adds entrepreneurs can be nurtured, but one of the challenges that universities face, is receiving students too late. "It's like playing the piano, the earlier you start the better," says Johnson. "You need to learn to think based on your intuition, be inspired and not afraid to look at things in a different way," she adds before revealing she goes into hibernation before every satellite launch.

Meanwhile, Johnson says while the US education supports entrepreneurship, Asia, with its strong work ethic, parents that work hard to give their children a good start in life and the appreciation that hard work generates results, Asia is a fertile environment for entrepreneurs. However, Johnson says entrepreneurs need to have a deep knowledge of the business they are moving into. "You have to believe completely in what you are trying to achieve, and take personal responsibility," says Johnson at the end of the Q&A session.



Johnson reveals she believes a key attribute of being a successful entrepreneur involves solution oriented thinking. She also advises the need for strength should not be underestimated. "You need the strength to guide projects through the tough times," says Johnson, who is a classically trained musician who holds five different degrees in music. Using the example of Skype, Johnson explains why any entrepreneurial endeavour needs to have a purpose. The creators of Skype thought people would appreciate being able to make free phone calls," says Johnson. Offering another tip, Johnson says budding entrepreneurs should avoid negativity. "Don't be put off by negativity," says Johnson. "When your mind, heart and gut come together, you know the feeling is right," reveals Johnson. She says this conviction was a driver that helped to set up her first satellite system in Luxenberg in the 1980s. "Our system was used to connect East and West when the Berlin wall came down at the end of the 1980s," says Johnson.



With the topic of entrepreneurship often spoken about in Hong Kong as well as elsewhere, Candace Johnson, Founder/Co-Founder, SES, Loral-Teleport Europe, Europe Online, VATM, GTWN, OWNSAT and Success Europe, looks at some of the fundamentals that define and drive entrepreneurship. For example, the way universities not only play a vital training and incubation role for ambitious young people, they are also in a position of being able to introduce diversity and new ways of thinking.

As a serial entrepreneur, Johnson says enjoys happy days, something that happens when change has occurred for the good. As the founder of one of the world's satellite companies, Johnson is happy that space exploration is also being celebrated again. "All of this fuels inspiration, which entrepreneurs need," says Johnson. "It is good being here today and seeing so many academics that also inspire to inspire others," notes Johnson who advises that budding entrepreneurs should think big. "If you achieve a small part of your dream, it is still worth a lot," says Johnson who notes that achieving entrepreneurial dream possibilities have widened because of technology. However, she says she doesn’t start a project without examining whether or not the project has social value.



Asked when an AI machine is likely to win a major award for innovation, Hauser says the answer to a difficult question is the consensus of the AI community is by 2050, an AI machine could surpass human capabilities in some areas. Hauser says Blockchain and Fintech also have the capacity to disrupt more than just financial sectors. "Smart contracts through using Blockchain open up a range of new possibilities," says Hauser at the end of his presentation.



Hauser says while humans often wish they have eyes in the back of their head, self-driving cars are able to do just that. "When you look at humans and driving, raising the benchmark is not too hard," says Hauser who explains that cameras and radar on self-driving cars track more than 200 points in a 360 degree sweep. 

Hauser adds that improvements are being made at a rapid pace."We now have speech recognition and facial recognition that performs better than can be achieved by humans." Hauser says Google DeepMind winning the AlphaGo competition is another example of how intellect machines can demonstrate intuition. "It was quite an extraordinary event," notes Hauser. On the power and promise of machine learning, the scientist turned entrepreneur says the latest Royal Society Report offers a lot of readable insights.



Recognised for his ability to translate science into business, Hermann Hauser, Co-Founder, Amadeus Capital Partners tackles the hot topic of intelligent machines. "Intelligent machines have the capacity to disrupt in a ways that are not always immediately appreciated," says Dr Hauser co-founded Amadeus Capital Partners in 1997 and went on to co-found high-tech companies including Acorn Computers and Cambridge Network. Hauser explains that intelligent machines vary widely, with equally wide applications. "As new chips are produced we are going to see even more applications," says Hauser.



Indu Shahani, Founding Dean, Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship (ISME) says in India the government is focusing funding on universities that deliver innovation impact, which is driving the direction of innovation research. "One of the things that we have done is to use the whole country as a lab, where our young people are closely in touch with the challenges," says Shahani. "Social innovation is a powerful tool as a motivator," adds Shahani.

The panel agrees that leadership needs to drive motivation among faculty. "It is not an easy task, but if you can create a platform which excites professors in different departments, it is a good start," says Wai, who use a PolyU railway project involving different departments as an example. On the same topic, Arimoto says it is important to define clarity and objectives which can fuel collaboration, but still maintain an environment where basic research can be conducted.

Feigin notes there is generally more willingness among young faculty to collaborate, especially when an objective is defined. He says measuring outcomes is another way leaders can drive innovation collaboration. Wai says students that graduate with a social conscious that contribute to human capital should not be overlooked as a return on investment in education. "This is another part of university leadership," says Wai.



Describing himself as a very happy repeat visitor to the PolyU and the Hotel Icon, Paul Feigin, Assistant to the President for Strategic Projects, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology says for higher education to make an impact it needs funding. To conduct research and educate students costs money," says Feigin who says measuring the outcome of education is also important to gauge returns. "You can measure student satisfaction while they are at university is important, but measuring the impact of graduates on the economy ten years after they graduate is probably more helpful," suggests Feigin. "The main impact on economies comes from our graduates," he adds. The vision of universities leaders can attract the faculty and students that make the differences. Feigin also cautions that universities should not be just service providers to industry.  "There is still a need for 'blue sky' research and the ability to support innovation that looks ahead for the next ten or twenty years," says Feigin.

The panel now debate if there are too many expectations placed on professors and universities to deliver innovation breakthroughs. Arimoto says the goal is to strike a balance. "We need a combination of public-private collaboration but we need to be realistic and protect the idea that research may not have an immediate impact," says Arimoto.



Explaining in the coming years how India will need to provide higher education to 700 million young people, Indu Shahani, Founding Dean, Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship (ISME) says leadership with vision and commitment in education is vital to develop job creators. "If you look around the world by twenty-twenty, many countries will have a shortfall of human resources, but India will have a surplus of human resources," notes Shahani. "The question is, can we educate and train our people to do the jobs required?" she adds that classrooms of the future in India need people incubators of entrepreneurial learning. Shahani also advocates a student learning model where students play a major role in developing their own education.

Tateo Arimoto, Director, Science Technology and Innovation Programme, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan begins his introduction with an overview of the traditional Japanese university model saying the model is changing. "The Japanese university community have been thinking how to remain relevant in a changing world," Arimoto this involves creating new programmes, which include design thinking, ethics and socially orientated topics while incorporating physics, chemistry and other traditional programmes that have been a cornerstone of Japanese academic and industry strengths.



Following a morning of inspiring and insightful keynote presentations and a panel discussion, the two-day inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation & Impact Summit, at Hotel ICON, co-hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and THE resumes after lunch with another panel discussion focusing on "models of strategic leadership: turning ideas into impact". Panel members include John Gill, Editor, Times Higher Education, Tateo Arimoto, Director, Science Technology and Innovation Programme, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Japan, Paul Feigin, Assistant to the President for Strategic Projects, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Indu Shahani, Founding Dean, Indian School of Management and Entrepreneurship (ISME) and Alexander Wai Ping-kong, Vice-President (Research and Development), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Outlining how PolyU conducts research Alexander Wai Ping-kong, Vice-President (Research and Development), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University says focus is on research that benefits mankind. "The key point is how to turn an idea into actions," Wai says at the PolyU this involves inter-department collaboration. Wai says inter-department communication is also crucial. Elaborating further, Wai says collaboration has led involvement in space programmes and breakthroughs in textiles and medical solutions. "The PolyU is involved with the Chinese space programme to go to the moon," says Wai. "By working with strategic partners is very important to us," explains Wai.



Lu wraps up his keynote presentation with a summary of partnerships between the University of Surrey and various industry collaborators and moves onto a Q&A session. Like Charles Chen, Founder of Tencent Holding, Lu believes there is potential for the new Bay area incorporating Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen. "There is the critical mass of universities to provide the talent and support and all the fundamentals are in the right places," says Lu, who also adds there is a need to expand the concept of taking risk. On the topic of start-ups, Lu says talent is fundamental to success, but having people involved that understand the business risks is equally fundamental to success. Lu follows up on his insight by making the observation the start-up environment in Hong Kong and Asia is far more dynamic than in Australia and the UK. Concluding his comments before the lunchbreak, Lu again stresses the importance of people relationships. "We may live in a digital age, but business and innovation is still about people," notes Lu.



While acknowledging there can be cultural difference, Lu says a desire to create solutions to problems creates synergies between universities and the business community. "Sometimes industries look at the benefits of the talent pipeline universities provide them with, but through good communication and collaboration, academia can solve a lot of industry problems," notes Lu, who makes the point there is never enough communication. He also highlights that often university websites complicate the way they communicate their research. "I am not sure we always do a good job of relating the possible impact our research can achieve," adds Lu, who cautions the measurement of impact should not be overlooked. "It is easier to measure economic impact, but often more difficult to measure the impact on society," says Lu, who stresses that partnership between universities and industry should be founded on clear objectives and the benefits each party can provide to each other, without overlooking the people element.



With the audience refreshed after a short break for tea and coffee, Max Lu, President and Vice-Chancellor, the University of Surrey continues the morning session by offering his insights on the role of universities in leading innovation impact through multilateral partnerships. He begins by saying he believes a practice-based curriculum and real world experience, as advocated by the University of Surrey, is a stepping stone to generating meaningful innovation. "Giving students the confidence to try new things, create new knowledge and enabling them to contribute to society is a fundamental role of a university," says Lu, who joined the University of Surrey in April 2016, having previously been Provost and Senior Vice-President at the University of Queensland, where he was recognised as one of Australia’s Top 100 Most Influential Engineers. Lu says while striving for excellence, it must be supported by depth, which includes resources and focusing on areas to create excellence. "A university can't be expected to cover all areas," says Lu, giving the example of a Space Science Partnership established by the University of Surrey, which involved Elon Musk. He uses another example of a partnership with Surrey Health Foundation that has made important breakthroughs in treating and working with people affected by dementia. "These are important ways our university can make a difference through joining strategic partnerships," says Lu.



The panel discussion continues with panel moderator Phil Baty, Editorial Director, Global Rankings, Time Higher Education asks how do universities make a difference to the world's biggest problems, from war to famine and topics that threaten the essence of humanity?

Anna Mauranen, Vice-Rector, the University of Helsinki explains the need for inter-discipline collaboration between specialisations within universities and outside. She gives an example of a bridge built in Finland that was not used by the public because of queuing problems. "What was missed was the study of human behaviour," notes Mauranen.

Guaning Su, President Emeritus, Nanyang Technological University explains how funding at his university encourages inter-discipline collaboration. He gives the example of studying water quality and conservation used in rice farming needing experts from different areas to work on the solution. "We have converted large classrooms to smaller rooms which encourages small group discussions," Su says. "Faculty also needs to get used to this arrangement."

Answering a question about liberal arts education, Peter Mathieson, President, the University of Hong Kong says a swing in Hong Kong towards liberal arts education is geared towards producing students with a global view. "Technology is helping to provide the level of engagement that mirrors models in the US, which have small classes and large teaching faculty. "The digital age helps students to teach themselves," adds Mathieson.



Anna Mauranen, Vice-Rector, the University of Helsinki begins her presentation by highlighting how universities can solve some of the world's important challenges. "Essentially, we have to reach out to others around the world while supporting the engagement of students to solve problems," says Mauranen, who outlines how the Helsinki Challenge, organised by the University of Helsinki, invites all of Finland's universities to contribute to solving topics ranging from food safety to environmental challenges. "Most of the problems are not divorced from the need for multi-knowledge and multi-understanding," says Mauranen, who is a past president of FINSSE, The Finnish Society for the Study of English. "Not all solutions to problems are welcomed because they can impact different areas of society," explains Mauranen, who uses the example of  the impact of robotics. She then explains the Helsinki Challenge differs from a science challenge because it involves all areas of society. "Participants work with mentors to define solution's impact and a roadmap to it," says Mauranen.



Peter Mathieson, President, the University of Hong Kong says the old ways of universities doing things are not enough. "Universities are not always the primary source of education any longer, but universities do need to show students how to use the information they acquire to maximise their potential," notes Mathieson, who says a large section of society is questioning the role of universities. To remain relevant, Mathieson says it is important for universities to find ways to devise new ways of doing things. "Asia is the home of innovation, but we need to involve students more active role in their own education and the pursuit of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit," says Mathieson, who says this can be easier said than done, because failure, a trait close to entrepreneurship, is generally not part of the culture. An advocate of students gaining experience outside of their comfort zone, Mathieson says by going overseas students learn from their experiences, which can be a prized asset.



In his introduction, Guaning Su, President Emeritus, Nanyang Technological University says the Hotel Icon is the living example of PolyU applying knowledge and technology for the wider benefit of the community. "I have stayed here several times and it is just like coming home," says Su before swiftly moving on to the role universities can play finding solutions to the impact of natural disasters and climate change. Su outlines how his university conducts research on tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and climate change. "Humanity has become like big babies crashing around breaking things, which we see through climate change," says Su, who has received many awards including the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, awarded by the President of France. Su reveals how Nanyang Technological University research has been monitoring earthquake zones around Indonesia and Myanmar. He also reveals a fault line between the Philippines and Taiwan could potentially cause a tsunami that could affect the south side of Hong Kong.



Revealing more details about founding the Yiden Prize, Chen says setting up the award has enabled him to visit a lot of schools and higher education institutions in Europe and the US. "It is clear that resources are being allocated to educational systems that fit the cultures of different countries, but there are benefits of exchanging findings from different business models," notes Chen. Asked if the the Bay area of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau could eclipse the famous US Bay area, Chen replies the US Bay area has a well-established eco-system integrating universities and the business community. Meanwhile, he says the new Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macau Bay area could develop in a similar way, but it will take time. "If we coverage and integrate education and manufacturing activities with Hong Kong's finance and international connectivity, a lot could happen in the next ten to twenty years," Chen says. "This would not be a duplication of the US Bay area, but something new and to get there, we need to work hard and seriously," says Chen.



Chen now explains why he sponsors the Yiden Prize to recognise the importance of knowledge, innovation and education development. "It is more than a prize, it is to mobilise a global platform to address some of the world's biggest needs," says Chen who reveals the winner of the prize will be announced in Hong Kong at the end of the year.

In a Q&A with Timothy W. Tong, President, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), Chen is asked about the concept of innovation matched with the traditional Chinese way of thinking. Speaking in Cantonese through an interpreter, Chen says traditional values can help to strengthen innovation, but there is the need to have an open mind and the traditional Chinese education system does pose some challenges.  Chen then adds exchanges between East and West, often made possible through technology, is helping to change mind-sets.



Chen highlights how technology is reshaping how education is delivered. For example, online videos of experts from various fields delivering basic to specialist education. "Our Tencent platform is used for more than sending messages," Chen says in China, Tencent's platform is used for facilitating paperless e-learning. "Students can read books, ask academics questions and improve their knowledge," says Chen, who adds he uses the platform to exchange ideas and asks questions to anyone anywhere in the world. "I am curious where innovation can take us next?" Chen says as technology continues to disrupt many traditional forms to learning. He now moves on to how jobs around the world are forecast to be replaced by robots or artificial intelligence. However, Chen says technology can produce new jobs. "Technology may replace some jobs, but the key is to stay relevant to the job market, which is where education has its part to play," notes Chen, who adds today's education may not prepare today's youth for the jobs of the future. Continuing, Chen says the much talked about STEM education may not be enough. "We have to ensure there are enough jobs for STEM students, by taking a golden opportunity to harness technology possibilities and the transformative power to match the needs and capabilities," says Chen.



While pointing out he is not an educator, Charles Chen, Yiden Prize, and Core Founder, Tencent Holding Limited says he recognises the importance of education and supports education. "Real innovation elevates lives and improves humanity," says Chen, who features on the Forbes list of top charitable givers. He says the impact of early education on children cannot be underrated. Chen now explains how innovation can take place anywhere and gives the example of Bhutan, where the National Happiness register is incorporated in education to boost innovation. Describing his own upbringing in Shenzhen, Chen says he has seen the area shift from the World's Factory producing low-end products to become China's Silicon Valley. "As part of the new Big Bay area, incorporating Hong Kong, the Shenzhen, the area has great potential," says Chen, whose We-chat, he says, has gone from a simple app to be a tool used every day by millions to order movie tickets, make appointments or even book holidays. "Because of innovation, lives have been hugely improved," says Chen.



Timothy W. Tong, President, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) delivers his welcoming remarks by pointing out the role of universities no longer exists in a vacuum, but as a powerhouse of knowledge and innovation, turns discoveries into practical use. "This is what PolyU has been doing for many years," Tong says the PolyU is among 55 universities recognised as "technology challengers", universities that are making a difference to society through turning ideas into beneficial impact. Tong now explains how service learning is mandatory for PolyU students to give them a strong sense of social responsibility. "When they are pursuing personal success, they must also have a heart for the community," says Tong. "We are pleased that students do just that," he says.



Nicholas Yang, Hong Kong Government, Secretary for Innovation and Technology outlines how the government has been working to give Hong Kong a competitive advantage through investment and support of technology development. He says Hong Kong is ranked as the world's most competitive economy in 2017, and one of the world's fastest growing start-up hubs. "Hong Kong is the super connector with China and the rest of the world, not only in the finance sector, but also in technology and other areas," Yang says. Among top government priorities is encouraging Hong Kong's young people to pursue a career in technology related industry. "Hong Kong's universities have a major role to play in this goal," says Yang. To support universities, Yang says the government is providing research grants. He adds the government also provides finance and support for the commercialisation of new technologies. "Hong Kong is always ready to rise up to challenges and shape the future," says Yang.



Phil Baty, Editorial Director, Global Rankings, Time Higher Education begins his welcoming remarks at the inaugural Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation & Impact Summit, co-hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and THE by saying universities have been involved in the majority of world changing discoveries. "Incidentally, the contribution that universities make to ground-breaking discoveries, they receive modest funding," says Baty, who adds that universities make contributions to society every day. "PolyU is an outstanding example of this," says the THE editorial director. Baty now introduces Nicholas Yang, Hong Kong Government, Secretary for Innovation and Technology.