PolyU – Advocating social responsibility

Brought to you by:

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

PolyU sparkles innovation and entrepreneurship through Global Student Challenge 2017

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 5:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 5:29pm

[Sponsored article] Presenting in-depth details about a new product or service backed by a viable business plan is never an easy proposition, even for seasoned business owners. However, this is what teams of budding entrepreneurs from universities and secondary schools around the world achieved at The 5th Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge (GSC) 2017.

The bi-annual event received over 250 applications from different schools around the world. A shortlist of 40 teams, 20 from universities and 20 from secondary schools, comprising 150 contestants from 22 countries and territories, were selected and sponsored to take part in the semi-final and final of GSC that took place in the last week of June in Hong Kong.


International participation with a wide range of topics

Coordinated over two days, the teams made their presentations before judges from not only Hong Kong, but places all over the world, including Brazil, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, the USA, and the Mainland. Each team was given 15 minutes to present their proposals, followed by 15 minutes of detailed questioning from the judges. The judging panels, consisted of business executives, university professors, experienced entrepreneurs, and angel and venture capitalists, then picked the winners by assessing the innovation and creativity of the product or service, market analysis, management model, financial viability and social impact and sustainability of the proposed schemes. Final results were announced at a Gala Dinner to round up the event.

Professor Angelina Yuen, PolyU Vice President (Student and Global Affairs), said the GSC provides a unique platform for international academic, cultural and professional exchange.  "The fact that we have so many applications is an indication the GSC is well-received,” she said. “Students are eager to attend an event where they have the opportunity to interact and be empowered by others, and develop ideas that benefit the society." In addition, the GSC offers a valuable opportunity to receive constructive feedback from experienced judges that help turn ideas into real-world products and services.

Since its launch in 2009, Prof. Yuen has noticed a sizeable increase in the sophistication of the proposals, and, overall, a greater number of innovative ideas with the potential to impact the society. She attributed this to the growing international reputation of the GSC as a high-profile showcase for social enterprise entrepreneurship, and its ability to attract high-quality applications.

"When we first launched the GSC, many of the proposals were often prototype products or preliminary ideas,” Prof. Yuen said. “But these days, we see more sophisticated proposals that incorporate new technologies such as artificial intelligence." She added that growing awareness regarding social and environmental issues is driving more innovative ideas that incorporate social and environmental elements.


Opening Minds・Shaping the Future

Gold Award winner for the University Division this year, team Poriborton from the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, impressed judges with their affordable water filter made of bio-adsorbent materials such as corn cobs and rice husk ash. The filter effectively reduces the levels of arsenic-contaminated water; something which affects an estimated 20 million poverty-stricken people in Bangladesh.

In the Secondary School Division, Gold Award winner, team WebEd from Shanghai American School - Puxi & American International School of Guangzhou, gained the judges’ attention with an online platform initiative that, for a small subscription fee, allows middle school students to receive lessons from top university students in the Mainland by utilizing digital platforms such as WeChat, Baidu Cloud and Webinar education.

The 40 teams were also required to produce a video commercial each to promote their business ideas online. That was to take into account the latest direction of utilizing online publicity for businesses. Eventually, the teams from Bandung Institute of Technology (Indonesia) and Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Chemistry and Biology, Karaganda (Kazakhstan) won the Best of the Best Commercial Award in the University and Secondary School Divisions respectively.

Yagmur Guner, a Grade 11 student at the Gazi University Foundation Private Science High School, Ankara, Turkey, said participating in the GSC was "like exploring the cultures of the world." Guner said her team, had been able to exchange ideas with fellow participants and gained useful comments from the judges. Meanwhile, Team WISE from Pakistan whose presentation focused on a real-time soil and water irrigation monitoring system said being evaluated by judges with extensive business and technical backgrounds had made the team better prepared for launching their product in future.


Learning to serve and serving to learn

Prof. Yuen said the event is a good example of PolyU's effort and commitment to promote its motto of "to learn and to apply, for the benefit of mankind". She cited the example of the PolyU Micro Fund which has awarded HK$120,000 to eligible student projects, a lot of which are currently under operation. That demonstrated PolyU’s projects are viable, workable, and pragmatic and benefit society.

PolyU concurrently organised the event, "Global Youth Leaders Summit 2017: Let's Make the World a Better Place", in the same week in Hong Kong. The social enterprise-themed summit brought together 360 student leaders around the world to share ideas and find solutions to some of the world’s pressing challenges. "The goal is to enable students to develop cross-border working relationships, so together, they can help to make the world a better place," explained Prof. Yuen.

In addition, PolyU recently launched a guiding model for its international youth leadership development programmes, SERVE which stands for Social responsibility, Excellence, Reflection, Vision and Ethics. With SERVE as the backbone, PolyU organises various programmes with an objective to nurturing teenagers to be the future leaders with critical thinking and global vision, who are also ethical and socially responsible.


Advancing University Social Responsibility on all fronts

Another initiative designed to advance higher education as a catalyst for social betterment is the formation of the University Social Responsibility Network (USR Network), a coalition involving 14 renowned universities from around the world that commit to foster USR in a global scale. "The USR Network functions as a global platform for the exchange of ideas and resources, and promoting social reasonability in the communities where the universities are located," said Prof. Yuen.


PolyU was the first local university to introduce Service-Learning as a compulsory credit-bearing subject when the new four-year curriculum was implemented in 2012. Prof. Yuen said Service-Learning is targeted at providing students with exposure to complex social issues and the opportunity to apply their knowledge to improve the quality of life of the less fortunate.


"By fostering awareness and a ‘Do Well Do Good’ entrepreneurial culture in PolyU, and then the wider community, we aim to encourage our young people to be the future innovators, who feel a responsibility to help the society," said Prof. Yuen.