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HK universities pin development hopes on GBA
Date:2018-03-16 Readers:

Deeper cross-boundary cooperation key to turning bay area into world's leading inno-tech center

Prominent scientists and prestigious universities in Hong Kong are looking to the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area project as a driver of deeper cross-boundary cooperation in various sectors, particularly innovation and technology.

Executive Vice-President and Provost of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Shyy Wei told China Daily the university has for a long time been committed to the GBA, considering the project's potential in innovation and technology.

Currently a rising star among the world's well-known higher-education institutions, HKUST is in close talks with Guangzhou authorities to set up a branch in the city.

Shyy has a clear vision for the branch inside the bay area. He said the new branch should complement the Hong Kong campus by focusing on things that can't be done, or are difficult to complete, in Hong Kong.

Good cooperation between the new campus and Hong Kong's mirrors that between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, Shyy said, switching to scientific terminology in saying the cooperation should create chemical (irreversible) reactions, rather than temporary physical reactions.

Synergy between the Hong Kong campus and Guangzhou campus is vital, "otherwise, we will be just expanding our campus by adding more space", he added.

Shyy envisioned that the new campus will focus on manufacturing engineering, where Hong Kong currently falls short, to complete the innovation cycle, which begins when an idea is conceived and continues with upstream research and development processes.

In September last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a world-renowned tech education giant, set up its first offshore innovation node in Hong Kong, hoping to leverage Hong Kong's proximity to Shenzhen and unique geographic advantage in the GBA.

In noting this, Shyy - who is also the chair professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at HKUST - said world-renowned institutions sent students to Hong Kong to equip them with the latest developments in the bay area, fearing they would lose their competitive edges in development if they failed to understand or participate in the area.

This demand is Hong Kong's strong suit and the city is sitting in the bay area, there is no reason to stand by, Shyy said.

The bay area's potential to become Asia or even the world's leader in terms of innovation and technology has attracted not only world renowned institutions but also talents such as Tim Cheng, who gave up his more than 30-year career in the United States and joined the university two years ago as the dean of engineering at HKUST.

Economic impetus

"Without doubt, the bay area will become a major economic impetus to the world's development of innovation and technology in 10 years," Cheng stressed.

Describing the creation of the GBA as an opportunity that "fell from the sky", Cheng said it is a good chance for Hong Kong to make its structural reforms and move from a service-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.

Cheng, who will retire in 15 years, said the world's innovation and technology focus has shifted inevitably from North America to Asia over the decades. The bay area is where he would like to spend the final stages in his career, Cheng added.

The veteran scientist in artificial intelligence and electronic engineering said his two-year experience in Hong Kong proved that his choice of coming to the bay area is a smart and wise one. The future arena for talents in innovation and technology sectors is here inside the GBA, whose high-tech manufacturing ecosystem already shines in the world, Cheng said.

Apart from the engineering sector, Chan Wai-yee, professor and director of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believed Hong Kong will miss out a lot if it failed to join the nation in its development, especially in research and development.


Despite having abundant talents and upstream of R&D, Hong Kong would have to partner with the mainland for resources, funding and policy development if it wishes to stay competitive, Chan added.

Despite the obvious potential in the GBA, the city's scientists have long been frustrated by policy barriers that hold back further and deeper integration. On top of the list is the restriction of R&D funding granted by the nation.

Earlier, the restriction to only use funds on the mainland was relaxed gradually after proposals were made over the years. But only Hong Kong partners of the State Key Laboratories benefit from that exception. There are still constraints on other-level labs, Chan said.

He also noted that samples of human cells and blood are not allowed to be shipped to Hong Kong, which greatly hinders the industry's integration with the nation's development. That is because the mainland has a bigger pool of samples, which is valuable in terms of genetic research, the veteran biomedical scientist noted.

Deepening cooperation

The Hong Kong Baptist University will also make forays into the bay area, particularly with an attempt to deepen cross-boundary cooperation in its strong suit - traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.

"The university will make full use of its cooperation with the Beijing Normal University - the United International College in Zhuhai - to achieve their bay area objectives in the pipeline," President of HKBU Roland Chin Tai-hong told China Daily in a gathering with the city's press. The United International College is the first full-scale cooperation in higher education between the mainland and Hong Kong, where graduates are awarded degrees by the HKBU.

With the existing platform, HKBU will have "a series of plans" in the bay area.

Chin did not elaborate much on future plans, but TCM, one of the university's most prominent fields, may become the first to make the move.

With Hong Kong's world-renowned quality control system and the bay area's massive market, Hong Kong's TCM products will have better prospects in the nation's top development strategy, said Bian Zhaoxiang, associate vice-president on Chinese medicine development at HKBU.

Meanwhile, as the GBA blueprint gains higher international status and is expected to form a synergy with the global Belt and Road Initiative, the TCM's internationalization should have a major push, Bian said.

source:http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/hkedition/2018-03/17/content_35867341.htm

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