HKUST (GZ) President Prof. Lionel M. Ni: Empower Talent Cultivation and Youth Development with Integration and Innovation


On the afternoon of July 7, 2022, Prof. Lionel M. Ni, President of HKUST(GZ), attended the “Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Return to the Motherland and the Inaugural Conference of the Hong Kong Alumni Association of Beijing Universities” and the “Innovation Empowerment, Shared Prosperity” International High-level Forum.


Prof. Lionel M. Ni delivered a keynote speech titled “high-level innovative talent is the major force for the innovative development of Hong Kong in the new era”. The following is the full text of his speech:


Distinguished leaders

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Good afternoon!


At the time of the national rejoicing in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, I feel extraordinarily honored and grateful to be invited to speak at the “Innovation Empowerment, Shared Prosperity” International High-level Forum. First of all, on behalf of all HKUST(GZ) staff members and students, I would like to wish the Conference great success. I also want to extend warm congratulations on the establishment of the Hong Kong Alumni Association of Beijing Universities and express sincere thanks to the Central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government for their long-term support for HKUST and HKUST(GZ).


“When Hong Kong is good, the nation will be good; when the nation is good, Hong Kong will be better”. Looking back, the investment of Hong Kong compatriots in Mainland after reform and opening-up has created economic prosperity in Hong Kong while facilitating the national economic take-off. The world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. As an educator, how to guide the new generation of youth to see, learn and understand the true world and make contributions to the welfare of humanity has always been the subject of my thought. With this subject in mind, I have made several attempts in the higher education sector in Hong Kong, Macao, and other domestic and overseas regions. During the process, I have been acutely aware of the national resolve to promote innovation and reform and personally witnessed the fast-changing connected development of Hong Kong, Macao and Great Bay AreaGBA.


I am so honored to play a part and lead the whole progress from preparation to formal establishment of HKUST(GZ). This journey has disrupted my original recognition and enabled me to find like-minded partners. I am ready to pour my strength into the great undertaking of “New Hong Kong, New Start, and New Development” with an inspiring spirit, open mind and innovative thinking. Taking this stage, I would like to share with you the story of HKUST(GZ) and thus some insights into the cultivation of Hong Kong youth.


The establishment of HKUST(GZ) is a fruitful result of the cooperative development of higher education in GBA. From its official preparation in 2019 to its formal establishment, the unswerving national support for the integration of Hong Kong higher education into national development deeply inspired me and a wide range of HKUST professors. On June 30, 2022, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to the Hong Kong Science Park (HKSP), which charts a new course for Hong Kong to build itself as a global high ground of scientific and technological innovation.


Entering the 14th Five-year period, the Ministry of Science and Technology has rolled out more supportive policy packages to support the participation of high-level research institutions in Hong Kong in the planning and layout of major platforms such as national laboratories. The authority also encourages Hong Kong experts to be selected into the National Science and Technology Expert Database and the Award Assessment Expert Database and Hong Kong university teachers to accept appointments in Mainland universities, with restrictions on declaring Mainland research projects liberalized. These initiatives have brought valuable resources and impetus for the integration of Hong Kong’s higher education sector into national development.


The HKSAR Government will also “enhance the overall scientific research ecology circle” and strengthen the competitiveness in science and innovation as one of the four core policies. Universities and scientific institutions of Hong Kong in GBA should be mobilized to build large scientific platforms of GBA. Great support should be provided to local youth in their learning and employment as well as the development of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises. These endeavors, together with the respect, encouragement and support of institutions at all levels in Mainland for “innovation” and talent I feel have injected courage into HKUST(GZ) to break the long-held educational paradigm and step outside the comfort zone with the help of institutional innovation.


At HKUST(GZ), innovation is not merely a slogan but represents a series of innovative initiatives and measures launched in response to the separation of the industry and education community as well as problems in the scientific cooperation between the Mainland and Hong Kong, Macao. Put in simple terms, the innovation origin of HKUST(GZ) is rooted in cross-discipline, inter-discipline, integration and reshaping.


The first innovation of HKUST(GZ) is the “Unified HKUST, Complementary Campuses” educational philosophy and framework. In terms of the educational philosophy, HKUST and HKUST(GZ) share the same brand, culture and DNA of “excellence-driven, continuous innovation and can-do spirit”, maintain the same academic standards and seamlessly collaborate in teaching, research, and knowledge transfer. At the framework front, in response to major challenges faced by the world and humanity as a whole, HKUST(GZ) adopts a brand-new and cross-disciplinary academic structure featuring “Hub” and “Thrust” to substitute the conventional one characterized by “college” and “department”, facilitating cross-disciplinary integration while vigorously developing emerging and frontier disciplines. This is a groundbreaking move in the higher education community across the globe and will definitely provide new thinking on the paradigm innovation of higher education.


Multiple sequence recruitment and development paths of teachers sat HKUST(GZ) will also contribute to new approaches for teaching force construction and professional development. The diversified development paths available at the campus, ranging from teaching and research to serving as an engineer, enable teachers to give their best. For example, Su Quanke, former Chief Engineer of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Authority, who joined our Intelligent Transportation Thrust, is committed to collaborative systemic solutions for intelligent transportation problems in collaboration with a group of teaching and research staff in data communication, sensing, automatic control, and psychology. HKUST(GZ) additionally sets up a thematic research center and adopts unified management so that faculty members from different research areas can be convened to work in the same experimental team. Even the faculty member’ offices are no longer arranged according to the traditional groups of colleges and departments. We hope that professors in the Intelligent Manufacturing Thrust and their counterparts in the FinTech Thrust can generate a sparkle of wisdom.


As for talent cultivation, HKUST(GZ) adopts trailblazing teaching ideas that center on students. The conventional course design and teaching appraisal with characteristics of assembly lines have been substituted with a module-based “course market”, in which students are free to choose different learning paths according to their interests. Teachers and students jointly record the teaching effect by tracking the students’ course selection record and personal development, so the students are empowered to independently design personalized courses. Through “flipped classroom”, “project-based teaching”, “immersive teaching” and “group learning”, teachers can reshape their roles from traditional lecturers to coaches and mentors. In this way, teachers can help students find their targeted learning purposes and goals, develop their just-in-time learning abilities, and identify their future career development directions as early as possible.


Moreover, HKUST boasts a noble innovation tradition and has nurtured a batch of outstanding enterprises, such as Da-Jiang Innovations (DJI), Shenzhen Unity-Drive Innovation Technology Co., Ltd. (UDI), and Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology Ltd. (Yunzhou). In 2021, nine of the 18 Hong Kong unicorns were from HKUST. By leveraging Nansha’s location advantage in the geometric center of GBA and its mature manufacturing legacy, HKUST(GZ) will take the opportunity of comprehensive cooperation between Nansha and Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to focus on the transformation of laboratory knowledge into products. HKUST(GZ) connects Hong Kong’s upstream advantages in basic scientific research and relies on Hong Kong’s downstream expertise in financial and legal professional services, so as to build the full science and innovation chain of synergistic development between Nansha and Hong Kong, thus driving the construction of Hong Kong as an international science and innovation center.


At this very moment, the melody of “Below the Lion Rock” sung by Roman Tam is echoing in my mind: “Given that we are on the same boat, we can all help each other beneath the Lion Rock and leave our differences behind”. Over the past three years, more than 350 top talents from all over the world have come to Nansha with the same vision as mine to form the HKUST(GZ) team which increasingly expands as time evolves. We firmly believe that there will be countless excellent young intelligence from here flood to GBA and the world at large.


Taking this opportunity, on behalf of all HKUST(GZ) staff members and students, I welcome and sincerely invite all of you to Nansha for communication and guidance. I hope that with solidarity and fortitude, we can jointly create a new era of prosperity in Hong Kong. Thank you!


Hong Kong Alumni Association of Beijing Universities, established in Hong Kong, is a group organization that unites alumni associations of Beijing universities in Hong Kong and compromises outstanding alumni representatives of Beijing universities in Hong Kong. The organization aims to give full play of centralized resource advantages of Beijing in politics, economy, culture, technology and education, build platforms for learning and exchanges of universities and members both in Beijing and Hong Kong, and unite Hong Kong elite talent with a broad vision and excellent overall quality. It also eyes economic and trade cooperation between Beijing and Hong Kong, serves and supports the career development of alumni of Beijing universities in Hong Kong, and enhances their effluence in politics, economy, technology, culture and other areas. It is committed to playing a unique role in integrating Hong Kong into national development and making unique contributions to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

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