Bridging education and innovation: The entrepreneurship journey of the Education University of Hong Kong
We would like to warmly welcome our new Initiator member, The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), who are dedicated to the advancement of learning and teaching. We sat down with Lemon Kwan (Head, Knowledge Transfer) to see how the university is working to connect education with entrepreneurship.
What are some of your goals when it comes to engaging with external stakeholders?
Lemon: Over the next few years, we want to make use of knowledge transfer as a tool to enhance our ties between the research in the university and technology and innovation. Knowledge transfer is the bridge between the university and the outside world; we leverage both internal and external resources and we present opportunities to both internal and external parties to create collaborations between the two. We focus on partnerships that bring us something that we do not have internally, so our key partners tend to be technology start-ups from sister universities as well as expert service providers. We are also working to set up an office space at the science park called CEAR, so our research teams can work there alongside the start-ups.
We also want to introduce the concept of commercialisation to the researchers at our university. Currently, our researchers are resistant to the term commercialisation as they see it as a contradiction to their primarily educational goal.
Nowadays, rather than placing emphasis on the dollar sign, we place emphasis on the impact and the social value that our researchers are creating.
Do you have any success stories that you could share with the community?
Lemon: We have increased the operating budget of our unit by 10x in five years, with our internal support and funding from external sources such as business and government.
One of our focuses over the next two years is entrepreneurship development. We are a relatively young institute, but we have comprehensive support for entrepreneurship development. In 2018, we launched our seed fund programme, EASE, to provide support and funding for students, alumni and researchers to start their own business. And we do not solely focus on entrepreneurship training and education, but also coaching students to be practical. The funding that we provide to students is conditional on the fact that they must register and operate a real business.
Over the past four or five years, we have trained over 100 start-ups, of which we have funded 20%. This is a great victory for a small university like us.
Additionally, last year we launched our student training programme, INVESTED. The programme lasts one year and equips students with basic knowledge in finance, business operation and pitching skills as well as including a mentorship programme. Again, the programme is practical. Students do not only attend a course but go out and talk with people in business. They also take part in competitions where they present their business case and compete with other start-ups in Hong Kong and Asian cities. It is still early days, the programme only started last September, but already we are seeing a mindset shift in our students.
Typically, students who take education as a major go on to be teachers in Hong Kong. But we are seeing many teaching majors taking our Sifan entrepreneurship programme. This is meaningful for society in Hong Kong. Traditionally, we totally rely on schools for education. But schools cannot do everything; they need to rely on the education services industry to provide engagement programmes, extracurricular activities, training opportunities. Our entrepreneurship programmes help to develop this industry in the city and ultimately help enhance education in Hong Kong and the surrounding region.
What have been the main challenges that you have faced and how have you overcome them?
Lemon: The biggest challenge is overcoming resistance from faculty members. We have found some approaches to overcome this. We have instated some incentives for our faculty members to get involved in these activities, for example, if researchers do something related to commercialisation, they can receive funding to support their work. We also provide advice to our faculty on how they can turn their research into applications, and we use success stories from the university to showcase how researchers have successfully and inspiringly commercialised their research. It has taken us two years, but we have started to persuade some of our faculty members of the benefits of university-industry collaboration and got them involved with the process.
What were your motivations to join the UIIN community?
Lemon: Our university is relatively young and small. We have built recognition in Hong Kong, but we felt it was time to build recognition and promote the image of our university in more international networks. We are also excited to be part of a diverse network like the UIIN community and to learn about how different universities across the world are doing tech transfer and entrepreneurship; talking with universities that share similar challenges is extremely beneficial to us. UIIN seems like a good place to make this happen.
If you would like to know more about the Education University of Hong Kong, you can contact Lemon Kwan via email.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our podcast episode Fostering the entrepreneurial mindset and student entrepreneurship in higher education.
Lauren Kroemer-Pope (interviewer) is the Outreach and Partnerships Specialist at UIIN.
Tasha Day (editor) is a Project officer at UIIN, where she undertakes research activities and creates content on a wide variety of topics including entrepreneurship education, sustainability and research valorisation.