HKUST launches plan to attract 30 of best and brightest from around world to Hong Kong for research programmes designed to benefit society

2023-02-09 10:17:27 DianjiangHK 18
  • New ‘30 for 30’ programme launches on HKUST’s 30th anniversary and will focus on six cutting edge sectors

  • Royalty reforms will also give inventors a bigger slice of the earnings from commercialisation of university research

A Hong Kong university has launched a global hunt for 30 leading academics to drive innovation in the city with 30 major research projects designed to have maximum social impact.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s (HKUST) “30 for 30” talent acquisition campaign, set up to coincide with its 30th anniversary, will focus on six areas – biomedicine, material science and future energy, artificial intelligence, fintech, green technology and art technology – its president Nancy Ip Yuk-yu on Tuesday said.

“We are not just hunting for all varieties of talent. We are hoping to attract those who will help us lead the development in areas that we are focusing on,” she said.

HKUST also highlighted a royalty reform that gives inventors a bigger share of the earnings from commercialisation of inventions.

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Nancy Ip, the president of HKUST, which has announced a global drive to recruit the best and brightest for research projects. Photo: Edmond So

The university introduced exemptions from late last year on the payment of royalties on HKUST patents to companies until they become profitable.

The university, known for innovation and support for start-ups, said it wanted to attract top academic talent for positions from associate professors up.

The 30 projects were designed to be exploratory, create an impact and tackle social problems.

Tim Cheng Kwang-Ting, HKUST’s vice-president for research and development, said the selection of the projects had entered the final stages.

He added the university would also look for external funding, including from the government’s HK$10 billion (US$1.27 billion) “Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One‑plus Scheme”.

The talent drive was launched in the wake of a 10 per cent staff loss at HKUST in the last academic year.

But Ip said the turnover was a natural phenomenon and that she was confident talent would be attracted by the university’s culture and levels of support.

Cheng also announced that the inventors of patents filed by HKUST would get 70 per cent of royalties earned from commercialisation, increased from the previous rates of 10 to 50 per cent.

“The reason is simple – to encourage innovations. Innovators should earn what they deserve,” Cheng said.

He explained that the royalties waiver was a good incentive for firms to take on the commercialisation of HKUST research.

“The success of entrepreneurs is tied with the success of the university. If they aren’t successful, we should not collect a fee,” Cheng said.

An HKUST report said the university had filed 328 patents and granted 218 patents in the year ended on June 30, 2022 and generated HK$9.8 million (US$1.2 million) from intellectual property rights over the same period.

The moves came amid a government’s effort to reverse a brain drain faced by the city.

The city launched the Top Talent scheme last December, open to individuals who have earned HK$2.5 million (US$318,472) or more over the past 12 months and to graduates from the world’s top 100 universities who have been working for three of the past five years.

Charles Ng Wang-wai, dean of HKUST’s graduate school, said the government should provide more support to attract postgraduate students to Hong Kong because long-term investment in talent could bear fruit in the future.

“Students nurtured by us have loyalty, which isn’t necessarily possessed by those we hunt from elsewhere,” Ng said.

He highlighted that international students who had finished postgraduate studies could continue to benefit the city for years to come.

Ng said his presidency of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, which ended last year, was secured through liaison with one of his former students.

There are 2,799 postgraduate students at HKUST this year, up 32 per cent on five years ago.

Source: South China Morning Post