Installation Speech

The Honorable Council Chair Mr Andrew Liao, Court Chair Dr John Chan, Members of Council and Court, Distinguished Guests, Students, Parents, Colleagues, Friends, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am deeply honored and excited to be here today, the highlight of an exhilarating journey that began almost 30 years ago.
I joined HKUST as a junior faculty member in 1993, only two years after its founding. Back then, HKUST was a small institution, barely known within Hong Kong and virtually unknown outside. Normally, one is drawn to an established and prestigious university to build a career, but HKUST presented the opportunity to contribute on a vastly different scale. The University had been established with a clear mission ─ to be Hong Kong’s first research-intensive university, with a future-oriented pedagogy, to nurture generations of talent to drive and support Hong Kong’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy. I was incredibly intrigued by the opportunity to be a part of the research, technology, and innovation movement in my hometown.
The early years, while demanding and challenging, were equally exciting and invigorating. The HKUST community essentially became an extended family. While still building our own credibility as educators and researchers, we worked long and hard to lay the groundwork for future research and education excellence. Inspired to action, I gravitated towards administrative leadership. Over the next three decades, I went on to serve in different capacities, gaining keen insights into university administration along the way. At the same time, I have had the privilege to work with incredible leaders and mentors ─ including all four of our former presidents, as well as our past and current Council chairs. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my most sincere thanks to our founders and previous leaders for their stewardship and dedication in establishing such strong foundations to build upon. Thank you also to our talented community, past and present, for your unremitting efforts in building a world class university from the ground up.
In the short span of 31 years, HKUST has developed into a globally recognized and vibrant academic and research institution. Our faculty include academicians and world-class scholars nurtured within the University. And we have cultivated a campus-wide entrepreneurial culture and a strong network consisting of local, regional, and international partners. However, building excellence on our three pillars ─ education, research, and knowledge transfer ─ is an ongoing endeavor. During my tenure, my goal is to strengthen the University’s position as an academic, research, and innovation powerhouse by widening our talent base, empowering our community, and fostering collaboration and innovation across campus, thus paving the groundwork for HKUST to become the most innovative university in Asia.
I believe the key determinants of innovation are people and culture ─ the two areas that I am most passionate about. People are at the heart of our success, and to attract and retain world class talent, we need a vibrant environment where everyone can excel. My immediate priority is to foster a highly inclusive and collaborative culture where our students, faculty, and staff are empowered to share ideas, communicate openly, and work together. Stronger engagement will also cultivate a sense of belonging and ownership among our community and build trust. With the right talent and culture, we will be well positioned to spark innovation, affect change, and drive the University’s advancement.
To develop truly impactful innovations that address societal needs, however, we must instill a deep understanding of humanity and human values. Advancing the humanities on campus to nurture empathy and compassion among our community is therefore vital. This joint emphasis on innovation and humanities, while distinguishing us from our peers, has a larger purpose ─ to extend a humanism mindset beyond our campus. When faculty and staff move on and students graduate, not only will they bring knowledge, skills and a strong network to their companies and communities, but also the wisdom to engage in work that has a beneficial impact on society.
Since its inception, HKUST has been at the vanguard of innovation.  We were the first university in Hong Kong to emphasize entrepreneurship across campus, and our efforts to establish a strong foundation for entrepreneurial education, training, and support are now reaping tremendous benefits. To date, we have more than 1,600 active startups and 9 unicorns, with 7 IPOs in Hong Kong. I believe there are many more to come as long as we continue to nurture our creativity and can-do spirit, and inspire each other to take greater risks in research and education to drive innovation. We must also strengthen the innovation pipeline from discovery to market and make our research breakthrough more accessible to the community.
Innovation is important for making our mark as a global research university. In an increasingly complex world, we must take a leadership role in enacting positive change. This requires strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration to develop innovative game-changing and people-oriented solutions to pressing global issues such as aging population, pandemics, and the climate crisis. To help address these grand challenges, we need to partner with renowned international institutions and forge deeper levels of engagement and mutually beneficial collaborations with government, industry, and other areas of society.
Earlier this year, we opened HKUST(Guangzhou), expanding our reach in the Greater Bay Area and signifying a new stage of development. HKUST(Guangzhou) complements the strengths of our existing Clear Water Bay campus and brings our vision of higher education, international outlook, and signature world class programs to the Mainland. The new campus also brings exceptional opportunities to the entire HKUST community. This new synergistic platform will strengthen our integration and engagement in the Greater Bay Area. We will be well positioned to pioneer cross-disciplinary solutions to address global challenges and bring our education, research, knowledge transfer, and entrepreneurial endeavors to a new level.
Thirty-one years ago, HKUST was just a fledgling university. Today, it is a vibrant and flourishing center of activity, where individuals from multiple backgrounds are collaborating to expand frontiers of knowledge, nurture future leaders and innovators, and create new ideas and innovations, to advance humanity. I am honored to have witnessed HKUST’s amazing growth, proud to have contributed to it, and am now incredibly excited to work with the entire HKUST community to steer the University to a higher level of excellence. I will dedicate all my efforts to ensure that the flame of innovation continues to burn bright at our university, and to build a harmonious and collaborative community where everyone can achieve and exceed their potential. By embracing the HKUST spirit and culture, together we can take the University to new horizons of excellence.

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