"University Forum" makes a grand debut in the Year of the Dragon, with Professor Wei SHYY delivering a highly anticipated keynote speech!

At the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, the "University Forum" at HKUST(GZ) once again welcomes a prominent guest: Professor Wei SHYY. Professor Wei SHYY is the retired fourth President of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Emeritus Professor of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as the Chief Scientist and Chief Strategy Officer of the Hong Kong Satellite Manufacturing Center.

The forum attracted enthusiastic participation from all the students and faculty members of the University. The venue was packed to the rafters and the aisles and connecting corridors were filled with enthusiastic students and faculty members. Prof. Lionel M. NI, President of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou), presided over the forum and introduced to the audience Prof. Wei SHYY's great contribution to the birth of HKUST(GZ), and was also full of anticipation for today's speeches. Prof. Shaobing QU, Secretary of the party committee, Prof. Jingshen WU, Vice-President (Teaching & Learning), Dr. Bin LI, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Office of the President, Prof. Kaishun WU, Associate Vice-President (Research), Prof. Weijia WEN, Dean of the Function Hub, Prof. Lei CHEN, Dean of the Information Hub, Prof. Ricky Shi-Wei LEE, Dean of the Systems Hub, Prof. Quanke SU, Chief Engineer, Ms. Guimei LI, Director of Office of Administrative Resources, and a number of Thrust heads and professors were all present to participate in the lecture.

The theme of Prof. Wei SHYY's speech is "Lower, Slower, Smaller & Smarter - Our Age of Tipping Points".

Prof. SHYY pointed out that universities have always played an active and important role in promoting scientific and technological development and driving economic growth. The Ideas generated by universities, including intellectual and scientific breakthroughs, can be employed by businesses, the governments and all citizens.

In recent years, however, the positive role of higher education in promoting economic development has diminished significantly. In practice, however, the great expansion of higher education has coincided with a productivity slowdown. This suggests that it is not enough to create "useful ideas", but that they need to be rapidly absorbed by firms and converted into innovations and practices.

Therefore, modern universities need to reclaim their mission and responsibility to address evolving human needs, growing emphasis on entrepreneurship and active industrial collaboration. It is particularly important that "we must not only enjoy benefits of science & technology but also address its impact on us as human being".

Prof. Wei SHYY talked about the global status quo, where human life expectancy is increasing, aging is serious, and wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. How to support the disadvantaged is a critical issue. Against the backdrop of technological progress, we need to think deeply about whether the rapid development of technology, such as artificial intelligence, can provide a boost to support the disadvantaged.

Sustainability is also an important topic of concern in the process of technological development and economic growth. Along with tremendous new inventions, great progress is being made in renewable energy & alternative technology. HKUST and HKUST(GZ) advocate and practice the concept of "Living Labs", which aims to promote interdisciplinary research to generate more effective and sustainable solutions.

Prof. Wei SHYY also introduced the development and application of new technologies in various fields, such as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and drones, and at the same time cited a large number of environmental, safety and legal issues arising therefrom. Taking the positive and negative impacts of these technologies as examples, Prof. Wei SHYY guided us to reflect deeply on how to dialectically view and deal with the relationship between "higher, bigger, faster, stronger" and "lower, smaller, slower, smarter" in the development of science and technology.

He encouraged the students and faculty members of HKUST(GZ) that "Unified HKUST-Complementary Campuses" is not only a slogan, but also an encouragement to the students and faculty members of the two universities to be self-driven, work closely together, and cultivate scientific and technological talents with real ambition and leadership, so that they can continue to contribute to the progress of the society and the solution of global problems.

Prof. Wei SHYY's unique insights won the applause of the audience. During the Q&A session, students and faculty members raised their own questions, which Prof. Wei SHYY answered one by one.

Q1: In your excellent speech, you mentioned that universities are losing their role in promoting economic growth, and that many universities are limiting themselves to be out-of-the-way observers and evaluators of phenomena, whereas you want them to be participants. However, universities are very large organizations and it is often difficult for a good vision to automatically become the consensus and motivation of everyone in the organization. So how do we align people's motivations with this vision of yours?

- Yihan CAI, Second-year student of Red Bird MPhil Program

SHYY: That's an interesting question. Generally we call universities ivory towers because we don't like to be disturbed by the world. But now, we have to step out of our comfort zone. It is worth noting that universities are not consulting firms and do not exist to find quick short-term solutions. Many of the serious challenges facing the world cannot be solved by universities alone, but require cooperation between industry, academia and research. Therefore, we need to look deeper and deeper for causes and solutions. Members of the University need to understand our role (not a commercial company). Especially for HKUST(GZ), we need to visit companies on a regular basis, we need to connect with the society and companies, we need to understand the goals and objectives of our studies, to find out the needs of the society, and to realize our own goals. This is a long way to go.

Q2: "Smaller" and "Slower" are more prone to misinterpretation as they literally seem to be more backward, how can we help companies to better understand this concept?

- Sebastian, PhD student of Thrust of Innovation, Policy and Entrepreneurship

SHYY: Small is beautiful. With "Slower", I don't mean making airplanes fly slower, because flying slower and longer wastes more fuel; rather, don't go overboard with going higher and faster. Many problems do not have quicker solutions, but require brainstorming.

Q3: In the future we will have to learn how to apply technology, and for students, how should they learn for the future? What should they learn?

- Li XIN, Deputy Head of the Department of Residential College Administration

SHYY: Students need landable ideas. To connect with the society, find the needs in practice, find the framework of the problem, and gradually refine to find the answer.

Q4: We really appreciate your vision that to use inter-disciplinary research to solve real problems in society. However, in practice, we observe that researchers/faculties are mainly driven by their domain discipline. In addition, there seems to be a tension between academic autonomy and the will to group researchers together?

- Prof. Kewei XU, Assistant Professor of Thrust of Innovation, Policy and Entrepreneurship

SHYY: We never tried to force to have an interdisciplinary design. But we would want to take more efforts to let researchers realize the importance of such collaboration. For example, several faculty members could work together on low altitude vehicles and come together to solve complex and integrated research challenges. At the same time, I am a bit concern that sometimes our thrusts and hubs are designed too specific that will limit scholars' ability to collaborate with each other.

Q5: As an undergraduate student in this campus, we often hear the terms like "interdisciplinary", "meet the society's needs" and so on. To achieve so, as students, we need to obtain humanity literacy, knowledge in entrepreneurship and so on. And sometimes we feel that there're so many choices and things for us to do that; sometimes we don't know what to do and how, So my question is that what kind of talent we need to be, and how?

- Hua XU, First-year undergraduate student

SHYY: At first, do not think too much about "interdisciplinary" at undergraduate stage. Because before you think about and try to do some interdisciplinary things, you need to havesome expertise first. Then,
do not care too much about the outcome of learning something, and it might take time for the outcome to emerge. You can just learn what you are interested in, and don't care about things you have no interest in at all. And sometimes the efforts you put in learning and the expertise you gradually gain could make you interested in this field.

Prof. Wei SHYY is not only a famous scientist, but also a veteran photographer, especially good at photographing all kinds of flying birds. At the end of the event, Yinan FAN, a PhD student of the Systems Hub, prepared his own photography work, the gold medal-winning work "Black Swan in Light and Shadow" of the first HKUST(GZ) Photography Competition, and presented it to Prof. Wei SHYY.

After the speech, accompanied by President Lionel M. NI, Prof. Wei SHYY visited the Visitor Information Center, where he was able to experience the mission, development strategies and outstanding research achievements of HKUST and HKUST(GZ) through illustrations, videos and interesting interactive experiences. In the "Virtual Reality Space", Prof. Wei SHYY experienced the 3D campus project developed by Prof. Lin Ge KAN's team and watched the virtual drone project demonstration by Prof. Lei CHEN's team. Assistant Professor Dengbo HE from the Thrust of Intelligent Transportation of the Systems Hub introduced and demonstrated to Prof. Wei SHYY the "Visual Behaviors in Driving", which allows operators to better understand their own visual behavior during driving by modeling driving tasks.

Mr. Zhongpeng GU, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee of Education Bureau of Guangzhou Municipality, and Ms. Linrui LIU, Head of Department of Higher Education, also visited the Visitor Information Center.

Release date
23 Feb 2024
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