Shenzhen Virtual University Park

Michael Woloschuk

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For years, the thin gauze of atmosphere surrounding the earth hampered astronomers from studying the most distant stars in our cosmos. But the Hubble Space Telescope, fixed in the clarity of space, has lifted that veil. It is our outpost to the universe. Mr H Y Wong, Director of the Industrial Business and Development Office (IBDO), likes to use the Hubble analogy to describe the importance of CityU joining the Shenzhen Virtual University Park (SZVUP) this past December.

"China is still foreign to some of us," said Mr Wong, whose office is responsible for ensuring that CityU research is promoted through close collaboration with the business community and the public sector. "The SZVUP is our outpost to China and the Chinese market. This is a brilliant idea that will help us develop more opportunities." The SZVUP, located in the Shenzhen High-tech Industrial Park (artist drawing on right), is a conglomerate of

research and teaching centres belonging to renowned local and overseas universities. Currently the SZVUP consists of 35 member universities from the mainland and Hong Kong (including CityU), and 17 overseas universities. It aims to act as a window that will commercialize academic research, provide a high-level training base, and promote co-operation and communication among academia and business.

Mr Wong has sent out a call for research proposals that will be considered for the SZVUP incubation programme. Projects that get the go-ahead will be announced in February or March.
Each project chosen for incubation in Shenzhen will be funded by the University for two years. Afterwards, the project must become self-sufficient. "We need to bring investors into the project as soon as possible," said Mr Wong. "But the important thing is that the projects we choose are marketable. We're hoping that in a few years?time we can incubate a few viable companies.

Mainland centre for CityU activities

CityU President Professor H K Chang concluded the enrolment agreement with the Vice Mayor of Shenzhen, Mr Guo Rongjun, on 20 December. A representative office in the SZVUP will be launched as a co-ordination centre for CityU's mainland activities, which include R&D projects, business incubation for CityU's subsidiary/associate companies, partnerships with other bodies on the mainland, continuing education and professional training, and the commercialization of CityU's research capabilities.


Professor Y S Wong, Vice-President (Institutional Advancement), who initiated the idea of linking up with the virtual university, said there were three important reasons for joining the SZVUP. "Number one, CityU already has many scientists from China working on research projects - but they often leave after a couple of years. Now they can stay with us," said Professor Wong.

"Secondly, China is a huge market, especially for high technology goods and services. By joining the SZVUP, we can better cultivate that market. And last, but not least, China has a large pool of talent in all kinds of areas. By doing R&D in Shenzhen we can tap into this huge source of talent.

Bridgehead to the mainland
Although Professor Wong is in charge of the overall project, Professor P S Chung, Vice-President (Research), will be responsible for the research operations at the SZVUP. Professor Chung said the University's presence at Shenzhen would act as a bridgehead into the mainland.

He also stressed that CityU is not only interested in high-tech research possibilities. Although the main concern right now is attracting potential projects from CityU in biotechnology, information technology, electronic engineering, as well as in the building and construction areas, Professor Chung is hoping the centre will extend into the business sector as well through the University? acclaimed iMBA programme. "In the beginning, our focus may be on high-tech, but the SZVUP won't be confined particularly to high-tech," he said. "On the social side, for instance, there is also scope for establishing a presence there. Maybe the Institute of Chinese Linguistics will be interested in the high-tech aspects of their research there. There might also be some interest from the Department of Applied Social Studies, because they could do some valuable social work in Shenzhen."

CityU has reserved 2,000 square feet of office space and will employ two staff from Shenzhen at the SZVUP. The University plans, in the future, to expand this presence further with an R&D centre.

To date, the park has trained more than 800 personnel in a dozen specialities ranging from telecommunications to business managements.

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