Think wild and be strong
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A remarkable Hong Kong entrepreneur and forward-thinking leader, Professor Chan Kei-biu believes education is essential to individuals and society. He regards a university, in particular, as a place to nurture talent and as a centre of learning, where students can build up their knowledge and eventually contribute to society.
“Education can empower a young person to become a quality person,” says Professor Chan. “There is a lot for students to explore in a university, enabling them to grow and learn individually.”
The many ups and downs that Professor Chan has experienced over the past 60 years have given him the strength of character to take on the toughest of challenges. He went to the UK to study in 1963 when he was just 15, and became financially independent at the young age of 19. He then continued on his own to live and study in a foreign country so as to complete his education. “This is why and how I grew up strong and tough,” Professor Chan recalls.
He returned to Hong Kong in 1973 when the electronics industry was booming and worked as an engineer for different manufacturing companies. In 1982, sensing opportunities, Professor Chan decided to venture out on his own again. He set up a distribution company for electronics components, which he describes as a “garage operation”.
Always with a mind for adventure, he piloted the application of surface mounting techniques for electronic circuit board assembly and established Surface Mount Technology Ltd in 1986. Since then, he has been Chairman of the company. “There were a lot of challenges during the pandemic, but our company has maintained a firm foothold in the market,” Professor Chan says.
A rocky teenage life and career path have made Professor Chan fully understand that nothing comes easy, leading him to become heavily involved in charities, public service, environmental protection and technology innovation activities.
With a steadfast relationship with CityU, Professor Chan has witnessed the tremendous growth of the University in the past 15 years. The establishment of the first School of Energy and Environment and Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong have been two of the most distinctive achievements. A staunch supporter of CityU, Professor Chan donates generously to various initiatives. In recognition of his significant contributions to the University and society, a lecture theatre at CityU was named “Chan Kei Biu Lecture Theatre” in 2004, while Professor Chan was conferred Honorary Fellow in 2009.
Professor Chan’s views on innovation are deeply influenced by Nobel Prize laureate Lord Rutherford’s profound statement: “We have no money, so we have to think.” Professor Chan totally agrees that people must think innovatively to solve problems and discover new dimensions. While a lack of resources or money is not a barrier, people should neither find excuses nor rely entirely on luck. “We all need to overcome emotion and fear. The greater the resistance, the more powerful the strength to push forward,” he emphasises.
While understanding that the young generation has encountered many challenges recently, Professor Chan encourages them to act firmly against all odds. “When facing difficulties, you must be strong and believe in yourself. We need to have the courage to face reality, not step back or put things off,” he says. He also advises young people to think out of the box and not to stick to the old rules if they want to make breakthrough achievements. “We all should have an open mindset. We can get inspiration from everyday life, think boldly and wildly, and innovate.”
Professor Chan has a mission to support CityU continuously. Presently, one of his most important tasks is to help to set up a strong network of CityU Honorary Fellows. “I hope that building up this structural platform can create synergy among us. Through activities and semi-formal meetings, we can map out an agenda on how to foster the development of CityU,” he says.
Professor Chan Kei-biu, MH
- Chairman, Surface Mount Technology Ltd
- Medal of Honour, HKSAR (2008)
- Honorary President, Hong Kong Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology
- Honorary Chairman, Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association
- Professional Advisor, Hong Kong Federation of Innovative Technologies and Manufacturing Industries
- Honorary Fellow, Queen Mary College, University of London
- Honorary Fellow, CityU
- Honorary Vice-President, CityU Foundation
- Adjunct Professor, CityU College of Engineering
- Member, CityU Court (2010–2015)
This article is extracted from CityU Today.