HKUST Annual Report 2020‐2021 HKUST ANNUAL REPORT 2020-2021
a To advance learning and knowledge through teaching and research, particularly i. in science, technology, engineering, management and business studies; and ii. at the postgraduate level; and b To assist in the economic and social development of Hong Kong. (The Laws of Hong Kong: Chapter 1141) THE MISSION OF THE UNIVERSITY STATEMENT OF VISION HKUST’S 5 CORE VALUES To be a leading University with significant international impact and strong local commitment. Global To be a world-class university at the cutting edge internationally in all targeted fields of pursuit. National To contr ibute to the economic and social development of the nation as a leading university in China. Local To p l ay a key ro l e , i n par tner sh i p wi th government, business, and industry, in the development of Hong Kong as a knowledgebased society. • Excellence, Integrity, and Academic Freedom • Global Vision and Local Commitment • Can-do Spirit • Inclusiveness, Diversity, and Respect • 1-HKUST As HKUST heads toward its fourth decade, the University has embarked on an innovative new road map for talent development and leading-edge knowledge generation under our Strategic Plan 2021-2028. The Plan will enable us to contribute to the advancement of humankind through the fostering of an international community and nurturing of individuals through holistic education, original research, and knowledge transfer into society. We have sharpened and updated our strategic directions in substantial ways. The refreshed five strategic objectives represent the desi red emphasis for our next phase of development. Our underlying aspirations not only set out to sustain and advance HKUST as a trendsetter in both education and research landscapes for the long term, but also address the evolving needs and challenges facing society. A University of Talents An International Leader in Education & Research Incorporating Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Our Spirit Incorporating Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Our Spirit An Exemplar of Best-in-Class Standards, Practices & Operations A Champion of Diversity GLOBAL AND HUMANITY-ORIENTED UNIVERSITY A University of Talents An International Leader in Education & Research An Exemplar of Best-in-Class Standards, Practices & Operations A Champion of Diversity GLOBAL AND HUMANITY-ORIENTED UNIVERSITY HKUST STRATEGIC PLAN 2021-2028 Find out more about the Plan: https://strategicplan.hkust.edu.hk
3 2 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 CONTENTS 4 Chairman’s Foreword 6 President’s Report 10 Learning For Life 16 Lab To Market 26 Connecting People and Communities 30 Local To Global 34 Best-In-Class Operations 38 Sustainable Horizons 41 Governance 44 Awards and Recognitions 46 Event Highlights 48 Facts and Figures 51 Appendices – Court, Council and Senate – Advisory Committee – Senior Management & Faculty Appointments & Professor Emeritus – Finance – Summary of Internal Control and Measures
CHAIRMAN’S FOREWORD 5 4 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 CHAIRMAN’S FOREWORD HKUST’s past achievements demonstrated the University’s determination to spearhead in research breakthrough and aptitude to contribute to the world with innovative ideas. As the old Chinese saying goes, a person is established at the age of thirty（三十而立）. This is truly a momentous occasion for us to refresh our minds and set for an even more promising future. The implementation of a robust governance framework is undoubtedly one of the key success factors of the University’s remarkable achievements over the years. Being the supreme governing body of HKUST, the Council has taken significant steps to consolidate its agenda to further enhance university governance. Through Council’s steering of the University’s overall strategic directions, HKUST has successfully achieved various development objectives and long-term goals. Looking ahead, the University’s Strategic Plan 20212028, under the Council’s direction, would demonstrate how HKUST’s potential could be fully realized along with an array of far-sighted strategies. With the professional expertise of our Members, the Council will continue to oversee the Management’s performance, as well as its own effectiveness based on international governance standards. As the University marches toward its fourth decade, we endeavor to create an even greater impact in the region. The imminent opening of HKUST(Guangzhou) will further exemplify the University’s determination to seize new growth opportunities presented in the Greater Bay Area, with renewed approaches to education, research, and knowledge transfer. Under the Council’s counsel, the governance standards of this new operation are expected to be fully aligned with that of the Clear Water Bay campus. As HKUST approaches its 30th Anniversary, it is an opportune time for us to appraise the work that we have done and look far for future opportunities. It is not easy for a young university like us to come this far on our journey to excellence. In just three decades, HKUST has become a highly regarded university globally, thanks to the vision, hard work and support of our founding fathers, all our Council and Court Members, partners and friends. After years of hard work in overseeing all the important phases of its planning and construction life cycle, the Council is thrilled to witness the inauguration of the exquisitely designed Shaw Auditorium in Fall 2021. The newly added facility not only marks another important milestone in the University’s history, but also creates an ideal venue for our next generation, both in fostering their whole-person development and in enriching their university experience. This new landmark will certainly serve as a cultural hub for further promoting the “East-meets-West” conceptions at HKUST, and a hot spot for interactions between us and the wider community. The University’s success over the years is a collective effort of all Members of our community. In another year that saw the University turning challenges into opportunities, I wish to give my heartfelt appreciation to my fellow Council and Court Members, staff, students and alumni, who have shown their HKUST spirit and are determined to stride ahead together despite all the external challenges. I would also like to thank our donors and friends, for supporting us in turning our dreams into reality. Being one of the leading young universities in the world, HKUST would continue to initiate, to impact and to lead. As we enter a new chapter in our history, we pledge ourselves that HKUST would bring the world a more forthcoming future with more advanced scientific and technological innovations in the coming decade, and beyond. Chairman, University Council Mr. Andrew LIAO Cheung-Sing GBS, SBS, SC, JP
7 6 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 PRESIDENT’S REPORT Transformational Times: Whether through bold yet prudent foresight, novel teaching initiatives, impactful research, comprehensive campus health measures, or the hard work of our offices and departments, colleagues and students have contributed their utmost over an extraordinary year, and fully deserve recognition and applause. Their dedication has enabled the University not only to continue our academic and research pursuits during the pandemic but also to directly assist in solving imminent challenges facing the regional and international communities, as evidenced by our innovation-led products and solutions, discoveries, and creative partnerships. Steadfast in Our Core Values: In addition to the public health crisis, fractures and disagreements have challenged Hong Kong over the past few years. In such polarized times, the University has strived to uphold our apolitical principle and focus on our core values, including academic freedom, diversity, inclusiveness, and mutual respect, all of which form the basis of our academic environment. Indeed, since the University’s founding days, we have been steadfast in our support of such openness, and this position continues. Addressing the Three Futures: At the same time, a renewed system-wide framework is required for us to move to the next level in our education, research, knowledge transfer, and societal contribution. In this regard, the HKUST Strategic Plan 2021-2028, launched at the start of 2021, will be instrumental in achieving our goals. As laid out in the new Plan, and reinforced in the HKUST Planning Exercise Proposal endorsed by the University Grants Committee (UGC), three interlinked themes – sustainable conduct, intelligent industrialization, and human capital – will guide HKUST in fulfilling our aspirations to make a difference to the future of living, the future of work, and the future of people: In a year when COVID-19 showed how unpredictable and transformative change can be, the HKUST community responded quickly to the many testing situations of 2020-21 with open-minded thinking and forward planning. This has set the University proactively on track to embrace the new normal of fast-moving times filled with both uncertainty and opportunity. Sustainable Conduct : We see sustainabi l i ty as an area of forever impact that affects everyone and must become a way of life to safeguard ecosystems for future generations. Reducing our eco footprint is only one part of our commitment to achieving true sustainability. HKUST members will leverage science and technology, policy, human behavior, and psychology to build smart and sustainable cities and lifestyles. Based on actual commitments made at our Clear Water Bay and Guangzhou campuses, the HKUST community is already actively engaged in supporting and working toward the global goal of sustainability in ways that are implementable, shared, agreeable, and seek to be scalable, as illuminated in our Sustainable Smart Campus as a Living Lab initiative (https://ssc.hkust.edu.hk/), HKUST 2028 Sustainability Challenge (https://sust.hkust.edu.hk/about/2028challenge), and net zero carbon drive. Intelligent Industrialization: Achieving sustainability will also require the creation of smart technologies for different forms of production and working practices, with the fourth industrial revolution scaling up fast across diverse sectors, some spurred by the pandemic. As an international science and technology innovator, HKUST has a pivotal role to play in advancing intelligent industrialization in emerging areas such as AI, robotics, biotechnology, big data, and renewable energy, and contributing to wise, evidencebased pol icymaking to ensure these advances work together with the planet, its resources, and people. In line with this, the University is robustly assisting members in transferring their technological innovation to boost social and economic development. Support and dedication of resources, including substantial donations secured recently, are fruitfully spurring entrepreneurship and viable startup companies founded by faculty and alumni in different industries. Likewise, academic and industry partnerships and collaborations formed across the globe are boosting the reach of our lab-to-market activities. Human Capital : Alongside sustainable conduct and intelligent industrialization, there is a pressing need to improve the quality of people’s lives in a world challenged by the ongoing health crisis and growing polarization. Through a focus on human-oriented research and endeavors in areas such as pedagogical rethinking and educational innovation, public health, aging and wellness, smart cities, and fintech, HKUST is seeking to build a better existence for people from birth to end. It is equally essential that we foster and sustain a quality workforce to address the complex problems the world faces. To achieve our goals, the University has made whole-person development an educational priority to nurture well-rounded individuals equipped with creative and critical thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of responsibility, compassion, and respect for diversity and social inclusion. HKUST’s new and revamped programs and curricula, such as our novel “Major + X” extended degree option, will help our members to develop such capabilities, inspiring them to redefine problems and create mindful solutions. Ongoing Endeavors: Our vision and strategy are being proactively supported by substantial development on the University’s Clear Water Bay campus as well as at the new HKUST(GZ) campus. Here in Hong Kong, numerous capital projects are taking place, including (1) the 1,300seat multi-purpose Shaw Auditorium, due to be completed in November 2021, will support and promote performance, creativity, and arts on campus; (2) the Jockey Club Global Graduate Tower, which offers more than 500 bed spaces, will support graduate students’ on-campus living, including family housing; (3) the Jockey Club i-Village, which provides 1,551 bed spaces, i.e. approximately more than one-third of the current capacity, will increase our much-needed undergraduate on-campus living; (4) the Martin Ka Shing Lee Innovation Building, which is under development, will support substantial additional capacity for research and knowledge transfer, especially in physical science and technology; and (5) the Life and Chemical Sciences and Technologies Building, which is due to start full development in 2022, will enhance our capacity in some key focused areas, including synthetic biology and multidisciplinary collaboration. During the transition period, before the new buildings are ready, we have reached an agreement with Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks to use more than 14,000 square feet of working and research space in the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate. This will help meet immediate space needs from different activities on data science, robotics, fintech, smart city applications, among other emerging areas. Together, we have committed more than $4.6 billion to support the establishment of our new infrastructure, along with upgrades and renovation of multiple major research facilities at our Clear Water Bay campus. We greatly appreciate the strong support from the government, donors, and alumni, who see the importance and value of helping HKUST go forward energetically and enthusiastically. PRESIDENT’S REPORT
9 8 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 Prof. Lionel M. NI Provost On the human capi tal s ide , enro l lment has been steadily increasing. Despite the decrease in number of undergraduate students across the UGC sector in recent years, excluding certain targeted priority areas, HKUST’s allocated number has been continuously increasing. The University’s current total number of students stands at approximately 16,000, compr ising around 10,000 undergraduates and close to 6,000 postgraduates. offered online counselling services via different platforms, as an alternative to face-to-face sessions. A number of other wellness initiatives have been launched, including Peer Counselor Training Program, Therapy Dog Program, and enhanced staff training. A wide range of adaptive, assistive or rehabilitative tools are also made available for students with special educational needs. In parallel, we have been actively recruiting faculty globally for HKUST(GZ), expecting that at least 150 will join by September 2022, and 1,000 research postgraduate students will be studying full-time there. Faculty numbers at the new campus are expected to grow to 400 by 2027 to support an enrollment of 4,000 research postgraduates and 1,500 undergraduates. Between the Clear Water Bay and Guangzhou campuses, we will foster close coordination of academic personnel, structures, and degree programs, and maximize the sharing of resources. HKUST is set to elevate our total contribution to society, both locally and globally, with minimum duplication while without overlapping of resources and programs. Realizing HKUST 2.0: Thus, as HKUST turns 30 toward the end of 2021, we can also celebrate the University’s entry into a new era of growth. In forthcoming years, our Guangzhou campus together with greatly enhanced facilities at Clear Water Bay will significantly contribute to our transformation journey. Under the Unified HKUSTComplementary Campuses framework, HKUST(GZ) will extend our resources, organizational structures, and physical settings to enable our members to pursue both curiosity-driven and mission-encouraged endeavors through our pioneering dual academic and research approach (https://strategicplan.hkust.edu.hk/) in order to broaden and deepen the University’s impact. All will invigorate the University community’s capacity to nurture, create, discover, invent, and innovate. As we stride into our fourth decade in the coming year, we look forward with exhilaration to the rapidly evolving times ahead and further remarkable achievements for a new chapter, namely, HKUST 2.0. President Prof. Wei SHYY JP UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT Prof. Nancy Y. IP Vice-President for Research and Development Mr. Mark HODGSON Vice-President for Administration and Business Prof. WANG Yang Vice-President for Institutional Advancement Given the increasing student enrol lment and fast development in science, technology, business innovation, and societal development, HKUST has been proactively recruiting talents to join our faculty in all Schools and the Interdisciplinary Program Office. After substantial hiring of faculty in around 2010 in response to Hong Kong’s sectorwide education reform, extending undergraduate degrees from three years to four years from 2012 onwards, we have been expanding the faculty numbers. Substantiated and substantiation-track faculty have increased by more than 15% since 2015, and the growth, supported by the new facilities and space, will be kept up. The University’s annual budget has also correspondingly grown. With our success in external grants, contracts, donations, and other income, even though UGC has generously supported HKUST with an increased block grant, linked to our allocated student numbers, the share of the block grant in our total budget has reduced from 51% to 37% over the past decade. There are many other important areas that we monitor, assess, and to which we commit additional resources. For example, globally and here in Hong Kong, mental wellness is an increasingly visible challenge. At HKUST, we have doubled the number of counsellors during the past decade, and are partnering with other organizations to develop community-wide support for our students, and employees. Particularly in times of the on-going pandemic, we have Prof. Wei SHYY President
11 10 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LEARNING FOR LIFE Facing a world reshaped by global challenges, HKUST vitalized the collaborative dexterity of its teaching and learning to stay ahead of the evolving education landscape while meeting society’s changing needs LEARNING FOR LIFE UNLEASHING MULTIDIMENSIONAL TALENTS In line with HKUST’s proactive outlook, the University launched Hong Kong’s first “Extended Major” under its new “Major + X” degree structure over 2020-21, with “X” representing artificial intelligence (AI), an area that is rapidly transforming multiple fields and jobs. By blending traditional majors with popular emerging areas, the novel degree option enhances the integration of existing and new knowledge, adding to students’ multidimensional perspectives and skills, while increasing the University’s agility to respond more rapidly in light of society’s fastchanging needs. A second “X”, focusing on digital media and creative arts, will be offered in 2022-23. HKUST further advanced its Common Core Program, a key part of the University’s undergraduate education that can broaden students’ interests beyond their major field of study and inspire a lifelong passion for learning. This move introduces a progressive three-tier model comprising Foundation, Broadening, and Experiential courses, all of which will develop and track students’ competencies as they progress through the program, to address the needs of future talents and to keep up with recent education advances and best practices from around the world. Two Foundation courses will be piloted in Fall 2021, while the overall revitalized structure will be launched for the incoming cohort from Fall 2022. Postgraduates have also benefited through early initiatives under the novel Unified HKUST-Complementary Campuses framework, established to integrate provision at Clear Water Bay and our new Guangzhou campus, which is set to open in 2022. Over 2020-21, a Clear Water BayGuangzhou PhD dual-degree opportunity was initiated to provide access to complementary expertise and stateof-the-art equipment at both campuses and facilitate integration while MPhil and PhD degrees in 15 research thrust areas at the new campus were rolled out under the HKUST(GZ) Pilot Scheme. To broaden HKUST’s contribution to innovation and realworld problem-solving, a new MPhil/PhD program in Integrative Systems and Design and a Master of Public Management are set to increase the pool of talent taking these two fields forward. The former places emphasis on the knowledge and technical skills essential to the creation of user-oriented products and services with human and societal benefits. The latter will bring interdisciplinary perspectives to policy, management, and governance issues, in particular those related to technological innovation and sustainability, and prepare participants for senior management roles in public sector organizations, among others. In addi t ion, two t imely front-running business and management programs wi l l acce l erate corporate leadership development. The flexible Digital Master of Business Administration for Global Leaders is a firstof-its kind program in Asia for executives who have difficulty committing to regular face-to-face classes. The Doctor of Business Administration, launched in Fall 2021, offers rigorous training to leaders, senior executives, and entrepreneurs to enable them to develop a portfolio of skills in practice-based research. MAJOR + X HK’s First “Extended Major” H K G Z
13 12 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LEARNING FOR LIFE extends to over 240 quality partners worldwide. Despite COVID-19 affecting regular student exchanges over the year, HKUST moved forward to build more partnerships and provide increased opportunities for students once exchanges resume. Demonstrating the global reach of the program, the University signed new agreements with University of St. Andrews (UK) and Kyushu University (Japan), and entered into strategic partnerships with Ewha Womans University (South Korea) and Koc University (Turkey). Exchange arrangements expanded from School-level to University-wide with Osaka University (Japan), Monash University (Australia), and Ewha Womans University (South Korea). In addition, virtual study abroad options created opportunities for over 300 students to engage in cultural exchange and learning. Partners helping to initiate these programs included Fudan University (Mainland), Massey University (New Zealand), University of New South Wales (Australia), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Rice University (US), as well as member universities of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities and the Association of East Asian Research Universities. H K G Z $84.5 million Undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships totaling ADVANCING CREATIVE TEACHING AND STUDENT WELLBEING Along with dynamic program innovation, University faculty effectively adapted their teaching to ensure students kept on top of their learning during the different waves of COVID-19. This resulted in some classes being delivered in “mixed-mode” (i .e. , simultaneous on-campus and online interactions between instructor and students), with others conducted purely online. More than 10 new projects related to experiential learning courses, gamebased learning, and augmented reality/virtual reality courses also gained support from the University Grants Committee’s Teaching Development Grants. Hong Kong’s first mixed-reality teaching and learning classroom was established to incorporate virtual reality-based components and immersive online learning, among other options, into engineering courses. Such determination to advance student learning despite the pandemic was echoed in the University’s practical assistance for those facing difficulty in continuing their studies due to financial hardship brought by COVID-19 and other challenges. HKUST’s robust response led to a 54% increase in bursaries and loans in 2020-21 totaling $10.3 million. In addition, the University awarded undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships totaling $84.5 million over the year in recognition of academic and non-academic achievements in numerous areas. Over 2020-21, 86 wellbeing sessions/workshops involving more than 5,200 students and staff members took place as part of the University’s wellness drive, with new topics including sexual health, how to work less and achieve more, and effective communication with supervisors for research postgraduates. Senior peer counselors and postgraduate students pi loted the #SpeakUp Peer Chat Service, harnessing online and face-to-face platforms to reach out to students with counseling needs around the clock. The University also recruited two new in-house therapy dog trainees, with the aim of having the full team of five dogs in service for Fall 2021. Earlier in the year, the emotional wellbeing of more than 400 participants benefited from interaction with the current therapy dogs, meeting in small groups to adhere to social distancing. EXPANDING GLOBAL HORIZONS As well as raising self-awareness, HKUST is committed to broadening students’ interest in others and widening perspectives through provision of academic and cultural learning experiences beyond the University. The flagship student exchange program is a particular focus and now HKUST also co-organized the first Summer Institute in Computational Social Science to be held in Hong Kong. The world-renowned summer school was originated by Princeton and Duke Universities in the US. The Hong Kong event admitted students from HKUST and other local universities, assisting in building a research community in the field within the city. The Flagship Student Exchange Program quality worldwide partners extends to over 240 H K G Z
15 14 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LEARNING FOR LIFE GAINING A HEAD START ON CAREER OPTIONS 2020-21 was also a time for resourcefulness in assisting students to search for jobs or internships during the challenging economic environment. To boost openings, the University pursued new avenues and leveraged its strong relationships with industry and the business community. Job postings on the HKUST-exclusive job board doubled to almost 3,800 in 2021 compared with the same time period in the previous year, and more than 150 employers joined the week-long vMosaic job fair in April 2021, a rapid-response initiative that utilized the University’s new in-house virtual career fair platform in light of the new trend of remote hiring. Meanwhile, online career development programs flourished, with more than 6,400 students having attended related programs and nearly 1,600 consultation sessions conducted in 2020-21. HKUST students’ enthusiasm for early work experience was highl ighted by the pi lot Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) internship scheme for university students, organized by Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Commission. The scheme attracted 522 HKUST interns over Summer 2020 and Winter 2021, the highest among all participating universities. Another novel opening was the opportunity to participate in virtual internships. Over 40 HKUST students took part in seven virtual schemes, with host organizations from Hong Kong, the Mainland, Australia, Europe, and the US. FOSTERING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET Developing students’ entrepreneurship skills is a critical step in setting them up for success after graduation. This has led to the dedication of considerable resources in diverse areas at HKUST to nourish distinctive graduates and students to make a positive social impact through implementing innovation. As an illustration of the University’s own bold thinking to extend traditional entrepreneurial education provision, 2020 saw the introduction of “Entrepreneurship 1001: Building Your Own Future”, a transdisciplinary Common Core course co-listed with liberal arts-oriented Lingnan University, adding a humanitarian perspective to entrepreneurship know-how and skills. In this fully experiential course, students are required to build their own business while highlighting the human condition and considerations that need to be incorporated in organizations and industries of the future. Over 150 HKUST students enrolled in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, with 70 from Lingnan University joining the course. Beyond the curriculum, HKUST Entrepreneurship Center provided practical entrepreneurship support to innovative new University-related businesses, incubating 46 start-up companies in 2020-21. Links between business newcomers from the University community and experienced industry dynamos were strengthened through mentorHUB@HKUST, which attracted over 35 established mentors and more than 200 mentees from nearly 90 start-up teams across fields and industries over the year. The scheme encourages mentors and mentees to reach out to one another, anytime and anywhere, to facilitate early-stage business growth. The Center also nominated over 20 start-ups for fasttracking into incubation programs at Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited. Th e Un i v e r s i t y ’ s f l ag s h i p On e -M i l l i o n - Do l l a r Entrepreneurship Compet i t ion celebrated i ts 10th anniversary in 2020, with a record 1,826 entries from eight cities and regions across China. Computer Engineering alumnus Dr. LIU Zhaojun and his start-up Shenzhen Sitan Technology Co., Ltd., focused on cutting-edge microLED technology display, won the Grand Final in Nansha. Hundreds of on-site spectators attended while 1.7 million FLAGSHIP CONTEST CELEBRATES FIRST DECADE viewers watched the live online broadcast. In a special anniversary feature, 10 “Unicorns of Tomorrow” – start-ups founded by the HKUST community and valued between RMB1 billion and RMB10 billion – were also highlighted. In 2021, the Hong Kong regional contest received over 750 applicants from 185 teams, largely comprising HKUST faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and hailing from nine countries and regions. Participation in competitions delivered additional knowhow, motivation to translate ideas into action, and insight into other people’s capabilities. In addition to annual competitions such as the Hong Kong Techathon 2021, coorganized by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, HKUST, and six other local universities, and hackUST, one of the largest student events of its kind in Greater China, there was also a dynamic response to the HKUST-Kaisa Autonomous RC-Car Racing Competition, which inspired over 90 participants from across the University to work on applications for autonomous radiocontrolled vehicles before showcasing their technological innovations to the HKUST community.
17 16 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LAB TO MARKET MARKET LAB TO The University’s dynamic research and innovation endeavors spurred impactful discovery and applications in essential and emerging areas for Hong Kong’s development and global advancement, ranging from smart city solutions and AI-driven applications to COVID-19 resilience and sustainable conduct RGC Schemes Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council (RGC) continued to be a major source of research funding, providing $247.6 million for 238 new projects. In 2020-21, the University achieved application success rates of 45% and 49%, in the General Research Fund and Early Career Scheme respectively, the highest combined success rate among all local institutions. The RGC’s prestigious Theme-based Research Scheme awarded $33.3 million to a key smart city project led by Prof. CHEN Kai (Computer Science and Engineering). Working together with Hong Kong government departments, industry partners and other universities, the innovation will create an integrated “IT brain” to drive forward applications for a smart city through development of a high-performance AI computing cloud platform, initially for improved traffic management. Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) proposals also received significant support, with 12 group research and equipment projects receiving a total of $68 million. Group research advances included building more resilient urban forests, development of better-performing alkaline membrane fuel cells, the harnessing of ambient RF waves, and new aggregation-induced emission systems. Three physics group projects will explore challenges at quantum and microscale levels, seeking answers to the nature of dark matter and other major questions. In addition, all three collaborative research equipment applications resulted in funding, with a total of $18.1 million allocated for acquisition of an integrated advanced packaging platform, a multifunctional correlative imaging and spectroscopy system, and an indium-rich metal jet. RESEARCH FUNDING TO POWER FORWARD INNOVATION In 2020-21, HKUST strengthened its capabilities to deliver leading-edge contributions to societal development and academia in Hong Kong and the wider community by pursuing 1,556 new and ongoing research projects in highimpact and emerging areas. These areas encompassed smart urban environments, alternative energy, and preparedness for novel infectious diseases, among many others. The University generated cumulative external funding totaling $1.03 billion to support its far-sighted endeavors. With research and innovation the key to strengthening preparedness for local and global health threats, two HKUST proposals received one-off CRF COVID-19 and Novel Infectious Disease funding totaling $9.63 million. These projects, led by Prof. HSING I-ming (Chemical and Biological Engineering) and Prof. QI Xiangtong (Industrial Engineering and Decision Analytics) respectively, will develop devices to assist large-scale screening ($5.73 million) and devise logistics management optimization strategies and models for accountable decision-making during disease outbreaks ($3.9 million). External Funding Totaling $1.03 billion 1,556 projects granted to
19 18 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LAB TO MARKET In addition, the Research Impact Fund awarded a total of $12.3 million to two projects. Prof. ZHAO Tianshou (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) received $6.58 million to develop safe, sustainable, energy-dense all-solidstate lithium batteries and help meet the ever-growing demand for more powerful, smaller, and longer-lasting power units. Prof. LI Bo (Computer Science and Engineering) was awarded $5.72 million to design and build an advanced machine learning training platform, driven by pooled data from across organizational domains. Innovation and Technology Commission The Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC), which supports local institutions in transferring knowledge into pace-setting applications, awarded $123.7 million to the University for 31 applied projects starting in 2020-21. Among these, Prof. Gary CHAN’s $8.1 million project, jointly funded by the ITC and industry partners, will create novel internet of things and multimodal analytic technologies for smart and cost-effective car parks, while Prof. ZHU Pengyu (Public Policy)’s $1.67 million multidisciplinary study will generate an aviation innovation blueprint in light of COVID-19 to inform Hong Kong’s development as a global aviation hub in the next 10 years. HKUST is set to convene the first International Aviation Technology and Business Annual Conference in early 2022, fostering a long-term government-industry-academic collaborative network. RESEARCH HUBS THAT ACTIVATE DISCOVERIES HKUST research centers and joint labs strengthen and deepen areas of key focus and foster interaction among facu l ty by br i ng i ng together researchers beyond individual disciplines as well as with industry. 2020-21 saw four addi t ional research centers and one joint lab established. The new entities – HKUSTNan Fung Life Sciences Joint Laboratory, IAS Center for Quantum Technologies, Center on Smart Sensors and Environmental Technologies, Center for Medical Imaging and Analysis, and Center for Economic Policy – wi l l leverage the University’s research strength and emerg i ng oppor tun i t i es i n l i fe sc i ence , quantum technologies, smart sensors, and medical imaging, and boost innovation and development capabilities in these pivotal areas for the future. This brings the total number of research laboratories, centers, and institutes on the Clear Water Bay campus to 64 which, along with the three research centers set up by HKUST under the Hong Kong government’s InnoHK initiative, demonstrates the University is provisioned and commi tted to seeking col laborat ions to foster interdisciplinary research, the nurturing of next-generation talent, and social impact. These research endeavors will be further widened in subsequent years with the opening of HKUST(GZ). The ITC’s Midstream Research Programme for Universities also supported four HKUST applications under the scheme’s Health Technologies for Diagnosis theme. Among these, a $7.7 million grant was awarded to a collaboration led by Prof. Nancy IP (Life Science) and involving Haven of Hope Christian Service, a non-profit organization, and Queen Mary Hospital. The team will develop a cost-effective bloodbased biomarker platform for diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Other funded proposals seek to advance cancer diagnosis and pathogen detection. Mainland Support Mainland bodies maintained their robust support for HKUST advances in hi-tech innovation. National support over the year included $16.6 million from the Ministry of Science and Technology. Regionally, Zhongshan Municipal Science and Technology Bureau supported four projects totaling $18.8 million. These encompassed studies into a driverless security monitoring vehicle system; smart gas sensor for the internet of things; smart soft exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation; and reusable rapid spectroscopic detection of pesticide residues. HKUST again demonstrated the world-class quality of its research in the six-yearly University Grants Committee’s Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). In the 2020 exercise, 81% of the University’s research outputs, impact cases, and research environment statements submitted by 446 eligible faculty members were judged by international experts to be “internationally excellent” or “world-leading”. Research areas encompassed nine of the RAE’s 13 broadly based assessment pane l s , wi th HKUST attaining the highest percentage of “worldleading” research among local universities in five panels: physical sciences, electrical and electronic engineering, bui lt environment , business and economics, and social sciences. In addition, nearly 90% of the University’s impact cases were assessed to have “considerable or outstanding impact” in reach and significance. OUTSTANDING RESULTS IN RAE 2020 81% of Research Submissions Internationally Excellent OR World-Leading
21 20 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LAB TO MARKET USING INNOVATION TO BENEFIT SOCIETY Setting Ideas and Concepts to Work The University sustains and advances its robust innovation pipeline with adequate protection and vigorous promotion of HKUST intellectual property (IP). Over the year, the University’s nurturing of the technopreneurial spirit, and incubation and acceleration of new companies, raised the number of HKUST active start-ups and spin-offs to 290, of which 19% leveraged University technologies. The yea r a l so saw t he se t t i ng up o f a new I P management team to strategical ly ident i fy IP wi th strong commercialization potential and opportunities to optimize development of the University’s patent portfolios. Reengineering the existing process significantly enhanced efficiency, facilitating industrial collaboration and helping to generate a record number of new license agreements over the year, which tripled to 23. Patents used totaled 91, an increment of 3.6 times compared with the previous year. The Bridge Gap Fund, which assists faculty in preparing their technologies for licensing, the formation of start-ups, and industry collaboration, supported a total of 14 projects wi th up to $500,000 each, covering biotechnology, materials, electronics, IoT, and robotics. This represented an increase of over 25% from the previous year. The Fund also launched its Seed Project Support Scheme in 2021 to encourage young faculty to translate research into viable IP and enhance its commercialization prospects. Start-up Support In 2014, the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) launched the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU) to provide six local universities with support for technology-focused start-ups. With TSSSU funding, HKUST awardees can further commercialize HKUST technologies to benefit society. Around 92% of the 2020 awardees have participated in incubation programs organized by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Limited, an increase of more than 20% compared with the previous TSSSU round. The awardees have also undergone notable business development, with around 86% receiving external funds and creating around 50 jobs and training opportunities. TSSSU 2021 attracted a record-high 54 applications, bringing total University applications to the scheme in the past eight years to 324. With 19 start-ups recommended to the ITC by the HKUST vetting committee, the total number of HKUST-affiliated TSSSU start-ups rose to 78. Meanwhile, in its second year of operation, the HKUST Entrepreneurship Fund (E-Fund) team worked with the Technology Transfer Center (TTC) and Entrepreneurship Center (EC) to support University start-ups by providing practical training, mentorship, and coaching to teams being incubated by the Bridge Gap Fund. The fund also assisted HKUST start-ups and companies admitted to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks and Cyberport incubation programs by helping to establish connections with co-investment partners and advisors. There are currently 13 such partners under the E-Fund’s coinvestment model, managing an investment pool of more than $7 billion and investing approximately $25 million in E-Fund portfolio companies. Spurring Greater Bay Area Entrepreneurship HKUST Mainland platforms in Nansha, Shenzhen, and Foshan currently support a total of 70 start-up and spinoff companies, and various entrepreneurial programs. At the HKUST Shenzhen platforms located at Nanshan and Futian respectively, the Blue Bay Incubator has successfully established an ecosystem of support schemes to foster HKUST entrepreneurs and start-ups at different stages of the journey from concept to commercialization. In 2020-21, start-ups supported by Blue Bay, a National Makerspace （國家備案眾創空間）accredited by the Ministry of Science and Technology, totaled 47. Partnerships to Enhance Living and Livelihoods Through HKUST R and D Corporation, the University partnered with 49 local and global companies from the US, South Korea and Japan, as well as nine Hong Kong government departments to carry out downstream technology development and services in 2020-21. The new project contracts signed are worth $103.1 million. Some highlighted projects include: FIRST AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE TRIAL ROLLED OUT ON CAMPUS Hong Kong’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) trial without an operator on board commenced at the HKUST campus in late 2020, with support from the Hong Kong government’s Transport Department. The electric vehicle was designed by Prof. LIU Ming, Director of HKUST’s Intelligent Autonomous Driving Center, and his team of students. Equipped with all-terrain 3D mapping and large-scale visual and sensor navigation, among other technologies, the vehicle can plan its route after collecting data on the road and detect on-road obstacles. It will eventually be used to deliver food and mail throughout the campus. • Multiple research and development contracts for nextgeneration wireless communication systems for a leading global networking and telecommunications technology provider. • A Mainland aviation company’s utilization of HKUST lowfrequency noise reduction technology in airplane engine casing. • Collaborations with the Hong Kong government to deploy eco-friendly wastewater treatment technologies. New project contracts signed worth $103.1 million
23 22 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LAB TO MARKET Highlights of HKUST’s curiosity-driven breakthroughs and mission-encouraged cross-disciplinary solutions over 2020-2021. Research Excellence Deep-sea Snails Shed Light on Origins of life Spherical Molecules Open Up Drug Therapy Hope Br inging hope for therapeut i c drug deve l opment to combat cancers and other diseases, Prof . SUN Jianwei (Chemistry) and his collaborators discovered a method facilitating production of a unique family of spher i cal mol ecul es – chi ral tet raary lmethanes – for which synthesis strategies were previously limited. Preliminary testing has shown such molecules display good deterrent effects against cervical, lung, breast, and colorectal cancer cells, as well as the virus causing Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, and a type of coronavirus. Novel Imaging Technology Examines Brain Functions An imaging technology – the adaptive optics two-photon endomicroscopy system – devised by Prof . QU J ianan (Electronic and Computer Engineering), in collaboration with Prof. Nancy IP (Life Science), has provided a way to examine brain functions in regions previously difficult to explore. The new technology makes it feasible to carry out unprecedentedly high-resolution in vivo (live) imaging of deep brain structures. The system is expected to accelerate understanding of many neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and development of therapeutic pathways. Super-strong Polymer Nanofilm with High Application Potential Prof. GAO Ping (Chemical and Biological Engineering) and her team have developed an ultrathin super-strong polymer nanomembrane that is transparent, gas-permeable, and waterproof with adjustable porous properties, making it suitable for wearable devices, medical protection, desalination, electronics, solar cells, and many other technologies. The team went on to create a prototype transparent face mask with 99% filtration efficiency for viruses, bacteria, and particulate matter in tests in line with N95 respirator standards. The researchers have filed a total of seven patents for different applications of the material. New Era of Topological Phase Exploration Revealing a new connection between mathematics and physics that could potentially lead to novel applications, a research group led by Prof. CHAN Che-Ting (Physics) and his col laborators designed and constructed a system that carries non-Abelian topological charges in momentum space. The work serves as the first observation of non-Abelian topological charges and their bulk-edge correspondence, paving the way to a new era of topological phase exploration. Prof . QIAN Peiyuan (Ocean Science) and his resear ch team decoded the genomes of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent snail (Gigantopelta aegis), found at depths of around 2,800 meters, and two types of bacteria (sulfur-oxidizing and methaneoxidizing) housed within part of the snail’s digestive system. The team’s research provided insights into how the creature could survive the extreme conditions it inhabits. These conditions include high pressure, high temperatures, and low oxygen levels, resembling Earth’s early environment and offering fresh understanding of the origins of life on our planet.
25 24 HKUST Annual Report 2020-2021 LAB TO MARKET Seeding Strategies for Social Media Who is influential in a social network is important for firms recruiting people to share marketing messages on platforms such as Instagram, Weibo, and TikTok. While previous research suggested targeting people with many well-connected friends obtained the largest reach, Prof. Ralf VAN DER LANS (Marketing) and colleagues showed targeting people with many friends, who in turn have only a few friends, is more effective, increasing a campaign’s reach by 70%. They also found people with many friends were less likely to respond to marketing messages because of increased information received and limited attention to each message. Brain Vessel Disorder Discovery Computational biologist Prof. WANG Jiguang (Life Science, Chemical and Biological Engineering) and his national coresearchers used next -generat ion sequenc ing and a computational approach to uncover a new gene mutation responsible for cerebral cavernous malformation (CCM) in non-familial patients. The discovery also lays the foundation for non-invasive diagnosis and potential treatment of the brain vascular disorder that afflicts 10 to 30 million people around the world. 3D Air Quality Measurement Platform Helps Mitigate Ozone Pollution Examining Governance in China Prof. Kellee TSAI (Social Science) co-edited Evolutionary Governance in China: State-Society Relations under Authoritarianism (Harvard University Press 2021), with collaborators in the Mainland and Taiwan. In this work, social scientists examine how the Chinese state relates to non-state actors across several fields of governance, including the economy, envi ronment , labor , local community, public health, society, and religion. The authors identify areas in which state-society interactions shifted over time, ranging from more constructive engagement to protracted conflict. This evolutionary approach provides insights into circumstances where the party-state exerts its coercive power versus more flexible responses or policy adaptations. More Information, Greater Political Manipulation In this study, Prof . LU Yang (Economics) and her co-author interpreted the social media revolution as a shock that simultaneously improves the precision of citizens’ information but also reduces politicians’ costs of manipulation. In developing a model in which a politician seeks to prevent a group of citizens from making informed decisions, the research showed that there is a critical threshold for this equilibrium whereby if the costs of manipulation fall enough, the social media revolution makes citizens worse off despite the underlying improvement in their information. Insights into Product Market Competition Prof. YAN Ji (Finance) and his co-authors proposed an asset pricing model with dynamic strategic competition, showing through their model and data that product market competition intensifies during recessions. In industries with more stable market leadership, firms’ profit margins are higher yet more volatile, rationalizing their higher expected stock returns. The study won the best paper award at the China International Conference in Macroeconomics 2019. Generations and Gender Survey to Dissect Hong Kong Social Phenomena Prof. Stuart GIETEL-BASTEN (Social Science and Public Policy) implemented a pilot version of the Generations and Gender Survey in Hong Kong to better understand why local society is aging rapidly, young people are struggling to access good jobs and affordable housing, and other such phenomena and their root causes. The Generations study is the world’s leading internationally comparative, longi tudinal survey of fami l ies, gender roles, and intergenerational relations, with the research in Hong Kong seeking to delineate the development of policy support. The pilot employed a novel online process and incentive experiments, advancing both survey methodology in the region and key clues to family formation in Hong Kong. It also provides a solid basis for advancing the full first wave of the survey in 2021-22. The Division of Environment and Sustainability’s Air Research Team developed a 3D air quality research platform, in cooperation with the Hong Kong government, to increase understanding of photochemical ozone pollution, its complex precursors, atmospheric processes as well as to step up mitigation. The novel measurement set-up includes a flying observation platform using an H175 Cheetah helicopter from the Government Flying Service, a marine monitoring vessel fleet supported by the Environmental Protection Department, and a series of funded pro j ects conducted to measure spec i es components and air pollutants from ocean, land, and air. Enhancing air-quality monitoring capacity and research findings will assist the government in identifying key emission sources and developing effective control measures to improve air quality in Hong Kong.