Engineered to be better together

Education | Cara Chen 8 Oct 2019

Even if enterprises have new ideas, they may lack the research, technology, and funding, and universities may find no market for new technologies. This has been the case for a long time in Hong Kong's science and innovation industry.

But now, what electrical engineering professors and students can expect in those regards may change in a more practical and exciting direction.

To promote research cooperation between the government, businesses and universities, City University of Hong Kong's electrical engineering department launched a joint lab scheme, allowing researchers to find funding for new technologies and the industry to develop new products.

The scheme is expected to raise more than HK$10 million in research funds in its first year.

Taking place on a quarterly basis, the first phase of the three-year scheme will include the university's electrical and mechanical services department, the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute and the Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association.

"Although the government has set up various funding and support schemes, there have not been enough applications," said Alan Lam Hiu-fung, an adjunct professor and scheme member.

"The great thing about the scheme is that Hong Kong's science and innovation industry is no longer driven solely by the government, but by all stakeholders. We are integrating resources."

HKEIA chairman Ng Chi-ho said: "The highlight of the scheme is that it's not limited to specific research projects, and the research can help solve technical problems, which is important as research becomes ever more market-driven."

Several cooperative projects are already on the way, including a 5G and DC smart building in collaboration with EMSD and ASTRI, which has received over HK$2 million in government funding.

The project aims to promote the advancement of 5G and the application of DC (direct current) through the installation of a 5G network and DC power equipment in buildings to enhance energy efficiency and energy saving.

It expects new DC household appliances to reduce power consumption by as much as 10 percent. Also, it could boost the development of green energy if the appliances are used together with solar panels that generate DC.

HKPC general manager Lawrence Poon said the government's smart city blueprint has yet to find many the right technology and products to continue its development. "In fact, there are many opportunities at the moment, and we hope to achieve innovation in the field of electrical engineering resources docking," he said.

As part of the scheme, schools will correspondingly redesign curriculums into teaching fundamental theories while having projects-oriented practical courses and will cooperate with the industry to provide more internship opportunities.

"The industry is very short on talent, but what is taught in school does not match reality and sometimes lags behind the industry, so graduates need a certain adjustment period after entering the industry," said ASTRI CEO Hugh Chow. "Now, the scheme can bring forward or shorten that period."

The head of City University's electrical engineering department, Stella Pang, said: "I'm pleased to see the launch of the scheme and our partners provide many opportunities for students.

"Students can accelerate their learning to adapt to the research requirements of the industry as quickly as possible."

In the next quarter, six integrated circuit companies will join the scheme, and some electrical and internet-of-things companies will also be invited, eventually forming a research and development network of 72 organizations from the public and private sectors.

The quartet is actively seeking new partners and is currently discussing collaboration opportunities outside Hong Kong, including mainland China. The list of new collaborative partners will be announced at the end of this year.

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