Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2010 > SG's speech on Knowledge Transfer Conference "Partner for Success: Mastering Innovation, Leveraging Opportunities, Engaging Community"

SG's speech on Knowledge Transfer Conference "Partner for Success: Mastering Innovation, Leveraging Opportunities, Engaging Community"

Knowledge Transfer Conference
"Partner for Success: Mastering Innovation, Leveraging Opportunities, Engaging Community"

on 8 November 2010 (Monday)

Opening Address by Mr Michael V Stone, JP
Secretary-General, University Grants Committee

Professor Tong, Chief Zhang, Dr Stephan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

        Good morning. I am very happy to join colleagues here today at this meaningful occasion to explore the many dimensions and possibilities of knowledge transfer. The University Grants Committee (UGC) is very pleased to be, alongside the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC), one of the main sponsors of this event.

2.  But the hard work is not sponsorship, it is organisation. So, first of all, on behalf of the UGC, I would like to thank the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the other seven UGC-funded institutions, and the Hong Kong Science Park for co-organising this experience-sharing event.

3.  The UGC has long been advocating knowledge transfer (or "knowledge exchange" as it is increasingly being called) as one of the three core functions of higher education institutions – the other two being teaching and learning, and research. The broadness in the notion of "knowledge" means that it is hard to give a non-restrictive definition for "knowledge transfer" that does the term justice. Indeed, it is inextricably linked with institutions' existing core teaching and research activities – as some academics used to remind us when the UGC first promoted the concept of knowledge transfer.

4.  But it is more than that: On the one hand, it is a conscious and proactive effort to generate from research outcomes (or novel applications of knowledge), real socio-economic benefits for the community and businesses. On the other, it is also an equally proactive effort to understand the knowledge needs of the community, which in turn inform and enrich the research agenda and curriculum development of our tertiary institutions – thereby maximising the impact of the significant amount of public funds invested in the higher education sector every year. In short, knowledge transfer is a "two-way street" of mutual benefit to the academia and the society.

5.  Essentially, what the UGC encourages institutions and our local academics to do is to reach out, reach wide, and reach effectively.

6.  As Professor Thomas Davenport of UT Austin once succinctly put it, "Successful knowledge transfer involves neither computers nor documents, but rather interactions between people. If you want me to absorb your knowledge, then spend time with me, work with me, do my job and let me do yours". Hence, I encourage all of you to reach out, to share with each other your perspectives on knowledge needs, and to explore practices on how best such needs can be met and matched, in today's and tomorrow's sharing and business matching sessions.

7.  Next, to reach wide. I hope our guests from the business and industry sectors would also agree, knowledge transfer indeed is something more than mere dollars on the books. It involves real social benefits to the community. Several of our institutions set up technology transfer offices many years ago. Great. That is certainly a vital aspect of knowledge transfer. But knowledge transfer is more than that. Our local institutions have vast community engagement networks, including close partnerships with schools, NGOs, arts and professional sectors – which could and should be fully leveraged. The scholarly outputs from arts, humanities and social sciences disciplines can make an equally important contribution to the socio-economic benefits of the community, in forms such as developing continuing professional education courses, public policy analysis, public performance of art works, etc./p>

8.  Therefore I encourage you, ladies and gentlemen from various sectors, also to reach wide – not only focussing on technological innovation of knowledge transfer, but also broadening your perspective to look at the societal and humanistic benefits it brings. I am glad that the organisers have put together discussion sessions on professional and community engagement tomorrow afternoon at the Science Park, and I am sure interesting points will emerge and you wont' want to miss them.

9.  Last but not least, to reach effectively. Before one can grow a good crop, the soil and other conditions must be just right. Likewise, providing a supportive enabling environment by putting in place timely policies that weed out obstacles and give staff incentives and recognition will surely be most effective to boost academics’ achievements in generating real socio-economic benefits out of their work. I look forward to the policy forum among local and overseas university administrators and business leaders later this morning, to share experience in motivating academics to take part in knowledge transfer activities.

10.  The UGC is also playing its part: we successfully lobbied the Government to introduce a new stream of recurrent funding from last year onwards for our eight funded institutions to build up further their capacity and broaden their endeavours in knowledge transfer. This additional funding is recurrent in nature, signifying the ongoing commitment of the Government and the UGC in supporting knowledge transfer. Within the first year of operation of funding, we already witnessed a "ripple effect" in which a marked increase was observed in both the quality and quantity of knowledge transfer activities – and I wish to congratulate institutions for that.

11.  While on the subject of funding, let me observe that in several other systems – perhaps the UK being the most obvious – governments are increasingly looking to universities to solve economic and social woes. In the age when having and using the capacity to innovate is being seen as a crucial element in sustaining economic competitiveness, universities are a key port of call by governments. Knowledge transfer is no longer just something desirable – it is a required outcome. Funds are being thrown at the issue and instant gratification is expected. Very high expectations are being put on universities. I am not sure if all the expectations can be met. In Hong Kong we do not have strident targets set by the Government – yet. But it is important to appreciate the political and social dimension to this area of university endeavour and to be ahead of the curve.

12.  Without further ado, I look forward to the presentations and thought-provoking discussions in the coming sessions. May I conclude by wishing this conference a great success. Thank you very much.