Unleashing the spark of innovation

CUHK and HKSTP collaborate to nurture young talent

“We’re a firm believer in innovation and change. We’re confident that our collaboration with CUHK on the Co-operative Education Programme will yield meaningful changes and progress for Hong Kong,” said Albert Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP).

After serving in various key roles in M&A, business development, product management and business operations for prominent global enterprises like General Electric, Albert (MBA alumnus, 1994) joined HKSTP in 2016. As the CEO, his mission is to lead the organisation in fostering the growth of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem by nurturing HKSTP’s start-ups and technology companies, and commercialising R&D.

(Front row, from left,) Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP; Dr John Lai, Director of the Office of the Co-operative Education Programme; (back row, from left) three Co-op@CUHK students, Alvin Wong, Regan Jaehyun Park and Wilbert Averil

An unconventional programme for triple-win

HKSTP is one of the industry partners of CUHK’s new Co-operative Education Programme (Co-op@CUHK), which is Hong Kong’s first university-wide Co-op Programme. Penultimate and final year students enrolled in the programme will participate in six to eight months of credit-bearing, paid, full-time job placements at a variety of companies and organisations. Co-op@CUHK also enables employers to engage with promising students and capture the right talent early.

Dr John Lai, Director of the Office of Co-operative Education Programme, said, “Unlike conventional internships, Co-op@CUHK gives students more opportunities to dive deep into the operations and culture of their host companies, and make impactful contributions.” He added that he was elated to see Co-op@CUHK students develop professionalism and become more self-motivated to learn what they need for the workplace and their careers.

Alvin Wong, a student majoring in biomedical sciences, is working in the core facilities team at HKSTP’s Institute for Translational Research. “The placement has helped me gain insights from industry experts in lab rotation and visiting biotech companies. Through the pre-employment courses, I am better prepared to meet challenges in the workplace,” Alvin said. The state-of-the-art facilities impressed him, too: “It’s amazing to see advanced technologies such as super-resolution microscopy, mass spectrometry and flow cytometry.”

Regan Jaehyun Park is a Korean economics major serving at STP Platform, helping industries transform for the data age and Hong Kong thrive in a data-driven world.. He has contributed by supporting banking and finance companies as they learn federative learning, and presented to his department on how synthetic data could protect companies’ sensitive data. The Co-op placement has widened Regan’s perspectives. He explained, “Being involved in the department’s meetings helps me understand the mindsets of different leaders. It also helps me better understand business in a real-world setting.”

Discomfort brings possibilities

Challenges could be seen as nutrients for personal growth. Wilbert Averil is an Indonesian economics major working at InnoAcademy. He recalled an experience of cold-calling a tech talent who rejected collaboration opportunities. “As a shy person, I was very nervous. I was afraid I would make a bad impression, so I paid too much attention to how I performed. After self-reflection, I’m determined to listen to people’s needs and jot down notes during the phone conversations,” he said. 

Albert encouraged students to embrace what is meaningful or even uncomfortable. He shared a nerve-racking experience when he had to present an M&A proposal worth US$200 million to the legendary CEO Jack Welch at the GE headquarters. “I was only 38 and I was unfamiliar with the M&A process in the US. But I needed to work with various senior GE staff from diverse backgrounds, such as legal, management, human resources and information technology.”

He had sleepless nights for a week. “All I could do was make the best preparations for the proposal.” The acquisition was ultimately successful, and GE assigned him roles in business development and product marketing. “When you face challenges, you can choose to confront and grow from them.” These days, he teaches M&A at CUHK and HKU, as well as nurturing technology companies and talent at HKSTP.

Albert: You’d better change in face of the changing environment. Otherwise, the environment will change you. It’s a matter of survival.

Look beyond Hong Kong

Albert said that Hong Kong has a solid foundation of R&D, which will help to elevate the city’s status as an innovation hub. It is for this reason that HKSTP immerses Co-op@CUHK students in its work environment, helping them build a picture of R&D and I&T in the real world, which the organisation hopes will benefit the I&T ecosystem in the long run.

He added that since the domestic R&D market is small compared to the GBA and the Belt and Road countries, HKSTP is connecting start-ups and companies to opportunities in the GBA, while attracting technology companies to Hong Kong to explore GBA and regional business.

Albert encouraged young people to keep an open mind. “Never be complacent. Other cities such as Shenzhen and Shanghai are as good as Hong Kong. We have to expand to bigger markets such as the GBA to seek more opportunities and success.”

Dr Lai revealed that Co-op@CUHK is already inviting corporate partners in the GBA to join the programme and give students additional work opportunities. “Co-op is about providing trailblazers with a viable platform to connect, seize opportunities and collectively scale new heights.”

By Jenny Lau
Photos by Pony Leung & Amy Tam

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