Platform Pairs Research with Industry Needs
A transformative knowledge transfer platform to assist local industry technology upgrades through deployment of research innovations from HKUST, and other institutions, has been set up by PhD alumnus Dr. TSUI Kwong-Hoi (2019 PhD in Electronic and Computer Engineering, 2013 BSc in Chemistry).
The goal of the platform is to work with manufacturers to understand their needs and improve production processes and current practices. This provides an alternative to the usual “top-down approach”, whereby university teams devise new technologies on their own and then try to launch them on the market.
The initiative involves an enterprising collaboration with the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong (CMA).
The pairing platform enables the CMA to use its many connections with local industries to discover issues facing companies. It then refers them to Dr. Tsui’s company, Sundial Technology Development Ltd., to locate relevant institutional technical solutions.
To assist the food packaging industry’s competitive edge, for example, Dr. Tsui brought together one company and nano-antibacterial film technology from the research team of his former supervisor Prof. FAN Zhiyong, Electronic and Computer Engineering.
With a small modification, the technology was set to work, helping the rm extend its reach from general food packaging to the high-end food market.
“Although we only set up the platform at the end of 2019, by January 2020, we had already received over 20 approaches, including four listed companies,” Dr. Tsui said. “This shows both the demand for and value of such a matching service.”
Another food industry innovation hailing from Prof. Fan’s team contributed to the new platform through specially designed gas sensor odor detectors. Such detectors can help local food processing plants strengthen quality control, leading to savings on labor and boosting efficiency.
Dr. LO Kam-Wing, Vice President of the CMA, noted traditional industries constantly needed to evolve to stay competitive. While they oen had the resources, they did not have the links to researchers creating novel technologies. Universities, on the other hand, may lack practical know-how on applying their new concepts in an industrial setting or scaling them up for mass production.
As such, the platform serves a valuable bridging role in bringing the different parties together, spurring innovation that benefits both the economy and society.
Dr. Tsui established Sundial Technology in 2016 while still a PhD student at HKUST. The same year, he and his teammates joined the University’s sixth annual One Million Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition, winning the top President Award as well as the Innovation and Student Awards for their innovative anti-reflection and self-cleaning film for solar panels. The project was initially overseen by Prof. Fan.
This story was originally published on the SENG In Focus magazine (issue 32, P.27).