Joining the School of Engineering in May, in the last months of the academic year and amid HKUST’s 25th Anniversary, I have had to bring myself up to speed fast. However, with the School’s great staff and faculty, the transition from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I worked for the past 23 years, has been rapid and smooth and I have enjoyed every minute of being here.
One reason for such excitement is the momentous time for engineering in which we now live and the fresh horizons opening up for the School. People everywhere are now starting to realize and respect the essential role of engineers in solving the major problems of the future. Climate change and sustainability, smart buildings and mega-city living, energy, healthcare, and many other issues all need to be addressed. It will be engineering researchers and practitioners, from civil to aerospace, computer science to communications, biomedicine to finance and often working across disciplinary boundaries, who will generate those solutions. Engineering will spur economic activity through entrepreneurship and innovation; and impact hugely on how we live our lives. I often refer to this as the “Century of Engineering”.
Rise of technology and innovation in Asia
I believe Asia will play an especially important role. The region has recognized the critical role of higher education in science and technology development and made an impressive commitment to expansion in the past 10 years. With Asia’s growing talent pool and fast-developing economies, quality engineering jobs will likewise increase. In turn, this will motivate more to study and enter engineering, giving the region an increasingly dominant global role in shaping future innovation.
As the world’s eyes turn to Asia, this School – already ranked as a top global and regional leader – will be in a key position to draw in and nurture leading minds locally and globally. We have already done very well in terms of international reach and positive feedback about our students and graduates from alumni and industry. But we need to do more to establish engineering as a dynamic and rewarding career for top young minds within Hong Kong.
Indeed, I believe we are at a historic moment where the local mindset about engineering could change. The Hong Kong government has been pushing hard to move the city from a service-based to a knowledge-based economy by encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in schools and promoting innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in society. The “cool” work and investment in hi-tech companies and engineering concepts, and increasingly diverse career paths, are another impetus for change.
The School must grasp this unprecedented time to excel and be fully acknowledged for its excellence. As Dean, I shall be endeavoring to create the conditions, internally and externally, to enable faculty, students and staff to optimize their potential. I will also seek to ensure the community at large recognizes the social value, personal satisfaction, and prestige awaiting those who study at our School.
This will require a continual pipeline of forward-thinking research and education, well-designed and executed management strategies, supportive resources and active promotion, and determination, discipline and drive. Working together with members of the School and University, our alumni, and partners in government and industry, I fully believe we can and will become one of the powerhouses of this “Century of Engineering”.
Prof Tim K T Cheng
Dean of Engineering