Vice-Chancellor's Office

Professor G Q Max Lu is the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey.

His responsibility is to lead the University and define its academic direction and strategy. He is also responsible for ensuring that it is well managed, and he has a first-rate team of colleagues who work with him to ensure the success of the University.

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You can contact Professor Lu via his support team:

Miss Henrietta Staveley, Executive Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor

Mrs Megan Hopper, Executive Office Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor's Office

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Welcome to Academic Writing Month! Check out Surrey’s AcWriMo site for my guest blog   https://surreyacwrimo.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/academic-writing-and-the-dream-of-spontaneous-combustion-by-professor-max-lu/  plus...

Selected speeches

Selected speeches by Professor Max Lu.

Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, good evening to you all, and a very warm welcome to the 5th annual Roland Clift Lecture, a flagship event of the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES).

We are honoured to have Dr Steve Waygood as our guest speaker this evening. Dr Waygood is Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors. His TedTalk on ‘Responsible Investment’ has provided an excellent, accessible and inspiring framework for how we can ALL influence the restructuring of finance for investment in a sustainable future. Given what is going on in Brexit politics at the moment, perhaps we also urgently need another lecture on “responsible government”!

I emphasise the word ‘accessible’ because I believe that to ensure a sustainable future we all have a role to play and we can make a difference – in small and grand ways, as individuals, and as institutions.

And yet – issues of the environment and sustainability are, more than ever, not for the fainthearted. These challenges require a capacity for, and commitment to, finding solutions that may well re-define industries, economies and sectors. Old habits die hard, and new habits demand tenacity, imagination and intelligence. More than that -- this mission requires faith in humanity’s willingness to change and expand beyond our individual self-interest.

Unquestionably, the stakes are high. Sustainability will become more and more important going forward; it will have to be built into everything we do. It will demand a great deal from leaders and citizens alike. We are immensely fortunate to have people such as Dr Waygood to help us find the way to a better future.

Dr Waygood joins the august company of past Roland Clift lecturers, who have illuminated such topics as energy security and cyber terrorism, the concept and practice of the Circular Economy, and the theory of world development within planetary boundaries. We are privileged to have insight into current thinking on such multi-disciplinary approaches to ‘industrial ecology’ and sustainable systems. Environment and Sustainability as a discipline now comprehends topics of enormous importance, and solutions and ideas that must stretch to the task.

We are very proud of the work of the CES, which is closely aligned with the University’s broader research themes of sustainability and urban living. Work in these areas is critical to finding solutions to our global challenges, as well as to measuring the environmental impact of development and how we manage it.

Therefore, the topics of this Roland Clift Lecture are highly relevant and important to the mission of this great university – that is, to make a positive difference in shaping the world through education and research. 

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in welcoming Dr Steve Waygood to deliver the 5th Roland Clift lecture.

Thank you.

Thank you, and good afternoon ladies and gentlemen!

I am extremely honoured to be recognised by the University of Strathclyde, and delighted to speak on this wonderful occasion. To all of you graduating today, my warm congratulations on your fantastic academic achievements.

As business school graduates, your training and experience afford you the entrepreneurial spirit needed in a society now defined by speed, complexity and uncertainty. It doesn’t matter whether you are launching a start-up or taking up a well-defined position in an established company. Either way, you need to embrace change and leadership as two key drivers of business.

University education gives you the skills to think and see the world differently, and importantly also the abilities to understand and lead change.

Speaking of change, the past century has been extraordinary. Technology alone gives a fascinating example of the pace of change:

  • On December 17, 1903 Wright brothers’ first flight lasted 12 seconds for a distance of 120 feet ‐ less than the wingspan of a 747.
  • 66 years later (in 1969), Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.  So from 120 feet to 240,000 miles took just 66 years.
  • Today, the power of computers is doubling every 18 months. Every minute, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new videos, Twitter users tweet over 300,000 times, and Google receives 4,000,000 searches.
  • The first human genome project took 13 years to finish and cost $3b, but now we have DNA sequencing costing less than $500 taking less than 1 day.

The past decade has also seen many digital disruptions in an economy that is ever more unpredictable. For example, companies like Airbnb, Uber, Amazon and Alibaba have redefined business models. At the same time, many other organizations have been struggling to evolve at the speed demanded by their customers and partners. Businesses now and tomorrow need to move quickly and experiment widely; that is why talented people like you, with the drive and skills to innovate, will be at a premium.

Innovation is about new ways of creating, capturing, and delivering value.

Your challenge as future leaders is to prepare for change, master it and lead it. To stay ahead of this curve, you will need courage, resilience and the determination to innovate. I am sure Strathclyde has prepared you well to think imaginatively and take advantage of the future disruptions.

In the era of big data, we are often overwhelmed by the speed, connectivity and urgency of the virtual world.  Information goes through our fingers almost without going through our brain cells. But real knowledge and understanding are harder to achieve.  How do we understand what is happening? What happens next? What does it mean for me?

As I have learned in my career, leaders need to deliver meaning by sifting through an enormous amount of data for meaningful information that adds value. “Knowledge used to be power, but nowadays knowing what to ignore is even more powerful”.

From my own experience, it is important to have the patience to penetrate the superficial and truly discover substance underneath. Only by so doing, you will be able to see a further vision and develop a sustainable strategy, not only to deal with what is known to be important now, but to cope with the unknowns and disruptions of the future. 

From my humble beginning and throughout my career, I have learned that humility, resilience and foresight are the most valuable traits, particularly in the face of great unknowns. Good leaders who embody the qualities of empathy, integrity and selflessness, engender trust to frame meaning for the future. 

Finally, may I offer my whole-hearted congratulations to you and your families again, and my best wishes for an exciting journey in the next chapter of your career.  Never stop learning and innovating, and above all enjoying the journey!  

Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome you all to this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Awards.

One of the pleasures in a VC’s job is to help celebrate the amazing contributions made by colleagues from across our University community.

There’s a saying that goes like this: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”  It could be anyone’s saying, but I think it is from Confucius -- and I promise I will not mention another Confucius saying!

Well, our finalists this evening have certainly put their “personal excellence” in the service of Surrey.

They are all outstanding examples of the University’s commitment to the highest standards in teaching, research and student experience. All of our finalists should be immensely proud of the part they’ve played in Surrey’s success and its rising reputation as a top university.

Tonight we celebrate the highest calibre of teaching and research, which feeds the life of the mind and makes Surrey a place where the best and brightest young people want to continue their academic journey. It is reflected in our TEF Gold award, and in our continued high performance in international league tables.

We also recognise the work of staff from professional services, who have gone above and beyond in creating a first-rate environment for learning, innovation, and personal development. From day-to-day roles that keep the University running smoothly as a vibrant learning community, to quietly inspirational management roles, these colleagues have shown the determination, imagination and compassion that define true leadership and camaraderie.

This is why we have received a Guardian University Award for student experience, and a THE Leadership and Management Award for Outstanding Student Services.

What does excellence really mean in this context, and in our day-to-day work?  To me it means:

  • Putting your ideas, energy and skills at the service of the wider community, rather than keeping it for yourself
  • Going above and beyond what is required or adequate
  • Giving more because your character compels you to, not because of others’ expectations
  • Finding ways to work better and more efficiently, and perform to a higher standard
  • Through ingenuity, inspiration, passion and dedication, showing others the way to be their best.

Good evening everyone.

I am very pleased to be here at the inception of the Ethics Conversation Club, which aims to establish a discussion forum that transcends academic disciplines, and to examine the relationship between ethics and the university. May I take this opportunity to congratulate all involved in initiating this club!

The title of my speech comes from a quote by Confucius: ‘The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.’ Here, Confucius frames the question of ethics in terms of black and white. In the modern day, we face a wide spectrum of ‘grey’, in which we must try to stick to our personal and professional integrity, whilst recognising the need to survive commercially. This is not an issue that will go away. If anything, it will become more challenging.

The ethical issues faced by the modern university go far beyond traditional questions of research integrity, student plagiarism, or staff hiring practices. Higher Education today is complex and nuanced, facing all the snags and complications of society, in microcosm. It is now a question not just of ‘teaching ethics’, but of practising ethics in every expression of our institution: Embedding ethics in what we teach, how we teach it, how we work, and how we live.

Even as I say this – it sounds exhausting! Does it mean we have to spend every waking moment in self-reflection? Will paperwork swamp us, as we attempt to record, evaluate and justify our every decision? Is Ethics merely one more box to tick, in an already busy and over-regulated day?

Not, I argue, if we pursue the true spirit of academic ethics.

I mean: By fostering ‘the exchange of ideas and the difficult reflective analysis that comes with learning to reason things through to a just solution.’ (The Conscience of the Campus: Case Studies in Moral Reasoning among Today's College Students).

We cannot, after all, expect an ethical and just society to maintain itself spontaneously; we know that we have to inculcate, for example, the concept of ethical business practices in our business schools. And we all know to our cost and distress - from global financial crises to the question of fireproof cladding on tower blocks - that ethical decision making is in no way a foregone conclusion. One only needs to read or watch ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ or ‘The Big Short’ to realise how the world is dangerously fraught with greed, deception and outright criminal scams. 

Ethics is not pre-programmed into all of us in all circumstances; neither is it an organism with its own existence and self-determination. We are the guardians and the advocates of an ethical society.

In fact, Surrey is already a global thought leader in this area. The International Care Ethics Observatory is based here, researching and supporting the ethical values of carers in nursing and other care professions. Care ethics maintains that we can learn to be virtuous, selfless and compassionate. There are implications here for the wider possibilities for teaching ethical behaviour: namely, that ethical thinking within learning should not be an afterthought, nor an elective speciality, but a core and embedded exercise underpinning the healthy moral balance of the individual and of society. In other words, our aim should not be to ‘teach ethics’, but to establish an ethical culture.

Creating a strong ethical culture is one of the key pillars of our institutional values, namely “ambition, collaboration, excellence, integrity and respect”. As Vice-Chancellor, I would like to build a values-led culture which nurtures ambition, collaboration and excellence underpinned by the fundamental human values of integrity, ethical conduct and professionalism, and respect for the differences and diversity of people and ideas. Only when such a culture thrives will the university be able to get where we want to go tomorrow, from where we are today. 

Of course, like any reputable organisation, Surrey is governed by an ethics policy that codifies rules and guidelines for anything from good research practice, to preventing fraud, to handling data. This leads me to three questions about how we think about ethics today:

  1. Do organisations tend to follow the letter of these policies, or the spirit?
  2. Beyond an official ethics policy, what kind of ethical education is possible and desirable in a university? And,
  3. How does one live the values through the day-to-day grind of busy academia?

With regard to the first question, I am unavoidably reminded of the recent scandal that embroiled Facebook, its data, and Cambridge Analytica. Here the behaviour of the Cambridge University researcher in question fell into an ethical ‘gap’ between Cambridge’s ethics policy, which governs even ‘research undertaken by university employees outside the university and overseas’, and the university’s subsequent assertion that this only refers to work undertaken specifically as part of university duties.

This high profile example is connected to more mundane questions of ethics, and to how closely an organisation aligns itself in action to the governing principles it publicly espouses. For example, is it ethical to claim a commitment to business sustainability, and then leave all the lights blazing in deserted buildings during the Christmas break? Can we claim to be ‘collaborative’ while departments remain territorial and siloed?

Ethical practices are living, breathing, evolving entities. Just when we think we understand them, they shift again. Technological advances throw up new ethical questions on an almost daily basis; old certainties and definitions evaporate, and we are adrift.

By extension, then, the practice and study of ethics needs to be flexible, adaptable, and accessible. Whoever dreamt we would be pondering whether robotic entities or their human creators should take responsibility for the innovations that might result from AI?

With regard to the second question, about how to embed an ethical culture that grows and develops along with the university, the opportunities are numerous. An article in Times Higher Education claims that the significant issues of sexual harassment and bullying in the theatre world could be addressed by using the dramatic texts students are studying to educate about ethical dilemmas. For example, issues of bullying and power dynamics in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ may resonate with young actors who feel powerless to stand up to a director with influence over their career. 

This could be the first, and welcome, step in introducing ethical reflection and training into drama education (Ibid), just as it now exists in many medical, law and business schools.

Reimagining the role of ethics in the university could also transform the relationship between academic bureaucracy, trust, and society. If we want academics to be able to focus more on serving society’s needs through the impact of their work, we cannot constrain them with endless red-tape and paperwork. Cutting down bureaucracy requires building up trust. Trust within an organisation is an expression of an embedded ethical culture; rules, over-regulation and regulation rigidity are proof of its absence.

Increasingly, heightened competition amongst academics for status and recognition is leading to overpromising about the impact of research, and overinflating reputation (Ibid). Unrealistic promises in grant applications, for example, reveal how self-interest can overrule integrity and conscience. We hold students and academics to strict rules about academic integrity; how do we educate our community about the wider principles at stake, enabling them to apply and indeed live these principles even when the regulations are more fluid, or even absent?

Rather than addressing these ethical issues piecemeal, one possible solution is to add ethics as a new dimension into the university rankings system (Science and Engineering Ethics, ed. Bird and Spier, Vol 23 Number 1 2017 pp 65-80). It is widely recognised now that ‘academic dishonesty can and does lead to unethical decisions in the future business practice of university graduates’; an ethical assessment of universities really is, therefore, the missing dimension of the present rankings system (Ibid).

This raises intriguing challenges of measurement and evaluation – and also questions of how this might change the ethical landscape of the university, for better or worse.

‘… it is already apparent that technology is introducing us to worlds we may not be ready for. If we know nothing else, we should realize that the skills needed to govern our decision making in this brave new world of tomorrow will rely less on the accumulation of knowledge than on being able to both access and evaluate that knowledge’ in such a way that serves the eternal principles of a just and ethical society.

Let me touch on the third question – of living our ethical values -- by giving you a recent personal anecdote:

I received an email from a graduate of our business school, who got his degree in July, and now works for a startup company in London.  For privacy reasons, I refer to him here as Mr S. In his email he said: “I really appreciate your great help so I was able to get through all my hardships, and get my diploma and a dream job.… I will always remember how you had my back in a very urgent situation. I am very grateful for that!”

Let me explain what happened. Early this year, Mr S was about to suspend his final year of study; his father had fallen very ill back in his home country, and the family could not afford to continue paying the rest of his tuition fees. By coincidence, he was also working on a Kindness Project – an online app to make help and support readily available to those in need.

After exhausting all other avenues of assistance, he approached me.  I was at once impressed with what he was trying to achieve through his entrepreneurial activity, and very sympathetic to his plight of his father’s ill health and the family’s financial difficulties.

This left me with a dilemma. On the one hand, the professional advice I received was not to help this individual further, on the grounds of unfairness to other students with personal difficulties, and at the risk of opening the floodgates for others to directly plead to the Vice-Chancellor for help. This is unquestionably sound advice, according to our normal practices. 

On the other hand, I felt strongly about helping such a talented student, who was facing suspension or even termination of his studies. I thought - we ought to try and help everyone who is in great need, and live our values by treating the needs of our students as high priorities.

Yes, we don’t have enough resources to fully help everyone in need, but should we not at least try to do something to help?

Yes, there might be others who will then try to reach out to the VC for help, but so what?

This was the first personal appeal for help I had experienced, and I just could not brush it aside using the excuse of ‘the usual channels’. I recalled another of Confucius’ sayings: ‘To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.’

In the end, through my assistance, Mr S obtained the help he needed from a combination of hardship funds, philanthropic support and his friends. He paid off his tuition, and….. he graduated with high distinction.

Imagine what would have happened if I had hidden behind the usual rules, and insisted he apply for help only from the limited hardship fund?  It would have certainly been less trouble for me. But what about the consequences for Mr S, the lives he might go on to affect, and our wider university community?

What I learned from this is that we need to tune in more to the human needs of our people, and not rigidly follow some guideline or procedure. Our rules and processes need to be ethically sound and carefully observed, but not at the expense of our humanity.

Similarly, I believe some of our academic rules are so harsh and inflexible that they lose touch with basic human understanding and compassion. This approach serves no one well, neither individual, nor institution, nor community.

I would like to close with a quote from the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung: “An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling.”

In conclusion, I would also like to add that to a scientist, ethics fundamentally means commitment to good science. In life science and medical research, it is particularly important to ensure no harm to the subjects, both human and animals, and observe all established bioethics regulations and guidelines. Ensuring the highest rigor, statistical meaningfulness and data reproducibility are also critical to good science.

Of course in many fields of study, ethical focus requires balancing benefits against risks.

I hope these thoughts on the question of ethics and its relationship to the University, though limited, will help open up the debate and serve as food for further enquiries. I will definitely watch this space with great interest, and I wish you well in your future discussions in the Club!

Thank you for your attention.

Good evening, everyone. I hope your journey to Surrey went smoothly, and you are not feeling too tired!

May I first congratulate you on choosing the University of Surrey for the next chapter of your academic life. This is the beginning of an exciting and inspirational journey for you. Choosing the right university is a huge decision for any student to make, and I hope you join us here with ambitions, enthusiasm and a passion to achieve great things with us!

I believe that the University of Surrey gives its students the tools and education they need to make the most of their dreams and opportunities, and to make their unique impact on the world.

What is it really like to live and study at Surrey? Whatever you love to do, you will find it here. The campus and student life offer all kinds of sports, societies, and activities. We are close-knit, creative and enthusiastic.

Guildford is busy, cosmopolitan, culturally rich, friendly and beautiful! From here, it is easy to access London, the wider UK and Europe.

As international students your challenges are unique, and sometimes daunting. Luckily, you have each other! Don’t forget what a valuable resource Surrey’s international community is – not to mention a whole campus full of friendly and helpful students, staff and academics.

You may feel shy, or anxious about asking for help and advice – please don’t be! And don’t be afraid to make mistakes, maybe even to look a little silly – it’s the only way to learn and move forward. Join national clubs and societies to find a ready-made community and home-from-home, and offer your help to others who may be struggling. Helping others is a very good way to help ourselves.

One of the first challenges you may face is gaining confidence with your language skills. It seems like only yesterday that I too was far from home, slightly bewildered and without a perfect grasp of English. My English nickname, ‘Max’, helped to create a link with my new culture (‘Gaoqing’ having utterly defeated my native English speaking peers!) and my humility and willingness to learn even got me off my first Australian traffic ticket! I was stunned and embarrassed and kept apologising to the policeman, who decided to take pity on me and let me off with a warning.

I think this attitude I had – of openness, gratitude and willingness to learn – is probably the best spirit for any new adventure. And ‘cultural immersion’ is the best method: get involved, plunge in, talk to everyone and above all have fun!

The University of Surrey is a very inclusive place, and this has meant a great deal to me. From the very moment I arrived here, I have felt personally very welcomed. I am proud to have joined a diverse, vibrant and forward-thinking community in which every individual is respected and their contribution is valued.

I know you, too, will find your own place here and in turn extend a welcome to the students who come after you.

I went to Australia at the age of 24 to study for my PhD at the University of Queensland. I had $20 in my pocket and a scholarship promise from the University. Leaving my home in China was an enormous leap of faith. I wonder now how I had the courage! That first week, I survived on the $3 left after the cab ride from the airport, plus a good deal of kind help from my fellow PhD students. Their support and compassion held me up until I could stand on my own two feet.

So, through my personal experience, I know just how universities can change lives for the better – our own lives, and more importantly the lives of others, through education and research.

That’s what all of us do at Surrey. We change lives.

For this, we need smart, inspired, and determined students like you, who are going to change the world.

I have been privileged to hold leadership positions at both English and Australian universities. Higher education today is truly global: In outlook, curriculum and community. By joining us as international students, you play a vital role in continuing to build the bridges that strengthen Surrey’s global identity, and make us relevant in a changing world. Surrey is a great place to be a global citizen.

What does the future hold for Surrey?

Our ambition is to be a leading global university renowned for the outstanding quality and impact of its graduates and research, together making great contributions to society. You will be an important part of this: Pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, and tackling the grand challenges of our time.

I am delighted to welcome you to our vibrant community!

Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.

Pro-Chancellor, Chair and members of the University Council, university staff, distinguished guests, our graduands, and ladies and gentlemen: Good afternoon!

As President and Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to you all on this very special day for our students and their families, in celebrating their academic achievements.  It gives me great pleasure to welcome today’s graduating class from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

I am also honoured to welcome our guest speakers today, Ms Abbie Hutty, and Mr Sam Bryanton.

To all graduands, I offer my warmest congratulations on your academic successes - the culmination of many years of dedication and hard work by our students…. with some help along the way.

You may be familiar with the expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It means that many people present in this room and beyond, through their financial or emotional support, have made your success possible today.

So, as a gesture of gratitude, graduands, please stand and give your lecturers, families and friends a round of applause and cheers! Be loud and passionate!

Many say graduations are about the end of the beginning, which is quite true. University education is all about enriching and transforming lives – your own, and others’.  It is also a preparation for life.

During your studies, you have learned to reason, to develop original ideas, to find confidence in yourself, and to think differently. Importantly too, you have made connections with your fellow students and the community broadly.

And yet, the best for you still lies ahead. Imagine that when you cross the stage and enter the next phase of your lives, you will be stepping into a world full of possibility. You should dream big and bold dreams.

Now, your challenges may be different, and in many ways, more interesting.

You will face the daunting tests, setbacks, and rich rewards of a life fully engaged in the world. You will find inspiration from your belief in yourself, your curiosity about the world, and your love of what you do.

And so, when you are challenged to your very limits, or facing the unknown, remember that, ‘A ship in the harbour is safe – but that is not what ships are built for’.

Very few people start out ‘extraordinary’. It’s the extraordinary acts we do that elevate us. Of these, everyone is capable, every day.

For example, today’s guest speaker Abbie Hutty is a Surrey graduate in mechanical engineering. She is now a Senior Spacecraft Structures Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space. Through her work on the ExoMars rover vehicle, she is part of the European Space Agency’s mission to search for the existence of past or present life on Mars. 

Abbie’s outreach work has brought the importance of engineering to life for potential students, and the public more broadly.

Such people – like Abbie, like yourselves – blaze trails, and change lives.

And so my wish for you today is that you embrace all that life can offer. Launch yourself upon the world; get it wrong; get it right; learn things; change; grow; and above all, be happy.

Graduands, you have enriched Surrey with your presence, your work, your thought, and your character. And now, you are about to join more than 112,000 University of Surrey alumni, who are also connected to us. These are people with whom you can share your experiences and challenges, and from whom you can further your knowledge.

This sense of belonging is one of Surrey’s most significant legacies to our Alumni.

It creates a strong community whose benefits flow both ways: Surrey’s stock strengthens and grows as our Alumni impact society with their achievements. In turn, your support of the university will enhance our ability to educate new generations of young people who will push the boundaries of knowledge even further. 

Our Surrey Alumni network @foreverSurrey, is dedicated to supporting and helping you stay connected with each other, and with the University. As you start the next stage of your journey, never forget that the University of Surrey is forever your intellectual home.

I would like to leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out WHY.’

On that journey-- good luck – and come back – and show us what you have found.

I hope you will stay in touch.  I wish you great happiness, and I wish you great success.

Thank you.

Good morning to you all, and a very warm welcome to Surrey!

It’s a great honour for us to host this landmark conference on ‘big data and managing in a digital economy’, the Academy of Management’s first event in the UK and Europe.

It is often said that the US and the UK are ‘two nations separated by a common language.’ However, when it comes to research into the challenges of the digital economy, we all speak the same language. Management has a crucial role to play in our fast-changing world, where businesses and organisations need to be agile, responsive, and forward-thinking. I therefore applaud the Academy and all of you for this timely conference, to share ideas and create new links and collaborations.

Your theme, ‘big data and managing in a digital economy,’ looks to the implications of technology on our lives and organisations. Namely, how do we make sense of the ever-growing amount of data, to aid our decision making? 

The journey from formless data, to coherent information, to relevant and focused strategy, is a long and uncertain one. This is why many corporations nowadays invest in data analytics tools, including AI.  The implications could be huge. According to the Gartner report, by 2020, 85 per cent of customer interactions will be managed by machines.

The big data phenomenon is multifaceted and complex – but, here at the University of Surrey, we are more than a match for it. We are an entrepreneurial and innovative place, and our researchers excel at truly impactful innovation that transforms industries. Today’s cutting-edge research in digital technologies and data science is led by our Centre for the Digital Economy, 5G Innovation Centre, and Veterinary School. I hope you will have a chance during your stay, to visit some of these centres.   

I am delighted to see so many leading researchers and scholars participating in this conference, which is a unique and defining opportunity to help shape the future of data science in management. 

Your programme is extremely interesting, and I note the intriguing topics of the three keynote speakers, ranging from “entrepreneurs to data science managers to pirates, and from coffee shops to dark rooms of data thefts”. I wish I had the time to join you, and dig deeper into all those areas!

As the recent issue with Facebook and Cambridge Analytics highlights for us so dramatically, data analytics is a mixed blessing. It is a timely reminder that there is a human ethics dimension to any new technology or tool, which has been the conscience of human progress and civilisation for hundreds of years. We forget this at our peril. 

I know that you are poised and ready to tackle this grand challenge, and to develop new and powerful ways to harness the power of big data and AI to underpin future business innovation, and shape a better future for our world.

To conclude, I wish you a very stimulating and fruitful conference, and enjoyment of all the University and the town of Guildford have to offer here.  

Thank you.                                                      

Now it gives me great pleasure to introduce today’s Keynote Speaker, Mr Paul Mang. Paul served as Global Chief Executive Officer of Analytics at Aon plc, and has particular expertise in finding new insights from enormous data resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please give Paul a warm welcome to the podium!

We are delighted to welcome you to the University of Surrey today, for your annual conference. It is an honour to host you; you inspire us with your selflessness and dedication, and you remind us of the ideals we all strive towards to benefit our communities.

I believe it was John Bunyan who said: “You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

To act humbly, in response to a clear need, and without any expectation of recompense, must truly be the highest aspiration for humanity. In it, we recognise our profound connection to each other, and how one person in difficulty diminishes us all, just as any person who is lifted up shines their light on all of us.

The service that volunteers perform is invaluable in a society that is increasingly losing its connections. Voluntary organisations, and the people they connect to each other, weave a web across the gaps that are, more and more, a feature of modern life -- challenges that are physical, emotional and financial, which isolate us from ourselves as well as from each other.

Through your commitment and tenacity, VASWS creates ripples that extend outward, enriching lives, making links, leading to unexpected benefits and opportunities.

Your conference today addresses precisely this issue, when it asks how the voluntary sector can bridge these gaps that are ever-widening in the face of funding shortfalls and a population whose needs grow more insistent and complex. Like any sector, you must grow, change, evolve, redefine and reinvent yourself – to play your leading part in a changing world. That is your task and mission today.

According to a recent article in the Guardian Online, support for volunteers is too important to ‘be left to the voluntary and community sector. It requires partnerships with local councils and the NHS, with everyone working together on a strategy for local volunteering.’ Volunteering is clearly no longer a ‘stand-alone’ initiative, but is now inextricably anchored to local and national communities in a variety of ways. Young people volunteer as a way to learn and develop skills that enhance their employability. People of all ages, circumstances and walks of life look to volunteering as a way to gain as well as give, in very personal ways, to address individual needs. The volunteer sector could well be the common denominator that connects us all; it may have its finger on the emotional pulse of the nation. That’s why VASWS’s ongoing work is so important.

Many of the topics under discussion today are very close to our hearts here at Surrey, as we further develop our own commitment to the wellbeing of all our staff and students. The pastoral care that used to be provided by church or extended family has become the province of teachers, employers, medical professionals, friends and volunteers. This is presenting new opportunities and challenges to all of us.

Volunteering adds richness to the life of the University. I am continually impressed by how many of our students make time in their busy schedules to reach out in this way. Our staff organise departmental ‘community days’ dedicated to volunteer work with local charities. Further, we rely on our alumni volunteers to help Surrey reach out to past and future students; in 2016-17, over 2,000 hours were donated by our alumni in mentoring and delivering talks and lectures.

We feel very strongly about the University of Surrey’s leading role as part of a global community – yet we recognise that community begins at home, in caring for each other to the greater benefit of us all.

That’s why I am particularly pleased about the newly-launched volunteering platform for Surrey -- a dedicated University site run by the Students’ Union, for both students and staff. This online interactive database enables the University community and local charities to connect better, and helps students and staff to find volunteering opportunities that will aid their own personal development while benefiting others. It has the ability to track hours, skills, and experience to deliver insight into volunteering at Surrey, so that we are in a better position to support our volunteers, make more connections and send more ripples out into the world.

You have many weighty issues to consider today, but your discussions here will without doubt improve lives, and renew your purpose going forward. In this effort, it is also good to keep a sense of humour, so I will share a quote by Dave Gynn:

“Don't ever question the value of volunteers. Noah's Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.”

Thank you, and I wish you a very productive day here at Surrey!

Good morning, and welcome to Surrey!

I am delighted to welcome so many distinguished guests who have travelled a long way to join us.

I would like to particularly acknowledge Professor Paul Wellings, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wollongong; Professor Vahan Agopyan, Rector of the University of Sao Paolo; Professor Warwick Arden, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of North Carolina State University; Professor Fang Jiancheng, Vice President of Beihang University; Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International; and Professor Vince Emery, Prof Judy Raper, and Prof Bailian Li, and other members of the UGPN Executive Committee. And our Surrey colleagues who could be candidates for the ‘shortest distance travelled’ prize.

We are very pleased to host this year’s UGPN meeting. Since UGPN’s inception in 2011, we have been proud to be part of this small but effective global network. As we go from strength to strength here at Surrey, we are also able to develop more productive collaborations with members of the network.

I am told that it’s always good to start with a top 10 list.

Here are ‘humanity’s top 10 problems for the next century’, according to the late professor Rich Smalley at Rice University (2004):

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Environment
  5. Poverty
  6. Terrorism and war
  7. Disease
  8. Education
  9. Democracy
  10. Population.

Recognise these? The challenges of the 21st century.

This leads me to a question: What it is a university for? Or, in other words, what is the real mission of a university? 

For the German philosopher Humboldt in 1810, a university was to do with the "whole" community of scholars and students engaged in a common search for truth.

For Cardinal Newman in 1852, it was about teaching universal knowledge. For Lord Robbins in 1963, universities are for instructing skills, promoting general powers of the mind, advancement of learning, and transmission of a common culture and common standards of citizenship.

Or perhaps they are also for reminding us to be humble as we come face to face with the vastness of knowledge. As J. Robert Oppenheimer said: "No one should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows."

For me - as echoed by the UGPN mission statement - a university’s real purpose is all about transforming society and changing lives through education and research. In essence, our mission is to help society to meet the top ten challenges facing our world today and tomorrow. As universities, we make real impact through our graduates and research.

The word ‘impact’, of course, peppers all our conversations now.

But what is impact anyway?

It is relevance to the quality of people’s lives – right here, right now. And we can only deliver this if we stand in a place of ‘holism’, recognising that no single stakeholder possesses the answers. To quote the author and management expert, Ken Blanchard: "None of us is as smart as all of us.” 

The UGPN is an expression of the global and collaborative outlook of the modern University. Through it, we renew our purpose and mission to harness our joint strengths to tackle the urgent global issues and local challenges of our day. There can be no higher aspiration.

In pursuit of this ambition, UGPN has brought together students and staff to exchange ideas, share information, and collaborate on research projects and publications, which are already demonstrating some remarkable outcomes. For example, in 2017 researchers from Surrey launched the Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), to tackle local air pollution problems in India. This is a joint UGPN initiative, to create solutions that will ensure “clean air for all” in both developed and developing countries.

I believe passionately in the impact of universities – both in the present, by contributing to a vibrant local community, employment, and opportunities – and in the future, with our cutting edge research, innovation, thought leadership, and policy. More and more, this progress happens through establishing conversations.

Our mission here at Surrey is to inspire people to make an impact, by ‘connecting people with ideas’, and we can do this most effectively through collaboration and partnership. In this way we achieve greater impact.

In recent decades, academia has truly come out of its ‘ivory tower’, and is now connected to life locally and globally. Research and innovation are happening in real time, in the real world. We are all shifting gears, re-assessing, and re-aligning to keep pace with a digital economy.

Universities must always strive to imagine better, to reach beyond our grasp towards a future where we all may realise our true potential. We are the cradle of society’s future – the decisions, commitments, and partnerships that we make now will reverberate far beyond our campus. We must continually be turning our collaborations and our research toward this supreme goal.

At this conference, we also look to the future of UGPN, and to building a critical mass to strengthen our partnership. New members bring richness and expertise that accentuates our effectiveness.

By working together, we can deliver a transformational impact to society, shaping a better future for a world that is faced with far more than 10 challenges. 

So, I hope that you will make the most of this unique opportunity to network, and exchange ideas and develop new fruitful collaborations. And finally I wish you all have a stimulating few days and enjoy your stay in Guildford.

Thank you.

Good morning!

It’s a pleasure to join you again today, as this conference draws to a close.

Remember my top 10 list, two days ago when you arrived?

It is just possible that we have inched a little closer to solving some of those problems, by our efforts here. Think back on how stark and insurmountable these problems sounded when I read them out in a list. Where to begin? Why even bother?

Now consider how different those intractable problems seem after two days of discussion, learning, and sharing ideas and inspiration. Everything seems possible now, because we have reached out to each other. In this nexus lies an unusual energy that not only finds solutions, but brings them within our grasp. Collaboration is surprisingly powerful.

And so I have assembled a shorter list: My top two principles of collaboration, which I shall share with you now:

  1. 'The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than on each other' (Thomas Stallkamp) 

And:

  1. 'Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there, unless everybody gets there.' (Virginia Burden).

You can feel free to share those; I don’t own the copyright!

As you well know, the UGPN sets out to create a foundation for international collaboration enabling academics and students from some of the world’s top universities to work together on issues of global importance. 

We are also some of the most innovative universities in the world, in the way we are fully committed to reaching across traditional boundaries to connect industry and academia, research and application, the Sciences and the Humanities, the university and the world. This should not be underestimated. It would be easy to continue down well-trodden paths, and congratulate ourselves at the end of them – but we must blaze new paths, make the unexpected connections, form the unconventional partnerships.

You leave Surrey today with renewed inspiration. What’s next? Truly, the sky is the limit.

And now I hope you will excuse me, as I have the great pleasure of officiating at graduation and celebrating the next wave of young people who will change the world.

Thank you.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good evening!

I am extremely honoured and delighted to be invited to give the Vice-Chancellor’s distinguished lecture.

In the next half hour or so, I will talk briefly about my own institution – the University of Surrey. I will share with you some personal perspective on the ‘Research Silk Road’ and the importance of collaboration with Asia. I will highlight some areas of opportunities for partnerships and how we can best approach to developing effective partnerships.

Obviously I don’t look like a Scotsman nor do I sound like one, even with my funny accent. So… who am I? I won’t bore you with my CV, but I’d just like to share a bit about myself that is not normally in my bio.

I grew up in rural China, during the cultural revolution, when Chinese universities were closed. Little did I know back then that I would go on to enjoy a academic career that would take me to the forefronts of knowledge and innovation.

After the cultural revolution, Chinese universities were able to re-open. Aged 16, I entered Northeastern University with a scholarship. I went to Australia to study at the age of 24, for my PhD at the University of Queensland, with $20 in my pocket and a scholarship promise by the University.  The first week I survived on the $3 left after a cab-ride from the airport, plus a good deal of kind help from my fellow PhD students.

Through my personal experience I know just how universities can change people’s lives for the better. More importantly, it can give people the opportunity to help change the lives of others, through education and research.

And that’s what all of us do at Surrey and Heriot Watt. We change lives.

Let me share with you how the University of Surrey has been changing lives locally and globally.

Since its royal charter 51 years ago, the University of Surrey has become a truly global community of talents and ideas, forged by effective collaborations across institutions, business and industry.

Surrey was the University of the Year in 2016, and won a TEF Gold Award in 2017. We were also awarded our 4th Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2017, in food and nutrition sciences. Other awards include four Oscars, seven Grammys and 12 BAFTAs bestowed to our extraordinary graduates from music and performing arts.

With more than 16,000 students, and 116 companies on the Surrey Research Park, it makes a significant contribution (£1.7bn) to the national and local economy.

One of the USPs of the University of Surrey is its great tradition and capacity in working with industry and business through more than 2,300 partners locally and globally. Another is our Professional Training Year. THE rated us as one of the top 50 in the world among the Tech Challenger universities in 2017.

Ultimately our ambition is to inspire people to make an impact!

  • As a global community of ideas and people, we are dedicated to life-changing education and research
  • Through exceptional teaching, we inspire and empower our students for personal and professional success
  • Through world-class research, we aim to make transformational impact on society, not the least helping to shape the future digital economy
  • We can only succeed by agile collaboration and partnerships with businesses, governments and communities.

In achieving our goals by working together with our partners, we help shape a better world for tomorrow.

The real impact that a university makes, through its graduates, and research is the global recognition and prestige, which in turn translate into what I called it the “reputational capital.” This will over the long run, add to the resources needed to sustain excellence in teaching and research.

Such is the virtuous cycle of impact and growth. Among the input factors, there is a key element I would like to single out. That is collaboration, - collaborations between academia, business, industry and other institutions. The word “collaboration” may be perceived as rhetorical, or even sometimes a bit cliché, but doing it well is not easy, more an art than science. I will return to this point later.

Seriously, great collaboration can help us act faster, work smarter, improve value and reduce costs. The benefits of great collaborations or partnerships can recur year after year, so it does feed into this virtuous cycle.

Collaboration isn’t just nice to do but is absolutely necessary.

We simply cannot succeed without adapting and collaborating. This is incredibly true for higher education, particularly in the current challenging environment, which is becoming ever more competitive both in funding and attraction of talented students and staff. Not to mention Brexit and HE Funding Review. We cannot stand still and must constantly pursue new and innovative ways of achieving success.

In my view, strategic collaboration is one effective way for the HE institutions to meet these challenges and make greater impact.

In respect to collaboration and partnerships, I have been asked to talk about the so-called “Research Silk Road.”

A good historic example of the benefits of global trade is perhaps the Silk Road. This ancient network of trading routes established in the early century BC served to link the east and west through commerce and cultural interactions. The route extended over 4,000 miles across Europe, Arabia, India and China and was named after the lucrative silk trade originating in China around 200 BC.

The Silk Road opened long-distance political and economic relations between civilisations, cultural exchanges flourished as readily as tangible goods flowed.

One of the key centres along the Silk Road is Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, which was a prominent strategic center of scholarship, commerce and trade along the Silk Road.

After the fall of the Mongol Empire, the Silk Road disintegrated in 15 century AD.

However, after the Tashkent earthquake in 1966, the capital city rebuilt itself and triggered the revival of modern cities along the Silk Road, which paved the way for the ‘New Silk Road’.

As well as physical trade routes, since the 1980’s information superhighway - the internet has also enabled civilisations to expand faster and wider accelerating the globalisation trend. And the world as a result has benefited tremendously.

Global economic growth continued, but with industrial revolution and dwindling of the Qing dynasty in China, the world economic centre of gravity started to shift and in about once century, from 1820 to 1913, it moved from Asia to Europe.

And the history is clear after World War Two, that is the point when the economic centre moved across the Atlantic to the USA.

However, the combination of lower growth in developed countries and fast urbanisation of the emerging economies, triggered the most rapid development in Asia, particularly east Asian countries. So between 2000-2010, the economic centre of gravity swept back to Asia.

Well known to this audience, as part of the phenomenal economic growth story, Asian higher education has risen rapidly too.

At 2017 HEPI Annual Lecture, Professor Tan Chorh Chuan (former NUS president), spoke about "major shifts in global higher education: A perspective from Asia." He highlighted the ‘massification’ of HE in Asia, and the importance of universities to innovate and the expansion of research.

Nick Hillman said in introducing Professor Tan, that: “The rise of Asian universities is, without doubt, the single most important current change happening in global higher education. It threatens the dominance of the Anglo-Saxon models…, while also providing unrivalled opportunities for international cooperation."

A striking point made by Prof Tan is: “by 2020 China alone will have more than 37 million students in HE and India will have more than 27 million! In terms of quality of publications, currently Chinese researchers already published 20 per cent of top 0.1 per cent highly citations.”

It only takes a glance at the rankings tables to see the dominance of Chinese and Hong Kong universities in the top 10 in Asia.

Now, let me switch gear to the China story, and the New Silk Road.

Unveiled by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to revive and extend the historic trading routes that once linked Europe, Asia and Africa by enhancing infrastructure and to promote trade. And by improving connectivity, it will also increase understanding between people and nations. And it is a great opportunity for universities as well.

The economies along the BRI routes are home to almost 3 billion people - that’s half of the world’s population! According to James Cameron, Head of Infrastructure and Real Estate Group at HSBC, China’s banks have already pledged over $2 trillion in BRI-related financing, and companies invested $126 billion in projects along BRI routes in 2017.

The British Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said: “…This initiative is truly ground-breaking in the scale of its ambition, …with the potential to raise the living standards of 70 per cent of the global population.”

As the belt runs through Europe, this would also present opportunity to engage in multilateral collaboration across the UK, China and Europe, particularly in the post-Brexit world, despite a certain degree of scepticism and questions about how China will play.

So what are the multilateral opportunities in collaborations with China?

China has already got a strong influence in Southeast Asia, and is investing considerably in Asean countries including in Malaysia and Indonesia. Billions of dollars are being spent on infrastructure and innovation projects. Malaysia has now become the world’s third largest solar cell manufacturer after mainland China and Taiwan. I know Heriot-Watt has a campus in Malaysia. So there is potential for multilateral collaborations with Malaysia and China and the UK.

China is Germany’s number one trade partner. More than 5,000 German companies are currently operating in China and a rapidly increasing number of Chinese enterprises investing in Germany. Since 1995 Sino-German Center for Research Promotion has facilitated and coordinated thousands of research and development projects with several hundreds million Euros investment.

China is also focusing on cooperating with Africa and is investing in the future of Africa’s higher education. Due to the demographics in that region, we can foresee a rapid increase in the demand for HE in 20 years, thus offering tremendous opportunities for UK universities.

In terms of global leadership, Great Britain boasts a fascinating history of international trade and collaboration.

For example, following the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian era, the UK flourished and thrived. It was a period of economic expansion that saw British invention and ingenuity both shape and tame the global landscape.

However, the current political climate is both challenging and uncertain, if not dangerous for the UK, given Brexit and what is happening in the USA with Trump in the White House.

But time of change also presents great opportunities.

Never has there been a better time to concentrate on strengthening our international relationships, in business, in research and in higher education. I think that that UK will be able to redefine its leadership position in the post-Brexit world by working with both China and Europe.

Zooming in on the recent history of research collaborations between the UK and China, this slide paints a great picture, on what has been an increasing and significant bilateral relationship.

For example, since its inception in 2007, RCUK China office has facilitated numerous partnerships between the UK and China. They helped to support the best researchers in the UK and China to develop high-quality, high-impact research collaborations.

To date, more than £195 million investment has been made in co-funded programmes.

In 2015, Research Councils UK launched another 12 joint research programmes (over £30 million). So far major priorities have been energy, environment and smart cities and food security.

The Newton Fund is a major UK investment set up to develop solutions for global challenges and promote economic development and social welfare. It is part of the UK’s official development assistance (ODA) and is managed by BEIS.

The UK-China Research and Innovation Partnership Fund (£200m) , part of the UK’s Newton Fund, is driving cutting edge research and innovation collaborations between the two countries. The projects funded include those focussing on pressing global challenges, such as air and water pollution, biodiversity, food security, and natural disasters.

China and the UK do seem like a natural pairing. Firstly, China sees the UK as a world leading science nation with a world-class higher education system. In turn, the UK values China’s deep talent pool and ever increasing funding and capacity for technological innovation and translation.

In December 2017 former Science Minister Jo Johnson and Chinese Vice-Minister Wang Zhigang signed a jointly agreement to boost science and innovation between the UK and China. This was particularly significant as it references the new industrial strategy. One of the new joint proposals is that UKRI and NSFC are launching the UK-China Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Centre Partnerships Initiative under the umbrella of the Newton Fund.

During the PM’s visit to China, a raft of trade deals with China worth £9bn was signed, and a significant component of which is on education involving math and language teaching.

Indeed the Sino-British innovation wheels are already in motion.

So what are the fertile areas of opportunities for collaboration? This graph shows a remarkable increase in research and development expenditure in China, surpassing EU in 2015, currently at 2.1 per cent of its GDP. By 2020 it will be 2.5 per cent GDP total spend, surpassing that of the USA.

China’s industrial strategy “Made in China 2025” is a blueprint for upgrading the country’s manufacturing sector. The strategy focuses on internet of things, smart appliances and high-performance computers, AI and machine learning.

It will enable China to transition to an innovation-driven economy with efficiency and quality, environmentally friendly manufacturing and services. At the core of this transition lies the change to a smart and connected economy – which is dubbed as Industry 4.0. China is already leading the world in high performance computers, solar cells, drones and electric vehicles.

According to MIT Technology review, of $15.2 billion invested in AI start-ups globally in 2017, 48 per cent went to China and 38 per cent to America (US was 77 per cent in 2013).

For universities, producing talent and innovative ideas to enable this vision to happen is an exciting opportunity. I am sure that there are many researchers at HWU as well as Surrey recognise the potential in collaboration with China in these areas.

To give you an idea of China’s current impact on the digital economy, it’s worth looking at a couple of Chinese companies:

Tencent is the world’s biggest digital investment corporation valued over £300bn, bigger than Facebook. The company owns WeChat with 900 m users and Supercell with over 100m players. According to Boston Consulting Group, Tencent is the world's most valuable social media company and one of the world's most innovative companies. Their 100s’ subsidiaries cover online finance, e-commerce, bid data and AI etc.

Huawei Technologies Co is now the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, with annual revenue exceeding US$100 billion in 2017, and research and development budget over $10B. Huawei operates throughout the world, including in the UK. It boasts a extensive international collaborations including many Universities.

In November 2017 Huawei and BT announced a new five-year research and development centre in Cambridge worth £25m, to develop cutting edge technologies in photonics, and access network infrastructure technologies. Huawei is also a key partner of our 5G Innovation centre.

There are many examples of productive partnerships between UK institutions and Chinese companies, ranging from energy, materials, manufacturing, AI, digital health and telecommunications.

In energy

Since the signing of the UK-China Clean Energy Partnership in 2015, many projects have been advanced to boost the two countries' cooperation in low-carbon research and industry. For example, Tus-Wind invested wind energy development and China General Nuclear Power Corporation and China Huadian Corporation are the key partners for the Hinkley Point C project with some £6b investment from China.

AI and machine learning

In 2015 Chinese finance company UCF donated several millions to the Imperial College’s Data Science Institute and Hamlyn Centre for medical robotics. We are also working with UCF in black-chain and digital health research.

Cocoon Networks is Europe’s first financial technology investment platform. The company has a £500m fund specialised in nurturing innovation and supporting Sino-British start-up communities in FinTech and AI.

I know that Heriot-Watt’s got a proud track record in global research collaborations. Since 2014, Heriot-Watt has produced 3,730 joint publication with researchers across the world.  No wonder the Sunday Times Awarded the 2018 International University of the Year to HWU. My warm congratulations to you all on this fantastic accolade!

I note that a strong research capability of Heriot-Watt is in solar energy. I am aware that Dr Tadhg O’Donovan and his team are working on the Innovate UK funded project with two Scottish companies AES Solar and Soltropy, and have tested their exciting new products, and breakthrough technologies on your Edinburgh and Dubai campuses.

Professor Bhaskar Gupta, together with the Bangladesh Green Energy Foundation, has opened the world's first fully autonomous, solar powered plant to safely remove arsenic from the water supply. The technology has the potential to help millions of people who are being chronically exposed to high levels of arsenic in water on a daily basis.

As you may be aware, China’s overseas investment in the energy is huge. This chart shows the rapid rise in Chinese investment in energy which reached $44 billion last year.

In December 2017, British and China governments agreed to set up a £750m investment fund for research and development demonstration to be chaired David Cameron, part of which is the £220m investment in wind energy development, to be coordinated by the Catapult on offshore renewable energy.

So there is a huge potential for Heriot Watt (HWU) and other UK universities like Surrey to get involved. HWU is in a strong position to take advantages of such opportunities, because HWU is well known in wind and tidal energy research and development. I am aware Professor David Lane’s work on human-robotics hybrid solution for the maintenance and operation of offshore wind farms which is a great example. I am also pleased to note that there are already good collaborations between our two universities.

As I alluded to earlier, the University of Surrey’s research has already demonstrated global impact, thanks to many of our partners across the world. More 50 per cent of our research output at Surrey is jointly authored with our international partners.

For examples, an exciting partnership with EU and US researchers is the eSMART Project. Thanks to a €6m H2020 grant, the project uses mobile technology to remotely monitor patients undergoing chemotherapy, to reduce side-effects and provide better quality care.

In 2017 researchers from Surrey launched Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), to tackle local air pollution problems in India. This is a joint initiative with University Global Partnership Network collaborators, to develop solutions that will ensure “clean air for all” both developed and in developing countries.

Our £80m 5G Innovation Centre is an open innovation centre of excellence with more than 20 industrial partners, dedicated to developing the 5G wireless telecommunication technologies. It recently received an additional £16m grant from DCMS. We will see the world’s first end to end 5G functional network operating by end of this year on our campus. This follows the first demonstration in Europe of a 5G network controlled driverless car in December 2017, on our campus in Guildford.

Huawei is one of our key partners and is deeply engaged in live testing of new-generation 5G mobile technologies.

In October 2017, we marked the 10th anniversary of our Surrey International Institute in China with students and staff from the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics. Many of our young Alumni from SII-DUFE have become leaders in government and private enterprises in China and globally.

SII-DUFE is a great example of our collaboration with Asia. The collaboration has been recognised as ‘a shining example of Sino–foreign partnership’ by the British Council and by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management was ranked number one in the UK (Guardian and Complete University Guide). In three international league tables QS, THE and ARWU, this discipline is ranked in the top five to six in 2017.

The school has a joint partnership with Harvard School of Public Health to develop ecotourism opportunities for Tianfu New Development Zone in Chengdu.

In 2017 it won an award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to China’s Tourism Industry’ by China National Tourism Administration.

Now let me broaden the discussion to some strategic partnerships, and how the University of Surrey has been working effectively to develop fruitful research collaborations.

A true strategic partnership we are involved in is the NPL Strategic Alliance between the University of Surrey, the University of Strathclyde and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which draws on the expertise and knowledge of all three organisations to address some of the major scientific challenges we face today.

The regional hub NPL South of England is hosted at Surrey and several joint appointments and joint facilities have been established. These include the Joint NPL-Surrey Hyper Terahertz facility, Joint Centre for Non-Linear Microwave Metrology and the Postgraduate Institute for Measurement Science.

The University of Surrey also has a fascinating history in commercialisation.

For example, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd was a spin-off company established in 1981 and later partnered with Elon Musk. The company was sold in a few years ago for £50m, now owned by Airbus. The company is responsible for 47 launched space missions and is a major supplier of the 22 satellites for Galileo Project – Europe’s own GPS system.

The University of Surrey and Airbus partnership continues through the Surrey Space Science Centre.

Recently our space science centre established The Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-Space) Hub with £29m investment from EPSRC and partners including Imperial College, Warwick, Edinburgh and overseas companies like Airbus , China Aerospace Corp, Chinese Academy of Science, European Space Agency (UK), Intel, KUKA Robotics.

As a university aspired to make real world impact, we are also very much engaged with local start-ups and SMEs.

Involving five universities in the south of England, a unique partnership called SETsquared has played pivotal role in growing high-tech start-ups through its incubation programme and business acceleration services. Its business incubation programme is ranked by the University Business Incubator Index as the best in the world and over the last decade it has helped over 1,500 high-tech start-ups to develop and raise more than a £1.25 billion of investment.

Independent research carried out by Warwick Economics estimates the economic impact of SETsquared member companies to be £3.8bn over this period, with the creation of 9,000 jobs. SETsquared is a model open innovation platform for SMEs.

Speaking of open innovation, one of the key attributes for successful partnerships is the mechanism for multi-institutional collaborations with multiple inputs of ideas and multiple outcomes and pathways to market.  It is the diversity of partners and expertise that makes the partnership strong and fruitful.

When I worked at the university of Queensland in Australia, I led the establishment of several such centres, for example:

  • Baosteel joint R&D centre: Universities of Queensland, New South Wales, Monash and Wollongong: AUS $25m
  • Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation: AUS $10m
  • Fangyuan-Codelco Fellowship: New copper smelting technologies: Over AUS $5m.

From my own experience, and I am sure many of you present here today can relate to, to make academia-industry partnership to work is not easy, and it does need a plenty of mutual understanding and joint effort.

Let’s look at first the major differences in the nature, culture, priorities and focus of business and HE institutions.

What can universities offer to businesses?

For academics, research is usually the emphasis, but companies may not prioritise research, more often than not would focus on skills and talent first. Consulting services are also sought-after by industry to solve their immediate problems.

Ultimately to achieve real impact, it takes the two sides of the partnership to align priorities and resources. It talks two to tango after all!

It is important to not only focusing on solving current problems, but also developing long-term capabilities or technological innovation pipeline, for sustained excellence and impact.

There are some common pitfalls we must avoid:

  • Failure to understand the diversity of universities, and there are always different niche strengths
  • Failure to stick with it: academics can’t change direction as quickly as firms can – but we need to provide that safe space for academics to thrive, and give them the space to fail
  • Failure to allocate enough ‘face time’ and over-formal communication channels
  • Arguments over ownership of IP rather than ability to profit from it
  • Misunderstanding academics’ motivations and incentives
  • Viewing a Vice-Chancellor or President too much like the CEO of a company, in reality, VCs are more like the Head academic whose role is to lead and inspire the academia with multitudes of stakeholders but not shareholders.

On top of the usual challenges, there are additional barriers to effective international collaboration. These lie in:

Difficulty with setting up joint initiatives with institutions

  • Particularly concerning IP issues, there is a great deal of difference in IP management and practices between China and UK
  • The key is to establish high-level goals and strategic principles that are far-reaching and beneficial to all parties
  • Never get the lawyers to get bogged down too early.

Governance and coordination

  • Effective structure should be set up but should not be rigid
  • Chinese are very dynamic and pragmatic;
  • Constant communications and informal interactions are important (Chinese are more responsive to Mobile calls/Wechat texting than emails).

To build long-lasting and productive partnerships with Asia, particularly with China, we need to be cognisant of the cultural difference and subtleties.

We should focus on building trust and friendship that can stand the test of times based on mutual respect, understanding, and patience:

  • Confucius teaching  “己所不欲,勿施於人” -  “Do not do onto others what you do not want done onto yourself", is good guidance for true friendship
  • Important to engage in a direct and ongoing manner about common interests, investing time and energy in developing deeper relationship at the personal level (Guanxi)
  • Be cognisant of the cultural subtleties, e.g. “the Chinese cares a lot about “Mianzi” or face”
  • And there is highly level trust among classmates, mates in the army, or folks from the same township or villages; Chinese systems determines that lacks ability to plan ahead events /visits, the whole country’s calendar is somewhat dependent on one man’s diary.

Let me finish by summarising the key factors underpinning successful international partnerships. Generally, we need to ensure:

  • A clear set of common purposes and an understanding of how each partner can add value to the other’s business
  • A transparent and effective relationship, which recognises the technical strengths and weaknesses of both parties
  • Recognition of the differences in nature, focus and priorities
  • Effective communication through both formal and informal channels
  • A robust mechanism to review and assess progress and outcomes.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, both Heriot-Watt and Surrey Universities have made a huge mark on higher education landscape in this country, and both institutions take pride in making a positive impact to industry and society.

The Research Silk Road will take us on a collaborative innovation journey and our two universities are both well equipped to venture down this exciting path. But a huge part of the journey is also about who you meet along the way; this is what shapes and defines our future destination. Multilateral collaboration will make our journey a varied and impactful adventure. As travel writer Tim Cahill once said: “A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.”

Thank you for your interest and attention today. I hope I have given you some insight into Sino-British future landscape of the Research Silk Road, and more broadly on academia-industry partnerships. I look forward to working with colleagues from Heriot-Watt and all of our friends we will meet along the way. The journey has only just begun.

Thank you very much!