Pioneering a unique hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking

The launch of Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiatives (LEI) in 2018 made it clear that Lingnan is determined to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in its staff and students, and inspire them to become game changers with a positive and productive effect on the whole community.


LEI is a partner in Stanford University’s University Innovation Fellows Program, and each year it sends three to four students to the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design ( to develop their innovative, entrepreneurship mindset and design thinking. These students return to Hong Kong with advanced, inventive grounding and guidance, which they can transfer to their peers and apply on campus.


“They learn what design thinking is, and then they train the other students, so it's like on a train-the-trainer basis,” says LEI programme manager, Nicholas Ooi, who, as a “faculty champion”, supervises the students.


Nicholas Ooi

Ooi thanks LEI Director Prof Albert Ko, teammates Kum Hiu-fung and Jessica Wong for their supports .


Thanks to his proposed project “Inclusive Entrepreneurship in the Local Community”, Ooi was recently selected by the programme’s inaugural Faculty Innovation Fellows Program which aims to improve the innovation ecosystems in schools and help students gain vital real-world skills and mindsets. He is the only faculty champion selected from Hong Kong or indeed the region.


In this two-year programme, Ooi will meet regularly with about 20 fellow faculty champions and experts from around the world to learn new change strategies, develop projects, gather feedback on ideas and share resources.


“For the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Project, we hope to create businesses together with the service users,” Ooi explains. “Usually with social enterprises, we set up a company and serve people in need, but in inclusive entrepreneurship we build the business up with the people in need, say, with the elderly, bringing them extra financial and social benefits such as engagement with the community.”


He hopes to involve members in the New Territories West, including Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai. 


“We also aim to create more social entrepreneurs on campus, because as a liberal arts university we are committed to developing social innovation ecosystems with students to provide more value to the community,” Ooi adds, explaining that innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking are crucial to Lingnan’s liberal arts education, as this is what inspires students to take more risks, and to be more collaborative.


“So some students use Service-Learning activities to create more sustainable social enterprise at the same time, and this is what we want to see in design thinking. Design thinking is actually five different processes: empathy, definition, ideation, prototypes and testing, so that in the end the idea becomes a whole rounded practice.”

Ooi, who joined Lingnan 11 years ago, has witnessed the changes in both the University and students caused by advances in technology, and the LEI influence in innovation and entrepreneurship training.


“I think previously students were very afraid of technology and those so-called ‘innovation items’. Before LEI was formed, students did not have much experience in programming or 3D printing. We believe that experience in cloud learning, blockchain, AI, big data, 3D printing, 3D scanning and the like will help them to advance their career seeking in the future.” Ooi believes that, after the pandemic, cloud and computing will become even more important because many things will shift to online.


Despite having no science or engineering discipline, Lingnan is a pioneer and leader in innovation and entrepreneurship training.


“Every year we run the Asia Design Innovation Gallery to teach programme instructors how to adopt design thinking in their courses, and last year, 40 faculty members from 10 different universities and NGO partners came to Lingnan to study design thinking. In fact, LEI is regarded as a consultancy for people to acquire knowledge and understanding of design thinking, and we have been asked by local and overseas universities to offer training in design thinking.”


Looking to the future, Ooi and his teammates at LEI plan to further extend their training and services for students, nurturing more 21st century social entrepreneurs and global citizens. “Lingnan’s liberal arts education offers the perfect foundation for entrepreneurship, because our students learn to look beyond disciplinary boundaries to envision new possibilities.”