In the previous chapter, we recalled how the Science Unit was set up, and the roles it plays in Lingnan’s liberal arts education. Here, we look at another far-reaching unit that President Cheng introduced: the Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI).

To promote Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) education, and activities that enable students and the Lingnan community to create sustainable and inclusive solutions addressing real-world issues, LU established LEI in 2018 and, under the directorship of Dr Albert Ko, it has gone from strength to strength, carrying out a wide array of programmes to foster a vibrant entrepreneurship community in Lingnan and beyond.

Ranging from courses, workshops and competitions to collaborative projects with local and international partners, LEI’s programmes teach design thinking and entrepreneurship, and how to work on critical issues.

One of LEI’s signature programmes is the Joint Humanitarian Summer and Winter Academy, in partnership with educational institutions and NGOs around the world.

For instance, in 2019, teams of students focusing on UN Sustainable Development Goals worked in Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda on projects ranging from waste management and urban planning to education and community entrepreneurship. One project, led by a psychology student with the support of LU’s Innovation and Impact Fund, founded a company with her team to design and produce affordable folding water tanks, which contribute to solving water problems in Uganda.

Indeed, LU and LEI offers various mentorship and funding support to budding Lingnan entrepreneurs such as the Innovation and Impact Fund (IIF), Students Entrepreneurial Exploration Development (SEED) Fund and Graduate Support Fund. In over 2 years since its establishment, LEI has funded 45 homegrown startups, including student-led ventures.

Apart from promoting entrepreneurship at the University, LEI is also dedicated to solving social problems and serving the community with groundbreaking humanitarian products and devices.

In the summer of 2020, LEI assembled mobile UV-C germicidal lights and, with local partners, ran Project Ultra Violite, providing a rapid disinfection service for over 1,000 low-income families living in subdivided housing units. This led to the design of a smart autonomous UV-C disinfection robot which is able to provide thorough and efficient UV disinfection for large indoor establishments. While the whole disinfection process is automatic, it is far more effective and five times faster than manual disinfection with 1:99 diluted bleach.

LEI’s Transparent Anti-COVID-19 Face Mask or 12° Mask allows the hearing-impaired to communicate visually during the pandemic while remaining fully protected.

The mask has received much attention from the media, and won the prestigious Good Design Award from Chicago Athenaeum, MUSE Design Gold Award in the Conceptual Design category, and was first runner-up in the HKIE Enginpreneurs Award 2021 for engineering entrepreneurs, organised by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE).

Another of the team’s achievements has been the intelligent, force-sensitive, CREW Wheelchair Control System, which interprets an electric wheelchair pusher’s intentions as motion improving the safety of both wheelchair users and carers; it also received a Gold at the MUSE Design Award.

“Innovation is one of our core values at LEI,” Dr Ko said. “These prestigious MUSE awards not only show that our humanitarian innovations are well-received and recognised by international experts, but are also a great encouragement for our team. We will continue to create more products to solve humanitarian challenges for the betterment of humankind.”

Recently, LEI and the Office of Service-Learning, also headed by Dr Ko, created the Technology Corner with highly advanced equipment, including 3D printers, a laser engraver, a 3D scanner, as well as essential electronics equipment, tools and software, supporting university members to create and build things.

LEI’s entrepreneurial, pioneering spirit is fuelling Lingnan’s development as one of Asia’s leading liberal arts universities.

To be continued ……