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Creating heroes of different stripes

Being optimistic about China's future and committed to transforming CityUHK into a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, the university leader aims to leverage his vast experience and solutions-oriented mindset to drive the institution's growth and contribute to Hong Kong's technology development

HK EDITION | Updated: 2024-06-14 16:01
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Editor’s note: Education is playing a key role in nurturing talent, fostering intellectual discourse, and driving progress in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. China Daily will present a series of interviews with university heads in the region on their perspectives, wisdom, and vision for future education development.

Freddy Boey Yin Chiang, who was installed as the fifth president of City University of Hong Kong in May last year, remains buoyant about China and its future.

The Singaporean recalls his first trip to the Chinese mainland in 1988. As he strolled along Shanghai's Nanjing Road, he was struck by the emptiness of the area, with people and bicycles the only things moving around. Crossing the Huangpu River into Pudong, he found himself staring at vast expanses of farmland that would later become the city's gleaming financial district and are now home to some of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

Ten years on, Boey was astounded by the metamorphosis Shanghai had undergone - two decades after the nation embarked on its miraculous economic reform and opening-up.

In a one-on-one interview with China Daily, Boey says China has a promising path to the future, and this extends to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as a vital link between the mainland and the world.

Hong Kong enjoys the distinction of having the largest number of top 100 universities in the world, surpassing London, Los Angeles and Boston. "My confidence in Hong Kong is unshakeable."

It was this belief that prompted Boey to leave the Lion City and take the helm at CityUHK. He's confident his experiences align with those of the university, and allow him to contribute to the institution and also develop young people.

Born in 1956, Boey is an expert in biomaterials engineering, with his work having graced the pages of more than 300 academic journals. His research places strong emphasis on practical values. In Singapore, he spearheaded the application of biomaterials in medical devices. He also holds over 120 original patents and has founded multiple spin-off companies.

Boey's achievements have won him accolades, such as Singapore's highest scientific honor, the President's Science and Technology Medal for lifetime achievements, and the prestigious Imperial College London Faculty of Medicine Fellow award.

The academic also demonstrated his proficiency in management and administration. From 2004 to 2010, he chaired the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, transforming the school into a world powerhouse of materials science.

Boey was NTU's provost from 2011 to 2017, during which time the university rocketed from 74th to 11th spot in the QS World University rankings and was the best in Asia in 2017.

As deputy president at the National University of Singapore from 2018 to 2022, he launched the Graduate Research Innovation Programme, which provides 12 months' support and guidance to students aiming to turn research into commercial success. Singapore's foremost technology startup program quadrupled the number of deep technology startups within three years.

Starting a new chapter at CityUHK, Boey aims to bring vast experience and a solutions-oriented mindset to Hong Kong. "Compared to what CityUHK is, I attach more importance to what the institution will be."

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