Innovation Notes from Asia...
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh is extending his Asia strategy with an innovation tour of Taiwan and South Korea - his third trip to the region since taking office in 2010. Through high-level meetings, Loh is laying the groundwork for new research and educational partnerships.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
View from the Mountain
High in the hills above Seoul today, I got a clear view of South Korean innovation, entrepreneurship and higher education.
Meeting today with leaders of Seoul National University (SNU) was revealing. It is South Korea's top university and its huge campus overlooks the city. The atmosphere is vibrant, and I saw several new, large engineering buildings. We have much in common as well as clear cultural distinctions, and both provide the basis for effective and productive collaborations.
SNU President, Dr. Yeon Cheon Oh, greeted us, saying it is "time to shorten the distance between our two universities." He introduced us to a young professor in their School of Computer Science and Engineering - Dr. Jinwook Seo, one of 15 UMD alumni teaching at the university. More than 90 percent of their faculty got their advanced degrees abroad, and South Korean institutions are now focused on producing their own Ph.D.s.
Government, industry, and universities here collaborate closely on research. SNU's research park, for example, gets significant financial support from Samsung, which will soon open a large-scale research facility there. To stimulate innovation, government and industry jointly offer grants to graduate students, enabling them to test and develop ideas at the research park. Afterwards, the students usually go to work for big companies like Samsung or LG. But this is beginning to change, as more students seek to go out on their own.
What I'm seeing here is the emergence of an "iPod generation," where young people want to set their life's menu on their own. Just a few weeks ago, SNU's College of Engineering opened a new entrepreneurship center to teach students how to start and run a company. A student group at SNU focuses on developing start-ups and runs its own business plan competition. I'm hopeful that our two universities can collaborate in this area, and we'll work on this as soon as we get home.
This certainly fits in with my plans. One of my foremost goals is to enhance the entrepreneurial experience on our own campus. Every UMD student - 100 percent of them - should engage in some form of innovation and entrepreneurship at Maryland - whether in the realm of business, research or social entrepreneurship.
Dr. Oh is genuinely interested in having SNU collaborate with UMD in research and education, and I feel confident something concrete will develop in coming months. One good area to begin: student exchanges.
Our Most Important Ambassadors
We got a wonderful send-off - and an invitation to return - from our Terp alumni chapter in Seoul. About four dozen came to our reception. Many are eager to help. Anne An suggested that when UMD students come to Korea to study, we hook them up with the alumni chapter in advance to help them get acclimated. Other potential collaborations developed from the conversation, so we'll have even more to work on when we get home.
A Productive Visit
Our brief swing through Korea brings us a new, important partner: the Samsung-affiliated SKKU. Also we have made many new friends and contacts, which we expect to lead to additional collaborations. Our colleagues in this nation are eager to work with us and we share a mutuality of interests.
Every stop in Taiwan and South Korea this week impresses on me just how vital it is for us to engage globally. In an increasingly flat world, our Asian colleagues are both our partners and our competition. UMD and the State of Maryland benefit in a host of ways from this kind of global engagement. Clearly, from the dynamism I witness here, we cannot afford to rest, but, at the same time, we can all prosper together.
I’ll have more to say on this when I return to the other side of the International Dateline.
Innovation Tour Day-By-Day
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