Associate Director of the Knowledge Transfer Office, City University of Hong Kong

An entrepreneur himself, with more than 20 years of hands-on experience in chemistry and manufacturing, Victor Lau is the Technology Transfer Officer at the City University of Hong Kong. Here, he is responsible for the development and establishment process, which he supports from the moment of inception.

With this, Victor sees himself as the translator and connector that the university was looking for to build the new technology transfer strategy as well as effectively establishing the necessary structures to support it.

For Victor, technology transfer is about the people and different stakeholder groups from both academy and industry.

Victor’s role as a Spanning Boundaries agent

Apart from his role as Technology Transfer Officer at the City University of Hong Kong, Victor has also started his own manufacturing company, Kinstech Limited, in China, that focusses on flexible substrate R&D, printed electronics fabrication, semiconductor substrate design and prototyping.

What is Victor’s main motivation?

Victor affirms that his main motivation is using science to benefit society. While Victor finds Hong Kong to be money-driven and competition-focused, he otherwise feels that scientists such as himself are driven and motivated by their passion for research and curiosity.

To him, this is what makes the technology transfer office such a favourable and pleasant environment to work in, and he gets energised by the curious individuals who surround him and need support in bringing their knowledge to society.

How important is having specific knowledge, skills or traits?

For Victor, the specific knowledge and skills that one needs to be a Spanning Boundaries agent, in terms of knowledge, are not necessarily related to being an expert in a specific scientific field, but to understanding the research and technology that is being developed. He states that, generally, academic qualifications are important, but more crucial are people’s skills and market sense; thus, the Spanning Boundaries agents who accomplish to have the skills to manage people and communicate effectively, plus having market sense and learning by doing are the one with the best chances for success in this field.

Lastly, Victor adds that Spanning Boundaries agents should be open minded, empathetic and a little bit stubborn to get what they want, since resilience is crucial in this type of work because not every project can be successful.

What are some drivers or success factors for a fruitful cooperation between academia and industry?

For Victor, Tech Transfer Officers that can build relationships with businesses can also drive the success of the project. Thus, drivers of successful boundary spanning activities include having a strong team with an understanding of both science and business, as well as building a strong network.

On the other hand, the fear of failure often represents a Spanning Boundaries barrier, which is very important to overcome so that one can learn from failures and have an open mind. Victor points that to overcome barriers in this kind of work is to learn how to face failure, how to take the risk and how to remain positive after a negative experience.

Authored by Balzhan Orazbayeva, Manager of Strategic Initiatives at UIIN