Southern University of Science and Technology Creating a city-wide culture of entrepreneurialism

Creating a city-wide culture of entrepreneurialism

In Shenzhen, local government, industry and fellow academics help foster a spirit of entrepreneurialism at SUSTech, one of the city’s leading universities

The city of Shenzhen, in southern China, is renowned as a global technology leader, and the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) serves as a focal point for the city’s excellence in this field. George Zhaojun Liu, associate professor in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at SUSTech, has worked at the university for five years, witnessing first-hand how a focus on entrepreneurialism has unlocked the potential of students and researchers alike.

“Before I joined SUSTech, Shenzhen was already part of a fast-growing technology cluster in the south of the country,” Liu explains. “Even then, the environment of entrepreneurship was well established, and it’s only gone from strength to strength.”

Liu identifies three key reasons why SUSTech has been able to prioritise an entrepreneurial spirit: the city, timing and people. “Shenzhen has a robust pipeline that encourages researchers to develop their ideas into viable products. The entire city is geared towards turning great research into great practical solutions,” he says.

When Liu joined SUSTech, he submitted a proposal to the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Commission. This commission aims to build the research and development capacity of Shenzhen through various initiatives. Liu’s project was funded to develop his work around the use of micro-LED technology within augmented reality and virtual reality solutions.

“Timing is another of Shenzhen’s entrepreneurial strengths,” Liu says. “The city encouraged high-level talent teams to create startups around the technology they were developing. Public authorities in the city are quick to support innovative proposals with research funding.”

At SUSTech, collaboration is highly valued, and the university is keen to support entrepreneurialism across various industries. “It was through SUSTech that I found my business partner,” Liu says. “I was an engineer with no experience in business. It was through SUSTech’s Technology Transfer Centre that I found an expert who had been working in the display industry for 30 years. It was the start of a partnership that is helping turn my research into viable business products.”

Liu’s work in micro-LED research provides the perfect example of SUSTech’s approach to entrepreneurship and innovation. The research emerged from the fact that the entire display industry required new technology for its screens combining a small form factor and a reduced environmental footprint.

“We use display materials for our work with micro-LEDs,” Liu explains. “They have huge market potential as they will replace existing technology like OLED or LCD screens.” Estimates suggest that the Chinese display market recorded $64.8 billion (£53.9 billion) in sales in 2021, and this number is set to rise.

One notable growth area for Liu’s research concerns the metaverse. If this innovative idea is to be realised, it will require extensive redevelopment of communications solutions, such as high-speed networks, but also enhanced display technology such as micro-LED screens.

Liu is a recent recipient of the Society for Information Display’s Peter Brody Prize, which honours the contributions of researchers under the age of 40 who have made impactful technical contributions to the developments of active-matrix addressed displays.

SUSTech shows how collaboration between the public and private sectors can fuel entrepreneurialism. “In southern China, the entire Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is home to several huge cities that are part of a wider culture of innovation,” Liu says. “My team has benefited from the city, the university and the industry. The area is like Silicon Valley 30 years ago. The opportunities are boundless.”

Find out more about SUSTech.

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