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A Zigzag Journey: Creating an Innovative and Entrepreneurial University

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

A Zigzag Journey: Creating an Innovative and Entrepreneurial University

The globally-connected innovation university

born during the pandemic

with a mission to lead global innovation

My journey in creating this globally connected university is a long, zigzag, hard and unforgettable journey, and the journey is still continuing. However, things can not be done well without laying the proper foundation and sufficient preparation. This blog reflects how I get prepared.

My idea of creating this university emerged when I was the President and Vice Chancellor of Sias University in China in 2016. I presented a Working Paper entitled as ELITE O2O Initiative in Creating an Innovative and Entrepreneurial University in the Global Higher Education in the Ministry of Education (MoE) Conference, Wenzhou, China, 2016. This idea grows gradually and further developed when I was Founding President of New Beacon Campus in 2018. With the outbreak of COVID-19, I strongly felt an opportunity to launch the O2O innovation university. Clearly the pandemic accelerates the distance learning and online delivery but not the essential cause of online learning.

I feel privileged to delivere my keynote speech as a signal of formal start of the journey in creating this innovative university at China Association of Higher Education (CAHE) Annual International Conference, 22nd, November, 2020 - Perspective of ELITE O2O Innovation University: A Great Transformation and Revolution in the Global Higher Education in Post COVID-19 Era along with my close friends and colleagues, vice chancellors of universities in the UK and colleague from UNAI who supported my initiative.

My Dream

Once I had a dream. I wanted to work in China for 15 years, work in the UK for 15 years, work in the US for 15 years, and then retire. However, in 2013, my life at Penn State University had just begun, and the headhunter sent me to Sias University in China and then back to China. This seems to be God's arrangement, however, not my own dream. The dream of "China-UK-US" life that I was looking forward in my life was interrupted, but it did enable me to achieve my dream of becoming a university president and subsequently founding a university. To the dreamers, I would say: Your dream can be amended but can never be given up!

After graduation from Henan University, I had opportunity to work in construction industry for 15 years. I was involved in the building of bridges in construction in different countries. It was a hard job. However, I have since 1997 been heavily involved in organizing international conferences in different countries around the world – in many ways it can refer to building the bridge of cultures between west and east, which is even much harder.

Our story is known as “Little peach tree born in Tsinghua, grown up and settled in Cambridge”. On 21st May, 2006, with a group of outstanding management scholars from the west and east, as a founder I launched China Association for Management of Technology (CAMOT) at the International Association for Management of Technology (IAMOT) International Conference delivered at Tsinghua University. CAMOT was subsequently registered in the UK and settled in Cambridge. In 2008, we successfully organized the 1st CAMOT International Conference in University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), Beijing. During the conference, Ramu Damodaran and I had in-depth discussion on how sustainability and competitive advantages can be delivered through strategic management of technology and innovation, how UN gets involved with global higher education as well. Subsequently Ramu led the launch of United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI). I am pleased that UNAI and CAMOT become strategic partners in co-organizing international conferences and forums for over a decade.

Now for me as a scholar, not a banker or an investor, I fully understand the toughness and the challenges in the creation of a globally connected university with innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK. However, I have been sincerely moved by the enthusiasm and the overwhelming response to my initiative shown by former colleagues and friends around the globe in creating this university.

For the current colleagues and staff in the university, we need to have in-depth understanding of the true meaning of innovation, entrepreneurship, and resilience. Without understanding, how can we deliver the education of innovation and entrepreneurship to our students?

Theoretical Underpinnings

In this difficult time, I would like to discuss three words: Innovation, entrepreneurship, and resilience. They support and complement to each other. However, the attribute and sprit of innovation, entrepreneurship and resilience are built within the blood and DNA of our College, which is the hallmark and soul of the College.

The term of “innovation” never stops shining when Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist, coined the term in his book “Economic Development Theory” in 1912. Innovation is central to the wellbeing of societies, as well as to the health and growth of commercial companies. Innovation is found to be statistically three times more important to growth than other attributes or factors. Innovation manifests itself in many ways and is hazardous to predict, both in its timing and its consequences. The penalty for not innovating is enormous. Technological innovation, the successful exploration and commercialization of new ideas, must underpin ever higher value-adding products, services and processes. Innovation is not limited to technological innovation only but more diversified. Innovation leads to the future and changes the world.

Entrepreneurship is more than simply “starting a business.” Entrepreneurship is a process through which individuals identify opportunities, allocate resources and create value. This creation of value is often through the identification of unmet needs or through the identification of opportunities for making change. Entrepreneurship is not simply an inherited trait but to significant extent can be learned and developed. Technological, social and educational entrepreneurs are often more highly educated than the population average. Entrepreneurs often see “problems” not only as challenges but also as opportunities, then take action to identify the solutions to those problems and the clients who will pay to have those problems solved.

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Resilience can be defined as the ability – and tendency – to “bounceback”, which is what people do when face disappointment, or mistreatment, or defeat, or failure, but instead of wallowing or letting things keep down, people get back up and continue with their work and lives.

In this challenging time, what we need is not only innovation and entrepreneurship but also resilience. Resilience is more important today than ever. No doubt universities should have a strong commitment in providing the education of innovation and entrepreneurship, but themselves need to become more innovative and entrepreneurial. Universities needs strategic thinking and creative thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship, global and local engagement, with firm grasp of state of art digital technology and innovation.

For in-depth understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship, I was lucky that between 2005-2015 as Strategic Advisor to Emerald Insights, we launched successful 6 academic journals, for which, CAMOT served as a strategic partner, including:

  • Journal of Technology Management in China

  • Journal of Technology Management and Strategy in China (Chinese version)

  • Journal of Chinese Economic and Foreign Trade Studies

  • Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship

  • Journal of Know Based Innovation in China

  • Journal of Science and Technology Policy in China

In the meantime, we have successfully organized over 10 international conferences, including:

  • CAMOT 2008 International Conference at UIBE, Beijing, China

  • CAMOT 2010 International Conference at Shanghai University

  • CAMOT 2011 International Conference at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China

  • CAMOT 2012 International Conference at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

  • CAMOT 2014 International Conference at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

  • CAMOT 2015 International Conference at La Rochelle Business School, France

  • CAMOT 2016 International Conference at Cambridge University, United Kingdom

  • CAMOT 2017 International Conference at Bournemouth, United Kingdom

  • CAMOT 2018 International Conference at Helsinki, Finland

  • CAMOT 2019 International Conference at Stafford, United Kingdom

CAMOT Internatioanl Conference since 2006

I had fantastic experiences for 10 years in dealing with global academics, professors through reviewing, editing and publishing papers in the academic areas of innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability as a consulting editor.

PMI 2 Connect to China and USA

Furthermore, I was also lucky that I won two Prime Minister Initiative 2 (two projects) between August, 2008 – June, 2011 when I was in Salford University. As Academic Leader of the research project, I initiated high-profile activities and events, including several forums, one special issue in the Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship as well as the organizing of the PMI 2 International Conference with British Council, Manchester, for the promotion and re-conceptualization of innovation, entrepreneurship, employability, and global citizenship. These two projects involved 80 active members, including academics and researchers, Vice Chancellors, DVC, PVC, Presidents and Vice Presidents, Deans and Professors.

PMI2 Projects aim at promotion and re-conceptualization of entrepreneurship, employability, innovation and internationalization in global higher education in particular in the context of UK, US and China. The first PMI2 UK-China Connect enabled me to build a strong cross-culture and cross universities research team for the consolidation and establishment of strategic partnerships with seven research-led Chinese universities, including

  • Zhejiang University, Hangzhou

  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai

  • Wuhan University, Wuhan

  • East China Normal University, Shanghai

  • Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou

  • University of International Business and Economics, Beijing

  • Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin

The second PMI2 UK-US Connect enabled me to consolidate my research links with colleagues in six prestigious universities in the US, including

  • Sam and Irene Black School of Business, and School of Engineering, The Behrend College, Pennsylvania State University

  • Bentley College of Management, Bentley University

  • James Madison University

  • MIT School of Management

  • Stanford University

  • Virginia Technology Institute

My PMI2 projects and the significant research into innovation, internationalization and entrepreneurship have attracted attention from media such as Nature from US, Innovation Management from Sweden, Emerald Insights, UK and

My PMI 2 projects allowed me to travel widely in China and USA, which enabled me to further develop and consolidate the vision and mission of the innovative and entrepreneurial university – a global vision with a paradigm of West MEETS East.

Work, Study and Life at EICC

I am a strong believer and advocate of lifelong learning. And I believe that life is best for those who know how to work, how to study and how to enjoy. At EICC, we love and celebrate diversity. We have set up both Wechat and WhatsApp groups to accommodate different cultures and habits of colleagues in 8 different countries in the global village. In the meantime, we have EICC Work Group, Study Group and Life Group for colleagues to make engagement with each other, enjoy work, study, and life. In this zigzag journey, we have not only created this innovative and entrepreneurial university, but also pioneering the innovative way of work, study and live during the pandemic and in the post COVID-19 era.

Let’s see what EICC colleagues are saying!

“During and in the post COVID-19 era, we feel a great opportunity. We didn't fall into anxiety. Instead, colleagues from 8 countries around the world are thrived to make EICC a big success. We learn from each other, encourage each other, and turn difficulties into opportunities under our founder. Everyone knew themselves during this happy journey. We discuss our work in our WeChat Work Group, we communicate our learning affairs and experiences in out WeChat Study Group and we enjoy ourself and our life by exchanging photos and flowers in our WeChat Life Group. We deeply believe that EICC will grow and settle in Cambridge day by day with effort of this CAN-DO team”. This is a quote from Yuanyuan, Associate Director of Global Engagement at EICC.

“During the pandemic, traditional education faces unprecedented challenges. The online-to-offline education structure of ELITE Innovation College Cambridge is the one of the educational innovations and will lead the future of education. We are addressing global issues with global innovation solution through our bi-monthly Global Innovation Webinar. We promote the harmonious coexistence of the world with harmonious and innovative ideas. Our global team from 8 countries, who share the same value and vision dedicates to make EICC a great success. China Embracing Innovation Theory founded by Professor Richard Li-Hua is a cornerstone of sustainable economic and social development of the human society. In the meantime, it can be the soul of the university. It’s my great honour to be part of the team to make EICC successful and realize a united world through education innovation. I believe that education is a soul awakens another soul. I hope to make contributions to the human society and global village during my lifetime.” This is a quote from Katharine, Associate Director of Multi-media and Publicity at EICC.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a thank you, to our co-founders, founding members, our staff, our professors, our students, our alumni, and strategic investors, and our collaboration partners and my family members as well. Without your support, commitment, engagement and contribution, we will not make a success.

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