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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