(Hong Kong, 13 June 2022) The Hong Kong Productivity Council (“HKPC”) and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (“HKUST”) today announced the establishment of the HKUST-HKPC Joint Research Lab for Industrial AI and Robotics (“Joint Lab”). This Joint Lab aims to develop innovative industrial technologies that can address the technical challenges being faced by the manufacturers and provide practical solutions with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technology, helping to enhance the productivity of industries in Hong Kong and simultaneously fostering intelligent and advanced manufacturing and industrial innovation and technology (I&T) talent development.
Mr Mohamed Butt, Executive Director of HKPC; Prof Tim Cheng, Vice-President for Research and Development of HKUST; and Prof Charles Ng Wang-Wai, Vice-President for Graduate Support of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) (HKUST (GZ)) and CLP Holdings Professor of Sustainability of HKUST, signed the agreement at a ceremony, marking the official launch of the Joint Lab and research collaboration between HKPC, HKUST, and HKUST (GZ).
The Joint Lab will be led by Prof Zhou Xiaofang, Otto Poon Professor of Engineering, Chair Professor from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of HKUST, as its Director, with Dr Ge Ming, General Manager of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Division of HKPC, and Prof Fugee Tsung, Chair Professor and Acting Dean of Information Hub of HKUST (GZ), as its Co-Director and Associate Director respectively. The Joint Lab will have its presence at HKPC Building and HKUST campus in Hong Kong as well as the soon-to-open HKUST (GZ) campus in Nansha, Guangzhou. This is HKUST’s first joint research laboratory with a statutory body in Hong Kong.
Leveraging on HKPC’s wealth of expertise and solid experience in the implementation of intelligent manufacturing and HKUST’s internationally-recognised and world-leading research competency in the fields of AI and robotics, the brand-new Joint Lab will collaborate closely on a wide range of initiatives to address real-world challenges for the benefit of Hong Kong, the Nation and even the world. This Joint Lab is more than a research and development (R&D) centre, it is a RYD (Realising Your Dream) platform to jointly explore frontier applications in the areas of AI, big data, data science and robotics.
Mr Mohamed Butt, Executive Director of HKPC, said, “This Joint Lab is a hallmark of the collaboration between HKUST and HKPC and we are thrilled to partner with HKUST by leveraging our unique strengths to empower industries with forward-looking technologies. The Joint Lab envisions a closer collaboration with all types of potential partners in driving AI and robotics development and we hope to see more useful and innovative applications that could tackle existing pain points of enterprises. We are committed to transforming research excellence into impactful and practical technological solutions for the long-term sustainable development of Hong Kong as a smart city and an innovative hub for high-tech development in the Greater Bay Area.”
Prof Tim Cheng, Vice-President for Research and Development of HKUST, expressed his delight at the University’s partnership with HKPC. He remarked, “With our research strengths in AI, big data, data science, and robotics, HKUST is excited to apply our expertise in these fields and to bring value to the Joint Lab’s focused areas of distributed manufacturing, flexible production, and intelligent automation for manufacturing. This collaborative platform will engage our researchers from across different disciplines and from both campuses to address real challenges faced by local industries in AI adoption. The Joint Lab will further underscore our commitment as a leading research institution to catalyse technological innovation, for Hong Kong’s development and the advancement of society.”
Prof Charles Ng Wang-Wai, HKUST (GZ) Vice-President for Graduate Support and HKUST CLP Holdings Professor of Sustainability, said, “This university-industry collaboration fully realises the opportunities presented under the framework of ‘Unified HKUST-Complementary Campuses’ to carry out ground-breaking research and develop cutting-edge solutions in AI and robotics with HKUST and HKPC jointly. This Joint Lab will also facilitate the development of student talent pool in the two campuses through internship and fellowship programme. With the opening of the new campus in Guangzhou in September, faculty and students on both campuses will utilise the complementary strength of the two campuses to carry out cutting-edge research projects with HKPC and other industry partners in advancing the Joint Lab research initiatives and supporting the development of Greater Bay Area as an international innovation and technology hub.”
According to the “Hong Kong AI and Robotics Technology and Economic Development Research Report” jointly released by HKPC and the Hong Kong Society of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in March 2021, 46% of local companies believed that they were making progress in AI and robotics technology application, yet 32% felt the pace was slow and only 17% would deem to have achieved or exceeded the expected target. Most of them had a clear and urgent need for intelligent technology solutions. A research lab on AI and robotics combining the strengths of an academic institute and a R&D centre can help enterprises cope with emerging technology and industry needs.
The Joint Lab focuses on R&D of technologies covering four key topics:
An initial list of research projects to be carried out in the Joint Lab include:
This joint effort will also include an Internship Programme and PhD Fellowship Programme not only to advance the research initiative of the Joint Lab, but to give valuable practice and exchange opportunities to HKUST students and research support staff in pursuing a career in AI and robotics technologies, creating favourable conditions for promoting I&T and intelligent manufacturing in Hong Kong.
This Joint Lab collaboration not only signifies HKUST and HKPC’s strengthened capabilities in the above-mentioned areas, but is also a commitment to encouraging more interdisciplinary research discussions, strengthening cross-sector technology transfer and cultivating young talent with an aim to bring significant benefits to HKUST and HKPC’s researchers and also industries and the community with the innovative adoption of AI and robotics technologies.
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