A conversation with Executive Vice President Dr Miranda Lou — Building Capabilities
Dr Miranda Lou has extensive strategic, business and management experience in both the private and public sectors. Dr Lou joined PolyU in 2015 as Vice President (Administration and Business) and was appointed Executive Vice President in 2017. She oversees a diverse portfolio of administrative functions at the University, including resources management, commercialisation and entrepreneurship, communications, alumni and mainland affairs.
How does your experience and knowledge help you in your role overseeing the management and operations of the University? What do you think are the most important aspects of a leadership role in a university setting?
University administration appears to be very much diﬀerent from business management in nature, but I believe they share commonalities in many aspects, say, in terms of commitment to excellence and growth, talent retention and management, accountability, and sustainability. In particular, my previous experience in managing businesses in a multi-national and multi-cultural setting has enabled me to appreciate the importance of embracing diversity and inclusiveness as well as ensuring collegiality across the campus.
There are always high societal expectations for universities – the convergent points for highly intellectual academics and professional administrators. For PolyU to excel, we must embrace talents and inspire them to work towards a shared vision. We are committed to providing them with an enabling environment where they can be at their best and be recognised for their contributions.
How do you assist PolyU in building its organisational capabilities?
We need ﬁnancial, talent and information assets to strengthen the capabilities of an institution. My role as a member of the Finance Committee and the Investment Committee of Council as well as the Hostel Development Taskforce is to ensure that the University’s ﬁnancial resources are well managed not only for its near-term operating needs but also for its long-term development plans.
The University has launched a number of strategic hiring schemes to enhance its academic and research capabilities. For non-academic staﬀ, I would like to introduce good practices from industry, such as job rotation and fast-track programmes to further support their career development, as well as exploring new modus operandi and collaboration models beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, more needs to be done in strengthening our information capabilities, such as enhancing information platforms across diﬀerent units and digitising services for students and staﬀ.
One of the strategic focuses of PolyU is to promote knowledge transfer (KT). What is your vision for the future development of PolyU in this area?
KT is a long value chain reaching from research, technology development to application and commercialisation. The University has evolved over the past decade from consolidation of KT activities to more liberalisation of policies to support startup/spinout companies. Under the overriding principle that PolyU’s intellectual properties should leave campus to create societal impact, the University has adopted new models of IP licensing and assignment as well as academia-industry collaborative centres for research and commercialisation. University Management will convene more forums to solicit views and suggestions of staﬀ members so that the PolyU community can adopt an aligned position when advancing KT for impact.
Going forward, I wish to support more academic-led ventures commercialising PolyU’s technology and innovations “for the beneﬁt of mankind”, as our motto goes. Their success is PolyU’s success.
PolyU plans to make exposure to entrepreneurship a hallmark of its education. How will the University promote an entrepreneurial mindset among students?
We have already introduced a more holistic entrepreneurship framework covering education, incubation, industry mentorship and funding support. Further to the experiential entrepreneurship programmes for students and researchers, such as the most recent GBA startup postdoc programme, startup internship programme and market-technology pathway and validation programme, the University will launch a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship with multidisciplinary and experiential learning elements, among other new initiatives.
However, I wish to point out that the objective of promoting an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset is not merely to prepare students to become entrepreneurs; this mindset is also an essential attribute for future leaders, and corporate and social innovators.
What advice would you give to students to help them make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality?
Think why the market needs your innovation or product, what value you can create and what your diﬀerentiation is.
Once you have decided to pursue a path to becoming an entrepreneur, be resilient, persistent and prepared to encounter diﬀerent challenges as the owner, not simply a manager, of the business. Thrive on and don’t shy from mistakes or failure.
Is there a particular thought that you turn to when you need guidance or encouragement?
I am fond of a quote from Charles Dickens: “Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” For me, it’s a good reminder that with a soft heart, kindness and empathy, we can touch the lives of people around us.
Another quote is from Winston Churchill: “Success is not ﬁnal, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
With your busy schedule, what do you do to unwind and relax? What are your hobbies?
I think I need to get more exercise. I love sewing teddy bears for my friends, and I’m so happy to see their smiles when they receive my handmade gifts. I also love Chinese calligraphy which enables me to slow down my pace and stay focused. I wish I could have more time for these hobbies.