NUS pro­gramme ex­panded

The Straits Times - - BRIEFING - San­dra Davie Se­nior Ed­u­ca­tion Cor­re­spon­dent san­[email protected]

Toronto and Shen­zhen have been added to the list of places over­seas that are part of a Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore pro­gramme to nur­ture en­trepreneurs. Since 2002, NUS has part­nered 10 over­seas col­leges where stu­dents in the pro­gramme take up cour­ses and work in start-ups.

A Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore (NUS) pro­gramme to nur­ture en­trepreneurs in dif­fer­ent nodes of the world has now ex­panded to Toronto and Shen­zhen.

The Cana­dian city is an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) pow­er­house, while Shen­zhen is shap­ing up as China’s ver­sion of Sil­i­con Val­ley.

Since 2002, NUS has set up 10 over­seas col­leges, in­clud­ing in Sil­i­con Val­ley, New York, Stock­holm, Is­rael, Jakarta, Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Jakarta, Lau­sanne in Switzer­land and Mu­nich in Ger­many. Stu­dents take up cour­ses in part­ner uni­ver­si­ties and work in start-ups.

Pro­fes­sor Wong Poh Kam, who heads the NUS En­trepreneur­ship Cen­tre, said the univer­sity cur­rently has about 300 stu­dents who head to dif­fer­ent over­seas col­leges across the world yearly.

The pro­fes­sor in en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion strat­egy at NUS Busi­ness School added that the univer­sity has set up these col­leges to ex­pose its stu­dents to dif­fer­ent kinds of in­dus­tries and tech­nolo­gies. For ex­am­ple, for stu­dents head­ing to Mu­nich, the aim is that they will gain en­gi­neer­ing knowl­edge by work­ing in “deep tech” start-ups based on sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions.

Toronto is mak­ing waves in AI, driven by the MaRS Dis­cov­ery Dis­trict, a 1.5 mil­lion sq ft fa­cil­ity that houses hun­dreds of start-ups across a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries.

It in­cludes Uber’s first non-US fa­cil­ity for re­search­ing au­tonomous cars; Bo­re­alis AI, an aca­demic AI re­search in­sti­tute for the Royal Bank of Canada; and El­e­ment AI, an AI start-up in­cu­ba­tor.

Shen­zhen, said Prof Wong, was once known as the place for “copy­cat prod­ucts”. Now, though, the Chi­nese city has emerged as a world-class clus­ter for in­no­va­tion.

It is at the heart of China’s Sil­i­con Delta and home to tech gi­ants such as Huawei, ZTE and Ten­cent. Even Ap­ple, the Amer­i­can tech­nol­ogy gi­ant, is build­ing a re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­tre in Shen­zhen.

Prof Wong added that it is dubbed as the “maker’s dream city” as it has al­most ev­ery­thing that one could pos­si­bly need for hard­ware in­no­va­tion read­ily avail­able, which al­lows for quick pro­to­typ­ing and rapid it­er­a­tion.

As such, Shen­zhen has at­tracted many top tech multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions, start-ups, pro­gram­mers and en­gi­neers, as well as in­vest­ment money.

At a steady state, about 25 to 30 NUS stu­dents will head to Toronto ev­ery year, while an­other 20 will head to Shen­zhen.

Since 2002, more than 2,400 NUS stu­dents have ben­e­fited from an en­tre­pre­neur­ial ed­u­ca­tion through NUS Over­seas Col­leges.

NUS civil en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Fa­tim Mohrini Ah­mad Mohri, who headed to Shen­zhen last week, said “it is the place to be” for would-be en­trepreneurs.

The 21-year-old, who learnt Man­darin by watch­ing tele­vi­sion se­ri­als, also hopes to im­prove her Man­darin while she is there.

“Be­ing in China, es­pe­cially since I am not that pro­fi­cient in the lan­guage, will be chal­leng­ing, but it will also be a very good op­por­tu­nity for me to learn to thrive in a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment and out of my com­fort zone,” she said.

The third-year un­der­grad­u­ate will be in­tern­ing at Ankeao, which pro­vides vis­ual mar­ket­ing ser­vices to in­ter­na­tional clients.

Her role will be multi-faceted, from the co­or­di­na­tion and pro­duc­tion of mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als to client man­age­ment.

Prof Wong noted that the alumni of the NUS Over­seas Col­leges have cre­ated more than 350 com­pa­nies. He hoped that those who are sent to the var­i­ous nodes of the world will re­turn with deep tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and new ideas to trans­late them into com­mer­cial so­lu­tions.

PHOTO: NUS OVER­SEAS COL­LEGES PRO­GRAMME

In Shen­zhen for the NUS Over­seas Col­leges pro­gramme are stu­dents (front row, from left) Chen Kai Yue; Fa­tim Mohrini Ah­mad Mohri; Ro­hini Subra­ma­nian; He­len Tan Meng Zhen; and (back row from left) Aaron Ramzeen and Lim Heng Guang; and pro­gramme man­ager Loh Weiren.

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