Universities to lead global economic growth

  • Business
  • Thursday, 31 Jul 2003

INSTITUTES of higher learning will lead the growth of the global economy in the 21st century, according to Professor Yang Fujia, Chancellor of Britain's University of Nottingham. 

“The nucleus of enterprise in the knowledge economy belongs to knowledge-style enterprises, and knowledge-style enterprises cannot alienate themselves from institutes of higher learning,'' Yang added. 

In the agricultural-based economy 300 years ago, people flocked to fertile land with plenty of labour to develop agriculture, he said. Later, in the industrial economy, people turned to places which had natural resources that enabled industrial activities. 

Now, the fertile land that people look for is outstanding institutes of higher learning. 

“Rapid development in Finland and Israel are obvious examples,'' Yang said in his presentation on Engines of Economy in the 21st Century.  

He noted that in the year 2000, eight research universities headed by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) contributed US$7bil to the local economic growth and provided 8.5 million job opportunities. 

The universities supplied 320,000 graduates to the job market, many of whom were excellent human resources, he said. 

According to Yang, MIT alone has nurtured 4,000 technology-based companies in the past 50 years. 

He said higher learning institutes around Boston also helped a big group of enterprises solve their problems and provided consultation services. The scientific climate the institutes created for Boston was like a giant magnet that attracted intellects from all over the world. 

China has started to realise the functions and the importance of universities. 

In fact, he finds that the rapid development of universities boosted the birth of high-tech enterprises. 

Yang sees the universities, especially research universities, becoming the 'churn' in the entrepreneurial landscape. 

He said outstanding research universities must – and should – embrace the regions surrounding industries to make sure that different industries could interact closely, intellectually and economically, and added value to business. 

“This can contribute to economic sustainability. This is what we refer to as 'non-linear mixing'. It’s the fundamental meaning of churning,'' he added. 

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