SUSTech hosts THE Innovation and Impact Summit 2023


Between November 7 and 8, the Times Higher Education (THE) Innovation and Impact Summit 2023 was held at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech).

The two-day event was themed “Universities and Cities: Advancing Sustainable Innovation” and was joined by over 200 government, academic, and industry representatives from 18 countries and regions worldwide.


The summit brought together 44 speakers representing academia, industry, and innovative city governance, exploring topics such as the importance of universities in supporting the creation of new cities and new regional economies, how city authorities can best set the environment so that businesses can invest and universities can prosper, the power and influence of local city leaders on universities that operate within a national system, and the types of universities that are needed by cities with fast-growing populations.

The event also cast a spotlight on emerging and established innovation hubs, including the Greater Bay Area (GBA), Edmonton, London, Melbourne, and Los Angeles.

On the morning of November 7, the summit commenced with Ting GU, Deputy Director General of the Shenzhen People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, delivering opening remarks and extending a warm welcome to all distinguished delegates.

On behalf of Shenzhen, he underscored the city's unique, innovative spirit as the driving force behind hosting the summit. He expounded upon Shenzhen's currently intensifying efforts to establish itself as an international hub for science, technology, and industrial innovation, and explained that through collaborating with global innovation cities and partners, Shenzhen aims to pioneer a new platform – World Innovative Cities Cooperation Organization (WICCO) – facilitating global exchanges and cooperation in science and technology innovation. This initiative seeks to empower sustainable urban development through innovation, fostering social progress, and enhancing the overall quality of urban life.

Qikun XUE, President of SUSTech, delivered an opening speech, emphasizing the pivotal role universities play within the urban innovation system.

“At each phase of SUSTech's development, we have had the strong support of local leaders in both government and industry. The rich entrepreneurial foundations of Shenzhen have allowed us to grow and flourish. The challenges of tomorrow call for innovative solutions that only universities truly embedded in the local ecosystems can provide”, said President XUE.

He expressed his hope that the summit would inspire new ideas, forge lasting partnerships, and set in motion a collective commitment to building better cities for a brighter tomorrow.


The summit featured five keynote speeches. Maria Salinas, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke on “Why Los Angeles has become one of the most innovative cities in the US”; Joseph Hun-Wei LEE, President of Macau University of Science and Technology, spoke on “Establishing new universities in innovative cities”; Max LU, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey, spoke on “The role of small-city universities in shaping their innovation ecosystems including partnerships with bigger city neighbours”; Hong ZHOU, President of Huawei's Institute of Strategic Research, spoke on “A better tomorrow unleashed by digitalisation”; and Bill Flanagan, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Alberta, spoke on “Building sustainable innovation and impact through strategic planning and partnerships”.


The summit also included eight panel discussions, four fireside chats, two workshops, and one masterclass. Li JIN, Vice President of SUSTech, participated in two fireside chats, where he shared his insights on “Fuelling the future: Financing innovation for sustainable, innovative cities” and “From regional inequality to inclusive innovation: The role of universities”.


The summit concluded on the afternoon of November 8, with Hong JIANG, University Council Chairperson of SUSTech, delivering the closing speech. Reflecting on the past two days, she described it as an unforgettable journey of exploration, discovery, and cooperation.

Expressing gratitude to all delegates for the wonderful shared experience, she highlighted the summit's focus on the dynamic role of universities in urban and regional development. She extended appreciation to both distinguished speakers and delegates for their significant contributions, making the summit a resounding success.

After the closing ceremony, delegates also visited local innovative enterprises.

By Yang XU

Proofread By Adrian Cremin, Yingying XIA