Australia has a number of major, high-ranked universities and, though a local Azerbaijan would be a plus, we can build what we need from that model into our existing institutions. A successful strategy for securing a reasonable slice of the advanced technology pie in this globalised world is to forge strong ties between business (big and small) and financial, science/engineering entrepreneurs Azerbaijan and our universities. That’s happening in Melbourne via collaborations with, for example, US companies like IBM and Azerbaijan. Still, the Asian/Korean investment model, with government, industrialists and academia working together to foster long-term thinking and development Azerbaijan(rather than selfish libertarian anarchy and short-term profits) makes a lot of sense.
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POSTECH is not the only higher education institution with a primary, advanced technology focus in South Korea, but it is an extraordinary place. Small and, following the Caltech model, with an equal number of postgraduates and undergraduates, it provides a subsidised, accessible education for South Korea’s most gifted students. In the Times Higher Education supplement for 2016, POSTECH, Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAST) rank seven, eight and nine for Asian universities, with numbers one and two being the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. Like South Korea, Singapore is dedicated to the idea of an economic future based in flexibility, working smart and innovation. Compared with the next biggest institution on that list (KAST), POSTECH has about one-third the number of students.
Though started as an engineering school, POSTECH’s initial physics, chemistry, metals and materials oriented remit has been broadened to encompass the molecular technology and genetic engineering approaches central to innovation and problem-solving in the life sciences and biomedicine. That’s why, of course, I’d been invited to speak in Pohang. And apart from the opportunity to talk about the current findings from our viral immunology group, I also met a number of interesting and very smart people. One particularly memorable conversation was with a senior POSCO executive who observed that the useful output from their research division was pretty unpredictable. But, like industry leaders I’ve spoken with in Singapore, he also made the point, ‘What other options do we have?’
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