Prof Guanhua Chen: fostering technology startups

20 March 2018

Professor Guanhua Chen (Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2016) is a Professor of Chemistry and Honorary Professor of Physics at the University of Hong Kong. He and his research team develop state-of-the-art quantum mechanical simulation methods, and model electronic and optoelectronic devices using first-principle quantum mechanics.

In 2016 Chen became one of three co-founders of the Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform. The platform aims to support young entrepreneurs and to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from university laboratories to the marketplace.

At a meeting attended by Chen in the summer of 2015, participants discussed how best to promote science and technology in Hong Kong. At the meeting Chen volunteered to make contact with Professor Li Zexiang of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Li is also chairman of DJI, a drone technology company started by one of his students. Li was known to be a passionate advocate of incubating local technology startup businesses.

Li and Chen later met Neil Chen, founder and managing partner of the finance group, Sequoia Capital China. In a relatively short time, the concept of the Hong Kong X -Tech Startup Platform started to take shape.

Tech startups receive guidance from “super professors” in their professional fields

The realised platform has a framework consisting of funding, a research institute, and an NGO. It connects established professors, young students, and technology to the capital they need to start businesses. One of the keys to its success is that local tech startups can receive guidance from a selected team of so called “super professors” in their respective professional fields.

The Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform officially launched on 19 July 2016. The platform has already aided more than 20 local startups, which receive financial support and access to premises, mentorship, and other incubation facilities. Chen observes an increasing enthusiasm in Hong Kong for technology-orientated business development, “I think we are entering a golden age for tech startups in Hong Kong,” he says, pointing to unprecedented levels of support from government and the private sector and potential synergies between Hong Kong and other cities in the Pearl River Delta.

Chen is a distinguished theoretical chemist recognised internationally for his work on linear-scaling quantum mechanical methods for very large molecular systems and investigating the dynamics of complex systems including nanomaterials, nano-devices, polymer aggregates and biological macromolecules. At the same time, he continues to spend around one day each week guiding the Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform as it fosters the next generation of tech entrepreneurs in Hong Kong.

Professor Guanhua Chen obtained his BS in Physics at Fudan University in 1986, and his PhD at the California Institute of Technology in 1992. He was the Assistant Profession of the Department of Chemistry at the Hong Kong University (HKU) in 1999-2006, and is now the Head of Department of HKU. Chen has been the recipient of a number of awards, including: Outstanding Young Researcher Award 2001-2002, The University of Hong Kong; National Natural Science Award, Education Ministry of China, 2008; Outstanding Young Scholar Award, NSFC, 2009-2010; Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, 2011; Fellow of American Physical Society, 2014; Croucher Senior Fellowship Award, 2016. 

To view Prof Chen’s Croucher profile, please click here