Knowledge is power

by Nicolette Wong

PolyU Dept of ISE - Master degree emphasizes technology and business acumen
Benny Cheung, associate professor, programme leader of Master of Science in Technology Management, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Master's degree strikes balance between technology and business acumen

Technology management is vital to all aspects of business—from budgeting, product development and manufacturing to licensing and collaboration with other parties. Technical expertise is important but, in addition to this, technology management is crucial to maximise companies' effectiveness and efficiency.

The Master of Science in Technology Management (MSc in TM) programme offered by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) targets professionals in broad-based fields, including entrepreneurs, technical professionals and managers. Launched in 2004, the programme is designed with a multi-disciplinary curriculum to illuminate the business aspects of technology and to groom new technology-management experts, says Benny Cheung, associate professor, programme leader of Master of Science in Technology Management, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, PolyU.

"There are many intricate aspects to managing the innovation cycle and technology commercialisation, from initial financing, forecasted returns and managing resources to post-production issues, such as licensing. More than innovation, it involves technology assessment, transfer and commercialisation of technology," Dr Cheung notes.

"The curriculum covers essential knowledge of this innovation cycle for managers who desire to improve their competency in managing their workforces and operations in technological innovation, and for engineers hoping to move into management roles, to devise workable and innovative solutions," he adds.

The focus on technical knowledge combined with business acumen ensures that the programme fills a very specific gap in Hong Kong. It also strikes a balance between theory and practice, since students can apply academic knowledge to real-life situations through learning from a range of case studies and field study trips.

Diverse prospects

The course includes study trips to overseas companies based in Taiwan and Guangdong's Pearl River Delta, and mini-projects at businesses in Hong Kong. Students benefit from interchanges with visiting overseas lecturers with international experience that can provide a glimpse of technology management in a global context.

Applicants should preferably have a bachelor's degree with honours in business, engineering or science, or a professional qualification. Candidates with relevant work experience receive preference, while those from other professional backgrounds are considered if they can demonstrate adequate competency.

Although Hong Kong professionals can choose between a number of postgraduate degrees on offer, there is a still a shortage of all-round technology-management experts, Dr Cheung points out. Those with the necessary skills therefore enjoy wide-ranging career options. In addition to technical experts and professionals in engineering and manufacturing roles, competent trainers are also highly sought after, since the transfer of technology knowledge is vital to enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in many companies.

The diverse prospects for graduates also include managerial roles in the logistics sector and positions as financial controllers at large corporations, overseeing budgeting for technology projects. Another upcoming field is product testing, because the need for standardisation calls for competent people that not only have the required expertise, but also the entrepreneurial skills to choose the right technology, business partners and customers.

Focus on application

"People with the know-how and the business acumen will in the long run be able to transform their companies, as well as the industry, by promoting more sophisticated, standardised technology," says Dr Cheung. For this reason, a postgraduate degree in technology management is a definite advantage for candidates aspiring to more senior or managerial roles.

Feedback from past students indicates that the qualification has placed many alumni on a fast track towards promotion, or helped them to move to bigger organisations in their fields. Graduates with their own, smaller Hong Kong-based IT businesses have generally used their knowledge to revamp their organisational structures, improving cost efficiency and expanding professional partnerships.

With its solid research base and excellent facilities, such as the university's Knowledge Management and Innovation Research Centre (KMIRC), the programme provides students with strong support and guidance, and also helps them to apply their knowledge to real-life business situations.

The application of technology management in local Hong Kong businesses is a major focus, and industry professionals are regularly invited to teach at the faculty or to run seminars and workshops. "It's important that we examine how we can apply our academic principles to local businesses facing substantial constraints and challenges, so that our expertise can promote future innovation," Dr Cheung stresses. "This will also help our students to position themselves as business leaders."

In order to balance local and global perspectives, the PolyU has long-term partnerships with a number of world-renowned universities, such as the University of Cambridge in the UK, and offers some courses that are taught by visiting lecturers from those establishments. The multicultural learning environment is boosted by students from Asia, Europe, Canada and other parts of the world, facilitating networking and the pursuit of global business opportunities by participants.

Training future leaders

  • Multi-disciplinary qualification grooms new technology-management experts
  • Students are required to apply academic knowledge to real-life business situations
  • All-round technology management experts enjoy wide-ranging career prospects
  • Knowledge Management and Innovation Research Centre provides solid support

Taken from Career Times 16 March 2012, A5

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