University of Auckland Receives Unexpected Gift from Hong Kong

A foundation set up by Hong Kong's richest man is to donate $5 million to the University of Auckland to support entrepreneurship.

Li Ka Shing, who Forbes estimates is worth US$27.1 billion, set up his foundation in 1980 and last night it revealed a plan to give a series of donations to the university's campaign For All Our Futures.

The university launched the fundraising campaign in September in a bid to raise up to $300 million to fund research into some modern challenges including, can we earthquake-proof New Zealand, how do we prepare students for the 21st Century of work and build a robust modern economy.

Of the $5 million dollar donation $4 million will be used to create a Li Ka Shing Innovation Fund which will drive teaching and research related to innovation and entrepreneurship.

It will aim to encourage the creation and commercialisation of student-led companies through its Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and other programmes at the university's Business School.

The foundation will also match on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to $1 million in total to encourage alumni and supporters in greater China to support the university's campaign and build a culture of philanthropic support from Asia for its work.

Li said he wished the campaign and creative collaborations with the university to be a resounding success.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said the donation would help the university to further develop the radical innovation needed for New Zealand to thrive in a dynamic global economy.

"In addition, the matched funding initiative stands to significantly enhance international philanthropic support from alumni and other supporters based in Asia and encourage the partnerships that are crucial to make a sustained impact on the world around us."

Speaking to the Herald from Hong Kong ahead of the announcement, McCutcheon said he was "delighted" by the "very generous" donation.

It was among the largest contributions to the fund since it was launched in September, he said.

"We've had a number of gifts in the $5 million to $10 million range, but obviously a small amount, so this is a very, very significant gift to the campaign, absolutely," he said.

There had been about 4000 donations to the For All Our Futures campaign so far, he said, bringing the fund to an estimated $170 million, of its $300 million target.

"We're making very good progress and continuing to get very good support from our friends, so that's great."

The Li Ka Shing Foundation donation would help strengthen the university's links with China and build relationships that would help to solve the important questions the fund hopes to tackle.

"This not only allows our staff and students to do things that they couldn't otherwise, but it builds relationships with Hong Kong and with China," McCutcheon said.

"We have a number of key partnerships with Hong Kong universities and with universities in China already, and that strengthens that relationship.

"A lot of the big questions that we're trying to address in the campaign are relevant of course principally to New Zealand, because we're a New Zealand university, but because we're international they're also relevant to the wider world.

"If you think about what China's trying to do, what Hong Kong's trying to do, what New Zealand's trying to do, the whole area of innovation, taking ideas, creating new companies, creating employment opportunities for our young people - they're common themes all through parts of the world."