Bestowal of the Honorary Professorship award

Address by Tan Sri Lim, Thames Valley University
21 April 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, may I warmly congratulate all who have graduated today, and extend to you my very best wishes as you begin to build your future.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here on this very special occasion.

I must thank the Vice Chancellor of Thames Valley University for the very kind gesture in presenting me this Professorship. I do feel deeply honoured.

I must also thank Datuk Paddy Bowie for the very kind words she has used to introduce me. But Datuk Paddy has called me a dangerous man. That′s very kind of her.

I should tell you that she is probably the most dangerous lady in the Far East, although she may not look like one. I have met no one sharper, no one faster, and certainly no one who could write and speak better. Now that′s a very dangerous person!

What is also true is that today we are living in a dangerously divided world, where there is a huge divide between countries -- those with the ability to move forward and those that are hopelessly in need of the means and ability to make progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is hard to believe but it is true that half of the world′s 6.5 billion people live in crippling poverty.

  • 1 billion do not have homes to go back to.
  • 1.5 billion are illiterate, unable to read or write even their own names.
  • 2 billion have no access to medical care.
  • 3 billion have no access to clean water, sanitation and electricity.
  • 4 billion have never heard a telephone dial tone.
  • More than 4 billion have no access to a computer.

Now consider the other side of the coin:

  • The wealthiest 1% of the world′s adults own 40% of the world′s assets.
  • The richest 50 million people have the combined income of 3 billion of the world′s poorest.
  • Poor countries become poorer every year. In 1960 the richest 20% had 30 times the income of the poorest. By 2000, it had increased to more than 80 times.
  • 100 of the world′s best-selling brands earn more than the combined GDP of 100 of the world′s poorest countries.

It is a very sadly divided world.

It is a divide between countries with the capacity to educate and innovate, and those without.

It is the innovation gap that divides. And it is a divide that widens with every passing day.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we know it, innovation in simple terms is about making things work better. It′s about making possible discoveries and inventions to replace out-dated ways of doing things, and making things happen.

And as we know it, the most advanced nations are the world′s most inventive, most innovative.

Without exception, all have well-developed creative industries that provide ongoing R&D support to their economic development.

Without exception, all consider creativity and innovation as a strategic driver of their economic and cultural development.

Without exception, all these countries have invested in highly developed and sophisticated education systems that encourage and promote creativity and innovation.

For any country to move forward, pervasive innovative thinking must take hold throughout society, and right through the administrative systems of the government.

For a country to move forward, we need people who will think and live outside the box, people who are prepared to challenge the norm, rearrange the rules if the rules have become stumbling blocks.

We must empower an eco-system in education that is driven by the motivation to learn, a passion for accomplishment.

The learning system therefore must be one that is inspiring and not stifling.

We must develop a culture in our education systems that recognize and celebrate creativity, and embrace a culture that promotes innovative thinking.

Rules and regulations that force students on not making mistakes will lead to conformity and blind compliance.

Rules and regulations created to impose a one-size-fits-all control structure will hamper efforts of universities to become imaginative and rob them of their ability to become competitive.

Rules and regulations that do not promote innovation should be changed or dropped altogether.

Ladies and Gentlemen

To be sure, innovation can only take place where there is encouragement for new ideas.

It is therefore only logical for countries that encourage innovative thinking to lead the world. It is also logical for these countries to attract the best talents, the best brains. So the divide continues to deepen between developed and developing countries.

To conclude, may I take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you all the best in all that you do, and may I thank TVU once again for this honour so kindly extended to me.