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DENG Wenzhong: Innovation Is Easy

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Written by: LIN Suqi
Photo by:CHEN Wei & HUANG Guannan & HU Ningyuan
Edited by:James Campion |  Date:2015/11/1268 Hits

On 4th November, in the lead up to GDUFS’s 50th anniversary, DENG Wenzhong, a notable civil engineer, visited GDUFS and delivered a fascinating lecture on the theme of innovation. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering of US, a foreign member of Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the Technical Director of T. Y. Lin International, which is an American company. This lecture was one of the main lectures for GDUFS’s 50th anniversary, and was hosted by GDUFS’s President ZHONG Weihe.

From 520 to 533

DENG Wenzhong started from a well-known number: 520 (if read out in Chinese, it means “I love you”), to raise the innovative principle of “533”—“5I+3W+3C”. 5I represents innovation, improvement, incorporation and the most important: increase value and incentive. He said, “It’s meaningless just to be a vast country. What we should do is to build a strong country, and being innovative is a key approach.” He also mentioned that if a country wants to innovate, it must start with individual innovation, which is motivated by government’s policies and social environment.

When it came to the approaches to innovation, DENG used the story of Newton discovering gravity as a hook to emphasize “If you want to innovate, you must start by raising questions.” These are the content of DENG’s 3W: ask why, why not and what if.

DENG shared his opinion that you should have strong ability together with courage to get rid of being mediocre and get rid of previous thinking. “I insist that the success China has achieved is due to its spirit of exploration and innovation.” In addition, it also requires society’s encouragement and opportunities. To sum up: capability, courage and chance represent DENG’s 3C. In order to help students have a better understanding of the requirements and process of innovation, DENG took himself as an example. He mentioned his works from concrete and steel bridges to a refreshing arch bridge, showing students how the principle of 3W help open up one’s mind and encourage innovation.

The meaning of 533 can also be easy to understand. In DENG’s eyes, “533” equals “let me think” (because it sounds like this if read out in Chinese). DENG claimed powerfully, “Let me think! Innovation is such an easy job!”

 

DENG Wenzhong is talking about innovation

Innovation: the bridge linking scientific research and business

Chinese current Premier LI Keqiang raised the thought of “the leading majority do business, the multitude innovate”. Business, innovation and scientific research are different. In summary, innovation is the bridge linking scientific research and business. DENG emphasized the similarities and differences among them: “Scientific research transfers fortune into knowledge, which is a kind of money-loss; business transfers knowledge into fortune, which is a kind of money-making. We cannot mix the two things together. Universities and public research organizations are supposed to focus on knowledge itself, but not on profits.” Just as the history of semiconductors DENG mentioned, the invention and producing of semiconductors are just about scientific research. Only when semiconductors are applied to products can business bring profits.

Open attitudes towards innovation must be ahead of encouraging innovation

DENG quoted a saying of SUN Yat-sen to divide people into three groups: some can innovate, but cannot do business; some can do business, but cannot maintain it. He took Newton’s anecdote as an example. Newton is a great scientist, but after he turned 40, he stepped onto the stock market and fell over. That was because he didn’t insist on what he was good at. Therefore, there must be failure on the way to innovations, which enquires you to have preparation for failure. At last, DENG gave some suggestions to the current innovation environment: “To encourage innovation, acceptance of failure is the basic requirement; to encourage innovation, we must have an open attitude towards innovation.”

 

The audience filled up the room

After GAO Gang briefly expressed his feelings about the lecture, it stepped into the last part – audience engagement. A girl raised a question about how to move from imitating to innovating. DENG first pointed out that imitating is one of the steps, but you have to raise more questions. He used an old saying in Chinese to tell students that imitating is the way towards proficiency, and innovating reflects excellence. His brilliant answer gained student’s genuine applause.

When students were interviewed on their feelings about the lecture, they all thought it was of great value. DENG’s humorous speech and tight logic also impressed them.

Other honored guests who attended the lecture included: GU Shaoming, the board chairman of Baoing group; LIANG Jianming, the president of Guangdong Construction Organization, and GAO Gang, the President of Shenzhen Decoration Organization.

 

Group photos of DENG Wenzhong and other participants