Stevens Provost and University Vice President George Korfiatis received an honorary doctorate degree from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) at its 40th Convocation ceremony on Oct. 20, 2012. The honor commemorated Korfiatis’ many contributions to developing UKM’s entrepreneurship and innovation activities to advance Malaysia in the global economy.
“I am truly humbled to receive this extraordinary honor from UKM,” said Korfiatis.
Korfiatis is a longtime champion of embedding innovation and entrepreneurial practice to the education of the scientists and engineers. He has had his own personal successes as an innovator and entrepreneur. A leader in environmental research and technology development, he has made many seminal contributions in engineering education, research, and the applications of engineering research for the greater good of business, industry and society. He has also cofounded two companies based on his technology research – Hydroglobe and PlasmaSol – which were both acquired by Fortune 500 companies.
Under Korfiatis’ guidance, Stevens and UKM have been engaged in a strategic partnership for many years. Given its historic leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship research, education and practice – especially in technical fields – Stevens was selected by UKM in 2009 to develop curricula to build its own capacity in these areas. UKM leaders felt embedding entrepreneurship within academia is the country’s path to economic prosperity, especially as Malaysia moves away from outsourced services as the basis of its economy.
Since 2009, Stevens faculty members have delivered numerous workshops to UKM professors and also launched the university’s first Entrepreneurship minor. An Entrepreneurship 101 which concluded this summer and was spearheaded by Stevens taught 3,000 UKM students how to think like entrepreneurs.
At UKM’s Convocation ceremony, Korfiatis described to undergraduate students his own experiences at Stevens with research, innovation, technology development and entrepreneurship. He spoke first about how he and his colleagues created start-up companies to take their inventions to market, exposing students directly to the entrepreneurial environment and making innovation and entrepreneurship a natural extension of academic research at Stevens.
“Today, more than 60 percent of the faculty at Stevens are inventors who have been awarded patents and 100 percent of our students are challenged to innovate and are exposed to entrepreneurial activities,” Korfiatis said.
Korfiatis also provided insights about the impact of innovation – especially the importance of engaging in research and innovation with the purpose of developing technologies that are affordable and marketable. He shared how he once worked on a research team which developed a method to remove arsenic from drinking water, which affects the health of millions of people in Bangladesh. However, the team struggled to make the technology affordable. After three years, they finally succeeded.
“In my opinion this is the biggest challenge of this century: To innovate for affordability,” Korfiatis said. “There are seven billion inhabitants on this planet. Five and a half billion live with an income of less than $10 per day. They cannot afford to pay for technology that will lift them out of poverty – for proper healthcare, clean water, nutrition and other necessities that we take for granted.”
Korfiatis closed his speech by encouraging UKM graduates to take these lessons to heart and make a tremendous impact by innovating affordable technologies that will benefit the world.