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Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today launches the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Cyberjaya, marking the beginning of a new era for the university college. Along with its professional arm, the Malaysia Design Innovation Centre, Limkokwing is today well positioned to help propel the country in terms of creativity and innovation.

The highly charged atmosphere of Limkokwing is not lost on visitors to its new campus. The university college, fully equipped with professional facilities, is set to change the face of the local university scene with its farsighted concept of industry within university.

The concept brings on campus major companies and sees the materialization of state-of-the-art incubation units, allowing students to train to create and manage products and services. Towards this end also are business units that will expose students to real work environments.

The concept of industry within university redefines the way young people should be trained to prepare them for the 21st century, equipping them with the right skills for the global environment and imbuing them with the ideal characteristics.

Through the university college and the Innovation Centre, both heavily focused on creativity and innovation, Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing boldly confronts Malaysians to rethink and to reinvent. “There has to be creativity first before there can be innovation,” he often says in explaining his emphasis on producing creative, tech-savvy and industry-ready graduates. “Their ability to innovate and to convert knowledge into new content places them ahead of their peers. We are able to produce such quality graduates because we fuse academic excellence with industry innovation. Our campus integrates the various design disciplines.”

He adds, “Our ability to provide this kind of education lies in the fact that we are from industry ourselves.”

Innovative business units

True to the Limkokwing philosophy of exposing its students to real work environments are business units such as Wings Coffee, Centrefold, One World Club, Fitofly, Making Headlines and Hair Design Academy. These units are professionally run and serve as a showcase for creativity and innovation.

“To us, industry is a classroom. Our concept is like no other,” says Tan Sri Lim, adding that the units enhance Limkokwing’s capability in producing students with the right mindset and personality for the real world.

Each unit reflects the Limkokwing concept of flight in terms of design. The fitness centre, Fitofly, for instance, refers to being fit enough to fly. On the other hand, Centrefold and Headlines refer to the ability to make heads turn - about making impressions. “It’s a branding strategy that will see students learning this aspect of running business from day one. It’s about making impressions,” Tan Sri Lim explains.

Wings Coffee, Limkokwing’s version of Starbucks no less, provides the stylish setting for leisure. It makes a great rendezvous spot, the hip and happening place to see and be seen but most visitors would want to come back for more because of the special beverages offered such as Limkokwing’s very own Durian Smoothie and Durian Coffee.

A typical day sees the adjacent Makanlah a hive of activity especially during lunch time. Hundreds of students throng the Plaza for a great meal - and this could be western, Chinese, Indian, Malay, or fusion. There is variety not only in terms of food but also people. After all, the campus plays host to 4,000 students from 60 countries. Lunch hour is when the diversity in culture comes to the fore.

Own fashion label

, with award-winning ex-Limkokwing student Daniel Chong as lead designer, is where the Limkokwing label will be produced. Smart casual clothes with matching accessories are the highlight of the moment but trust Daniel, winner of last year’s Kebaya: The Interpretations Competition, to keep the ideas flowing. He should not have a problem here what with the campus hosting thousands of creative minds.

The young man who also won last year’s Levis: Originate Your Levis Jeans Contest decided to work for the university college because of the environment that he has come to love. He says he owes his success to the encouragement of his lecturers and peers. “It’s the very environment we work in and the people on campus who inspire me. One of the best things about the School of Fashion and Retail Design is that the lecturers do not stifle your potential. On the contrary, they try to bring out the best in you.”

Unique hair venture with Wella

Another first-of-its-kind effort comes in the form of the Hair Design Academy, a collaboration between Limkokwing and Wella International. This effort has a nation-building goal: producing a new generation of professional hair designers and stylists that will enable Malaysia to become a regional centre of excellence for hair design and styling.

What makes the school’s Professional Diploma in Hair Design and the Professional Certificate in Hair Design unique is the fact that they are extensive, covering relevant areas such as communications, e-commerce, management, finance, studio photography and salon management. This results in graduates who are ready to set up business immediately upon leaving school. And with their creativity and versatility, they can easily take on various roles: lead stylist, designer, manager and innovator.

Also set up to help revive the tired image of the modern hairstylist is Making Headlines, yet another joint venture with Wella, and yet another first to be linked with Limkokwing. The hair design studio goes beyond the traditional hair salon. Inspired by the dynamic environment of the campus, it caters to the young, smart and trendy who subscribe to “looking good to feel good”.

Fitness centre

Another stylish place to network on campus is Fitofly, Limkokwing’s very own lifestyle gym that highlights the concept of flight in relation to success. Designed to be the playground where the young get to channel their energy positively, the gym stimulates development and creates a sense of well being by building confidence.

Various hi-tech tools await the gym user and there are many new techniques to master. But for the seasoned workout enthusiast and the uninitiated alike, Fitofly has a range of enjoyable exercise programmes tailored to make one sweat. Several stimulating studio-based classes are available, offering aerobics, dance, kick, and martial art programmes.

Limkokwing students, understandably are happy to have a gym on campus. Athirah Naim, for one, thinks it is “cool”. “Now all the girls can watch us guys work out!” he says in jest. “Seriously, it should encourage a more competitive spirit among students - and competition is healthy. Students who are into the active lifestyle especially would appreciate the gym as their needs would be met on campus.”

Hanne, who is from Denmark, also finds the “unconventional” things to be refreshing. “Most of the universities in Denmark are academic. Limkokwing, on the other hand, focuses on practical research as well and looks at other ways to build self-confidence in a student. It’s good.”

One World Club

That junk can be recycled to make amazing art pieces is demonstrated to a point of brilliance at One World Club, set to be Limkokwing’s hottest recreational club. The club blends in with the rest of the campus in theme and tone: dark colours dominate, and the sculptures that make up the main centerpiece stand in stark contrast, yet at the same time, fusing in splendidly with the background. These are original works by students, as are other creative décor in the outlet.

Ex-Limkokwing student Rina Chu for one, “cannot wait to enjoy the unique atmosphere that is One World Club”. “It reminds me of a junkyard but a classy one! I have no doubt creative types would feel at home here!”

Indeed One World Club is where young people can unwind in a most stimulating “arty” setting, comparing notes after a long day on campus or simply rubbing shoulders with their peers.

State-of-the-art professional facilities

Limkokwing is no stranger to large-scale events, but with MDI now in operation, the university college is able to go even bigger in terms of hosting events and activities. Exhibitions, product launches, car shows and concerts are some of the features that will keep the campus bustling.

A batik centre is in the pipeline, along with an art & craft market. The former has an important objective - to revive interest in batik and cultural heritage in general, while the latter is a platform for artists and craftsmen to display and sell their works.

Then there are the 30-odd student clubs and societies on campus that will keep the momentum going by holding events and activities. The clubs include those set up by foreign students such as the Botswana Cultural Society, the Chinese Students Society and the Middle Eastern Society.

The professional facilities on campus are all state-of-the-art, specifically designed to cater to various demands. These include incubation units, computer labs and recording studios - all of which are constantly upgraded to keep abreast of technology.

Showcase of Malaysia’s top brands

There are five exhibition halls - three of which are in the Wings Plaza. Among them is the Design Museum where the six-month long Best of Malaysia Showcase is to be held. This is a showcase of top Malaysian brands; all the companies involved are recognised by MDI as having helped build a good image for the country because of their pioneering spirit and innovative ways.

The showcase allows visitors to see the country’s best in creativity and innovation, and encourages smaller companies to follow in the footsteps of the winning brands.

Tan Sri Lim explains, “The showcase is a boost to the image of these brands which are industry leaders. At the showcase, their products will be exposed to many countries and by this I do not mean only delegates who visit the centre, but also the students on campus who represent some 60 countries. They will bring back this information to their respective countries and this should help promote the country.”

The Best of Malaysia showcase will be followed by a Best of British exhibition and an Italian fair next year.

Links with overseas design centres

In line with its position as regional creative hub in design and media content, MDI will also form partnerships with international design centres in Europe to promote brand-building and innovation, and to build a Malaysian presence there. Already in place are links between the centre and the world-renowned Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Milan and the Korea Institute of Design Promotion.

According to Tan Sri Lim, more such collaborations will be forged with design centres in Germany, the UK and France, to “bring together the best of the east and west in design and innovation”.

“These significant collaborations would boost industry and benefit our students,” he says, adding that they would be the platform to connect with innovative thinkers and designers in Europe.

Cool & happening campus a driving force

Little wonder students find the Limkokwing campus a dynamic environment to grow in: the most innovative features are in place, the right mix of people are in charge, and it has been playing an effective role in contributing to the growth of the private education scene.

“The campus is a driving force in itself,” says architecture student Peter Maruapula from Botswana. “It is inspiring and motivating. There are so many successful people around and things are always fluid. It makes me want to do better all the time.”

Equally impressed with the campus is multimedia student Henrik Gorm Pedersen, from Denmark, who says, “All we have back home (in a university) is a one-stop cafeteria. It’s a great idea to allow students to help run the hair care studio, the fashion outlet, and the coffee outlet.

Hanne Kawauchi, also from Denmark, echoes his thoughts. “It’s good to get students involved in industry work. The exposure is invaluable.”

Ex-Limkokwing student Don Lloyd who now runs Think Reka, his own business in product design, must be a fan of Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing judging from the words of praise he has for the man. “Tan Sri Lim has done a lot for industry and for the education scene, and we should be grateful we have someone like him around. It’s very difficult to change mindsets but Tan Sri Lim has persisted. He has spent more than three decades educating Malaysians on the need to be creative, on the need to design our own products and services.”

Don believes the concept of industry within university will prove effective in stimulating industry. “We still have a long way to go in the area of brand building and design. What is in place on campus here is a good start.”

And Tan Sri Lim certainly has Swinburne’s dean of design Prof Helmut Lueckenhausen’s vote of confidence too. The latter said, “Tan Sri Lim should be able to validate the building (MDI). It is not an empty ‘temple’ but an active place where things get done. Every country has the experience of building impressive structures that later go to waste. This one is not an empty one; this one, I believe, will allow Malaysia to bridge with other cultures, other markets, and realise its goals as a hub.”