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Thunderous applause and the loud beating of kompang greeted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as he stepped onto the uniquely designed campus of the Limkokwing University College of Creative Technology in Cyberjaya on Monday.

Visible from a distance, its colourful and eye-catching façade sets it apart from other institutions as a giant digitally composed “skin” bearing the features that reflect various creative industries covers the length and breadth of the campus buildings.

The voluminous Wings Plaza located at the centre of the campus was the pulse of the exciting goings-on, including the free flow of brewed coffee for guests from its very own Wings Coffee. VIPs, dignitaries, guests and students filled the plaza to watch a silat demonstration and listened to the choir which comprised some of Limkokwing’s Malaysian and foreign students dressed in their respective colourful national costumes. The songs and pantun (poem) were composed by the students.

The prime minister, after shaking hands with the crowd of enthusiastic undergraduates, was taken on a tour of the Limkokwing Library and the Best of Malaysia exhibition.

Said Abdullah in his off-the-cuff remarks when delivering his speech later: “One of the things that makes me happy is the sight of so many children of different colours, heights and shapes screaming and clapping. What a happy lot they are. To me, it is an indication that they are happy here,” he said.

“I was also taken on a tour of this wonderland and saw products of creative talent and energy by your young people and staff.”

Abdullah said the university college president Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing had brought him to his office where he had tried coffee - but one with a difference.

“You would never guess what it was. Durian coffee! The durian provided the sweetness and cream. But it was also a little bitter so perhaps he added some tongkat ali but I can only tell you what happens later on,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Abdullah said Lim has been a friend for years. He made reference to Lim’s speech earlier when the latter described how he first met the prime minister 30 years ago when they worked together with the Malaysian Vocational Guidance Association, which provided training to empower young people to gain a better start in life.

“It’s true that he has known me for 30 years as we were involved in the association. We wanted to help them but we were small people and there was not much we could do.

“But our interest has remained to this day. Kok Wing, I am happy that you have found creative talent but the most important is that you have founded Limkokwing University College,” he said.

Abdullah said he was sure the university college would be a centre of excellence, not only among the best in Malaysia but also in the region, and hopefully in the world.

During the opening ceremony which featured multimedia presentations, he also awarded 16 companies with the National Creativity & Innovation Award 2005. Organised by Malaysia Design Innovation Centre (MDI), the goal of the award is to encourage manufacturers and service providers to be creative and innovative to compete globally.

Companies given the award also received a seal of excellence which is an endorsement of quality and innovation.

In welcoming the prime minister and many guests including ministers, deputy ministers, heads of private institutions, ambassadors and high commissioners, and heads of companies to the opening of the university college, Lim said in his speech that it was a historic moment for his institution.

“The journey to this campus started 14 years ago when I began to put plans on paper to develop a blueprint for an unconventional college that never existed before in this country.

“Two years later in 1992, our pioneer batch of 200 students came on board. That gave life to the plans and momentum to the drive that has brought us here today,” he said, adding that Limkokwing was granted university college status early last year.

Lim also thanked former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his unwavering support.

He said Limkokwing is a place for creative exploration, conceptual research and productive development where new designs and ideas are generated and new concepts incubated.

“We have created real enterprise. The process of product and brand development of these incubations is left in the hands of our students. They will become entrepreneurs without even realising it themselves,” he said.

True to the Limkokwing philosophy of exposing its students to real work environments are business units within the campus such as Wings Coffee (café), Centrefold (fashion label), One World Club (recreation club), Fitofly (gym), Making Headlines (hair design studio) and Hair Design Academy.

Students at Limkokwing engage in pursuits that will create new concepts and perspectives that industry is looking for, to innovate its products, redesign its packaging, rebuild its image or to introduce new concepts that will improve efficiency in agro-based industries, he said.

Lim said MDI was established as the professional arm of the university college and serves as the essential bridge that links design to manufacturing, academia to business, innovators to industry, and research and development to industry.

Students get to incubate ideas into commercially viable content that companies are likely to invest in. The innovative centres where this takes place cover the areas of performance arts, design, branding, communications, exhibition, enterprise and business innovation.

There are 4,000 students at the Limkokwing campus, with 40% of them from 60 countries around the world.

“Students arrive as Arabs, Asians, Africans or Europeans but they graduate and leave as global citizens with a wide network of friends,” he said.