Session highlights

Board rooms are talking about environmental and social problems and SDGs – they are looking for academic partners. Universities need to be very aggressive, reaching out and trying to understand the problems in companies and communities.” Professor Dr. Won Jun Lee  

  • Social innovation is an important part of the work of universities, particularly post-Covid. It feeds into “anchor institution” responsibilities to local and regional communities, as well as being part of curricula and student entrepreneurship. The first Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Vietnam is boosting social enterprise networking, partnerships and access to funding. Its mission, to build a start up ecosystem in the country, was outlined by its director, Thang Truong Nam. A new start up hub is training lecturers to support entrepreneurship, working with impact investors and international organisations, including the British Council, and helping to kick start social enterprises. 
  • Companies are becoming more attuned to the idea of social innovation and more comfortable working with students and universities to help solve their internal problems and fulfil corporate responsibilities. Board rooms are talking about environmental and social problems and SDGs and are looking for academic partners, according to Prof Won Jun Lee, business school Sungkyunkwan University, in the Republic of Korea. Universities need to push forward and make connections with businesses and communities, particularly post-Covid. Underpinning this are the many instruments to measure the impact of social enterprise. Impact assessments are also important in the pursuit of policy support and funding. Aligning grassroots innovations with SDGs can also help here.
  • Building community resilience and supporting economic development is a key aim of the Centre for Social Innovation at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, in Malaysia. Its head, Dr Shahrina Nordin, points to universities’ social obligations to the communities surrounding. She outlined a number of projects that the centre had supported in recent times; “Saving little friends”, an animal adoption scheme for stray cats and dogs, and a small holders network system in rural areas which helps provide new opportunities to promote goods and generate revenue. 

Session summary

This roundtable session seeks to explore the role that universities can play in becoming anchor institutions for their local communities, to support social innovation activities. The session will seek to drill-down as to how universities can best facilitate social innovation to build more sustainable industries and societies, and how policy-makers incentivise this work.

Building upon the British Council led research project ‘Social Innovation in Higher Education’ (SIHE) that explored social innovation across East and South East Asia, the roundtable brings together leading academics focused on social innovation to discuss the challenges they face and the strategies that they employ in delivering social impact in communities.  This focus on impact will also be linked to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, global university ranking systems linked to these (i.e. Times Higher Impact) to illustrate the changing landscape of higher education and the role that this plays in driving strategic direction at universities. Indeed, this impact focus remains key to ensuring that universities are not just seen as elitist, blue-sky thinking research organisations. This is an area that is crucial in the post Covid-19 era, and universities need to ensure that their work delivers tangible, practical impacts on the ground for the communities that they serve. In the 21st century, the need for ‘pracademics’ is more crucial than ever.


  • Chair: Prof. Dr. Richard Hazenburg, Professor of Social Innovation at the University of Northampton, UK
  • Prof. Dr. Won Jun Lee, Professor, Sungkyunkwan University, Republic of Korea
  • Dr. Muhammad Ariono Margiano, Lecturer of Magister Manajemen, Binus University, Indonesia
  • Dr. Thang Truong Nam, Director of the Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, National Economics University, Vietnam
  • Dr. Shahrina Nordin, Head of Centre for Social Innovation, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia

See also