2023-08-08T18:29:44+08:002023-08-08|News&Events, News|

It is August 5, 2023, I am in Lisbon, for a period of holidays essentially to stay for a while with my family, after a long period in Macao without returning to Portugal. Early morning when I saw my phone, many messages from colleagues and friends in Macao, I immediately realized that something very important should have happened. Mr. Tong Chi Kin passed away, I was shocked and sad to hear such news. An interesting fact, it happened on the exact same day of the month, when 31 years ago I received a phone call from Macao inviting me to go there.

In 1992, I was a young Ph.D. holder working as Assistant Professor in Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), in a leading research group of Microelectronics, when I decided to go to University of Macau (UM), which I didn’t know at all. Upon my arrival I realized that the University was very young and there was no research, however, the students coming from Macao high schools were very clever and diligent, eager to learn, that was the main reason why I decided to stay. By then, Mr. Tong Chi Kin was the School Principal of The Workers’ Children High School, and it was in such a position that I met him for the first time. Trained in Physics, in the South China Normal University, whenever I spoke with him (with the help of a translator) he was very enthusiastic about the capacity of Macao students and their capability of learning, in those days, computer technology. His school was a very good example of a place well equipped in that respect.

In subsequent years, I tried to develop research, in particular in science and technology, with a focus in Electronics, but that was not easy and the resources were very sparse, and only at university-level because there was not any other type of support in Macao. By mid-nineties, after some contacts with both Macao and Portuguese Governments, where I knew two colleagues from IST that were very influential in the Science & Technology (S&T) area, Profs. Mariano Gago and Manuel Heitor, the first being the Minister and the second equivalent to Vice-Minister, it was possible to start defining a strategy in Macao S&T that led to the creation of a Committee in 1998, for the local government to oversee such an area. I became a member representing UM but it was quite difficult to define some concrete strategy because there was not any financial support, except for some budget in UM managed by its Research Committee, that helped to launch some basic research activity.
With the creation of Macao SAR in the end of 1999, another entity emerged now renamed Committee for Science and Technology, where I continued to be a member, as well as Mr. Tong Chi Kin. We discussed between us multiple times the need to have financial resources capable of promoting S&T in Macao, and I presented to him what we were starting to do in UM with the launching of 2 PhDs in a double-degree with IST, in Electronics, in 2000 and 2002, with world-level standards, that subsequently led to the creation of the Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI Laboratory in 2003. Time passed and the evolution was very slow, but finally in 2005 the S&T Development Fund (FDCT) emerged, chaired precisely by Mr. Tong Chin Kin, and that was really a local breakthrough and a significant impulse in the development of S&T in Macao, catapulted to new heights since then. In 2009, I remember to discuss with Mr. Tong Chi Kin and his colleagues in FDCT how to raise the level of S&T locally, with national and international impact, and the idea appeared of having in Macao State Key Laboratories, labeled as such by the Ministry of S&T (MoST) of China and financially supported by FDCT in an original model only for Macao, without equivalent for example in Hong Kong SAR.

Mr. Tong Chi Kin was always very enthusiastic and supportive of such an idea and always believed that it was possible to have it approved by the MoST. I had my doubts due to the dimension of the State Key Laboratories in China, in terms of staff, logistics, equipment and financial resources, when compared with our local situation, but we prepared two proposals, based on two university-level research areas of UM, for Electronics and Traditional Chinese Medicine. After two long years, finally in 2011 two State Key Laboratories (SKLabs) approved by MoST started their operation. Since then, there was a vertiginous acceleration in both areas and the remaining history is well-known where the two initial SKLabs brought world-wide fame and acclamation to Macao, which were complemented more recently with an additional number of SKLabs. For all of this to happen, it was quite influential the intervention of Mr. Tong Chi Kin at the helm of FDCT.
Fast-forwarding time by 31 years, the trust in Macao local young scholars that lead now the State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI and the tireless support of Mr. Tong Chi Kin allowed the creation of a world-level facility recognized everywhere implanting Macao in the road-map of state-of-the-art Electronics. We should credit Mr. Tong Chi Kin for it, a person that me and my colleagues will never forget!

Prof. Rui Martins
University of Macau
August 5th, 2023