Dr Abid Khan is any corporate organisation’s dream.
From a physicist to an engineer to now, a strategist for Monash University, he has the uncanny ability to mix practicality with high intelligence.
He has studied in the best Universities in the UK and worked with the Fortune 500 and the US government during his time with Booz Allen and Hamilton (one of the Big 5 global strategy firms) and also been Deputy Director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology before he made the move to Australia. “I find very few people like me when I go to China or Japan or even India,” says Dr Khan, saying that good scientists should be encouraged to move on and ahead into management positions.
Dr Khan has moved between academia, industry and the government for most of his career and he finds that there is a lot that each can contribute to the other but there are very few that can bridge the gaps. He does that very effectively.
He was instrumental in setting up the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication which is the largest facility of its kind in Australia. It’s a centre where one can walk in with an idea and actually have a proto-type made. “It can even look at the feasibility of manufacturing as well,” says Dr Khan.
He believes that sustainability and Green technology is the next big thing. One of the ventures that he is involved with at the moment is ‘Green Chemical Futures’ which was funded by Prime Minister Julia Gillard a couple of years ago. This is a $100 million venture and is very industry focussed.
“I meet a lot of industrialists in my line of work and I believe that sustainability is going to be a massive agenda for all CEOs. How to work the whole carbon scheme is going to have a great and direct impact on the economy.”
His main role is as a strategist for the university. Essentially treating the university as a company, his job is to drive new high-impact research areas and find out how to optimise the experience of gaining a degree for the student which needs to be directly linked to industry requirements.
Earlier this year Monash University and the University of Warwick (UK) signed a new agreement to create an alliance between the two universities that will clearly establish both as “globally networked universities”.
The new partnership is aimed to meet the increasing student, industry and government demand for universities to produce graduates with a global education and to address major global research problems. The partnership will allow them to undertake research that aims to address world relevant and strategically important problems that have proved too big for any one institution to address.
“The students are looking for globalised access be it travel, research or connections. We were looking for a university that shared our values and Warwick fit the bill,” says Dr Khan. While University of Warwick gives the students access to the European experience, Monash University is poised to be the gateway to Asia.
For the Indian executive, Dr Khan feels that while the top-tier management is comparable to that of any in the world, the middle-management tends to be more tactical and this is what we need to change. “We need to be able to go up to our bosses and ask ‘Why are we doing this?’ or ‘I think we can do this better.”