Vice Chancellor

WOU, the ‘people’s university’, saw its first appointment of a woman Vice Chancellor when Dr Lily Chan assumed the position on 29 April 2019.

She brings with her over 30 years of leadership in government, academia and industry, with experience ranging from initiating start-ups and venture investments, to creating innovation and entrepreneurial (I&E) ecosystems. She served on several national-level I&E committees, including sub-committees for Singapore’s Committee for Future Economy.


In recognition of her talents and efforts, she was bestowed the Public Administration Medal (Silver) during the Singapore National Day Awards in 2018.

Dr Chan, 68, is taking over the mantle as the fourth Vice Chancellor of WOU. Her predecessor, Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, served in that leadership capacity for over five years, and the other past Vice Chancellors were Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan and Prof Emeritus Dato’ Dr Wong Tat Meng.

Prior to her current appointment at WOU, she was the CEO of NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), from February 2006 to March 2019.

At NUS Enterprise, she spearheaded numerous innovation, entrepreneurship and research initiatives, playing a key role in transforming the university’s enterprise division into a respected and recognised entity, both on the domestic front and overseas.

She had established BLOCK71, a scheme that has helped aggregate Singapore’s start-up community and turned an old industrial building into what The Economist called “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem”. She nurtured hundreds of successful start-up companies, contributing to a flourishing global and local ecosystem at the university.

From 1998 to 2006, she served as Managing Director of Bio*ONE Investments, the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board, where she was tasked to expand the growth of the biomedical science industry in Singapore. Here, she managed a portfolio of over 80 biomedical investments in Singapore and internationally, and was involved in the creating of biomedical start-ups in Singapore.

Other positions include Deputy Director, Bioprocessing Technology Centre, NUS, from 1995 to 1998; General Manager, Genelabs Diagnostics Ptd Ltd Singapore, and concurrent Director of Product Development (USA), Genelabs Inc, USA, from 1991 to 1995; General Manager, Diagnostic Biotechnology Ptd Ltd, Singapore from 1990 to 1991; and Research and Product Development Director, Diagnostic Biotechnology Ptd Ltd, from 1987 to 1990.

She obtained a PhD (Microbiology & Immunology) from the University of Illinois, Chicago, under full scholarship, and a BA (Hons) in Biology from Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, Georgia.  She was accorded the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2015 by her alma mater, Agnes Scott College.

Dr Chan has roots in Penang, having studied at Island Girls School before pursuing secondary education at St George’s Girls School.

In welcoming the new Vice Chancellor, WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon lauded Dr Chan’s innovation-driven and entrepreneurial spirit, stating that her expertise will further raise the research profile of the University.

“I trust she can build on the foundation laid by the previous Vice Chancellors in formulating and executing strategic transformation initiatives for WOU. Her educated knowledge and practical know-how of start-ups will help WOU move forward in the modern technological era, since we will have a hands-on, seasoned innovative expert leading the team,” Dr Koh added.