Innovation push is given a HK$28b lift

Updated: 2018-10-11 06:22

By Luo Weiteng in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Hong Kong is bankrolling a big effort in research and development by allocating a further HK$28 billion to boost innovation - a bold target set by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her second Policy Address.

In her 96-page blueprint delivered on Wednesday, Lam strengthened her ambition to sharpen the city's edge as a leading innovator by rolling out a string of initiatives. This includes financial support for high-end manufacturing industries, additional university funds and various measures to press ahead with the "smart city" vision.

She had vowed to double expenditure on research and development to 1.5 percent in the next five years in her maiden policy address last year. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po pledged to dish out a massive HK$50 billion from the budget funding pie to support innovation and technology this financial year.

This year's Policy Address has again placed "re-industrialization" - described as "a potential new area of economic growth for Hong Kong" by former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his 2016 Policy Address - under the spotlight.

Hailed as one of the most noticeable tasks on the Innovation and Technology Bureau's agenda, the buzzword represents the biggest trend in the advanced world's industrial development, pointing to the process of producing "service-oriented" products through the widespread use of information technology and the Internet of Things.

About HK$2 billion will be earmarked for a funding scheme to subsidize manufacturers in setting up smart production lines in Hong Kong.

As Hong Kong entrepreneurs seek to move their assembly lines back to the SAR from Chinese mainland, but have long been put off by the shortage of industrial buildings in the territory, an additional HK$2 billion will also be set aside for Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation to identify suitable land in industrial estates for building manufacturing facilities.

"It really takes a lot of guts for the government to make such a courageous decision," said Charles An, chief executive of CardApp - a Hong Kong-based company offering technology-powered and cloud-based property management services.

"Government funding is not a magic cure for all problems in the local technology scene and making Hong Kong a magnet for promising tech firms. What hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of the city's innovative companies is still the shortage of land," he stressed.

An believed that the real issue is what role the middleman, like Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, should play in helping innovative companies truly reap the benefits from new policies.

In a sign of her determination to forge ahead with the smart-city blueprint unveiled last year, Lam ramped up efforts, including the application of eID for every Hong Kong citizen in mid-2019, and the introduction of artificial intelligence and chatbot functions to the government website next year.

At the same time, HK$500 million will be used for further technology adoption by government departments.

"Most of the time, the new policies are well in place, but the city lacks a 'catalyst' or 'booster' to get them off the ground. This is where the government could come in," said An.

As the government takes the much-awaited step forward by applying innovation and technology to public services, both the public and private sectors will be given a big lift in following suit, he added.

Lam also rolled out a hefty package for universities, doubling the financing for three schemes under the Innovation and Technology Fund.

Innovation push is given a HK$28b lift

(HK Edition 10/11/2018 page7)