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'Digital Davos' LEAP 2024 kicks off in Riyadh

By XU WEIWEI in Hong Kong | | Updated: 2024-03-04 20:26
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HKSTP Pavilion at LEAP show in Riyadh mimics Hong Kong's iconic I&T landmark – the 'Golden Egg'. [Photo provided to China Daily]

From healthcare to smart cities and from fintech to future energy, technology firms in China, including the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the Middle East have huge potential to work together to advance innovation and unleash creativity, experts said at a prominent technology event hosted by Saudi Arabia.

LEAP, an annual global tech event launched in 2022 and co-organized by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, kicked off its third edition in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on March 4, bearing the theme "Into New Worlds".

The event, which will run through March 7, features hundreds of speakers from various fields, over 600 startups, and more than 172,000 participants from around 183 countries. Leading international technology firms and top executives are participating in the event, which includes exhibitions. Participating enterprises include global firms Apple, Nvidia and IBM, as well as Chinese tech majors Huawei, DJI and Tik-Tok.

LEAP, which has been dubbed the "Digital Davos", brings together the global technology ecosystem. This year it has an Asia partner, eWTPA, a venture capital firm based in Riyadh, acting as a bridge linking Chinese companies and emerging markets in the Middle East and North Africa. 

A number of companies invested by eWTPA, including logistics firm J&T Express, Saudi online trading platform Sahm, Saudi Cloud Computong Co. (SCCC), multi-industry automation solution provider Raha and instant messaging platform BEEM, are attending LEAP 2024, giving demonstrations on latest products and technologies.

The conference and exhibition, which is Saudi Arabia's largest tech event and one of the world's most attended, will also see Hong Kong participants showcase 16 cutting-edge technologies to visitors, marking a significant milestone for the city's information and technology industry on the global stage.

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and the Hong Kong Cyberport, Hong Kong's major technology and innovation promotion hubs, have collaborated to co-host the first-ever Hong Kong Pavilion at LEAP. Startups from Hong Kong are showcasing cutting-edge innovations in sectors such as biotech, health-tech, logistics, AI, robotics, and new energy.

The opening ceremony of the Hong Kong Pavilion was held on Monday, where Hong Kong's Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong delivered the opening remarks. "LEAP is definitely on the top of our agenda" in his trip to Saudi Arabia, he noted.

Sun added that he would like to express his sincere gratitude to Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for the kind invitation to LEAP. "The set up of the Hong Kong Pavilion at this iconic tech conference provides a perfect platform for our tech ventures to showcase their cutting-edge technologies and innovative solutions. It is also a valuable opportunity for our tech mission to interact with global tech leaders, potential partners and investors here, and to demonstrate the I&T strengths that Hong Kong can bring to the world."

The Middle East and Saudi Arabia have a great deal to contribute to China's Belt and Road Initiative, analysts said. According to Albert Wong, CEO of HKSTP, the sci-tech park aims to promote partnerships with Saudi businesses and inject new energy into the BRI, the China-led infrastructure development program which encompasses over 180 countries and international organizations, including many in the Middle East.

"A golden era of innovation and technology is emerging in Hong Kong, the (wider) Greater Bay Area, and across Asia, and we see incredible co-innovation potential in the joining of our two ecosystems in Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia," said Wong.

"HKSTP's participation in LEAP 2024 signifies our commitment to leaping into new worlds and embracing the new cradle of global innovation, which is multilateral and impactful. Our mission is to propel success by advancing in the journey from research to commercialization, from innovation to financial success, for both home-grown and international startups," he said.

Riyadh is looking for deeper technology partnerships amid the "Saudi Vision 2030", an ambitious project for Saudi Arabia to create a vibrant society and a roadmap for the nation's economic diversification and global engagement. A key part of Vision 2030 is the innovative city of NEOM, a technology-focused metropolis being built from scratch, stretching inland from the Red Sea coast in the northwest of the country.

The LEAP event is being held concurrently with Deep Fest, a global AI event with more than 20,000 attendees from all over the world.

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