Hong Kong’s technology and innovation sector (T&I) gives high marks to the 2022 Policy Address. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu introduced a number of new perspectives and policies to build a sound foundation for T&I development, and has set clear directions and key performance indicators for the next five years.
The move aligns with Hong Kong’s road map for becoming an international innovation and technology hub that is acknowledged by the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). This is a necessary step, allowing a more-proactive role for the administration in an increasingly competitive global environment and departing from its past noninterventionist approach.
Overall, the Policy Address presented an aggressive vision in competing for both enterprises and talent. The government unveiled an array of new initiatives targeted at attracting enterprises, investment and talent. Through working with leading industry practitioners and corporations, a self-contained T&I ecosystem will be established. The renewed tech industries will be vibrant, diverse, and have both the breadth to accommodate a range of skill sets and the depth to enable aspiring enterprises to develop top-notch technologies. As a result, talent will be willing to plant their roots here for long-term career development, thereby fleshing out the virtuous circle of innovation elements.
The key initiative includes the formation of a new Hong Kong Investment Corp (HKIC), which will set aside HK$30 billion ($3.82 billion) to make direct investments and form co-investment funds. The government will also set up the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (OASES) and a Talents Service Unit to formulate strategies targeting high-potential enterprises and professionals from the mainland and overseas. These initiatives truly link into a basket of incentives that were scattered and uncoordinated in the past. The one-stop services for visa applications and the education arrangements for students also demonstrate the government’s emphasis on grooming future T&I talents.
The government has a major goal to lure at least 100 high-potential T&I enterprises to set up their presence in Hong Kong along with their talented employees. As a legislator, the implementation of such an ambitious goal will be my focus, and I shall ensure cooperation between the industry participants and the government to work hand in hand to achieve this goal. HKIC and the OASES should invite local experts to participate in the selection process and set feasible conditions for invited enterprises about their commitments to their capital investment, creation of jobs, and the strategic value and importance that they can bring to the city’s development.
The Policy Address also promised to launch the “Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Development Blueprint” to formulate key policies on industries of strategic importance, such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence, data science, fintech, advanced manufacturing, and new-energy technology.
These are indeed in line with the “4×4 matrix” that I have been advocating in the Legislative Council. In September, I submitted a proposal to the chief executive to introduce the idea, laying out the four “vertical” directions of T&I industries — namely, fintech, health and biotech, advanced manufacturing, and data economy — which are sectors with sound foundations and resourceful talent pools in Hong Kong, and which are well-positioned to develop enterprises and startups that can be internationally competitive.
Under each of these four “vertical” directions, four “horizontal” policy-level facilitation measures are required to address the existing barriers. They include the provision of suitable land, optimizing policies to draw talent, government initiatives to encourage private capital investments, and setting innovative policies with mainland cities to reduce business entry restrictions.
To ameliorate the past weakness of a low success rate of R&D commercialization, the government will earmark HK$10 billion to launch a Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus Scheme, funding at least 100 research teams in universities, aiming to help them transform their ideas into products. I believe this policy can help scholars pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and cultivate more STEM students with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Again, implementation is the key. Looking around the world, there is a high failure rate in research and development projects everywhere. Our government officials must be more fault-tolerant in investing in technologies of the next generation. Besides, they should appoint professional investment managers to allocate resources to bolster the success rate of commercialization. I am glad to see that the government will adopt a results-oriented approach by setting different key performance indicators for monitoring processes and effectiveness.
The Policy Address is an expression of the government’s sincerity and determination to start a new chapter with Hong Kong’s T&I entrepreneurs and industry participants. Although challenges lie ahead, I am confident the new measures will drive the city’s next stage of economic growth and solidify our competitiveness. Eventually, a sustainable T&I sector that is represented by a cluster of high-tech enterprises, talent, capital and R&D achievements will become a new economic pillar of Hong Kong.
The author is a Legislative Council member representing the Technology and Innovation Functional Constituency, the non-official member of the Digital Economy Development Committee, a tech entrepreneur, and a veteran tech investor.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.