A winning formula: Hong Kong should combine innovation with entrepreneurship

With the right strategy and institutional support, city can be a leader in the new industrial revolution that is sweeping the globe

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 1:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2016, 1:22am

Innovation and technology know no bounds. Today, friends and colleagues can stay in touch instantly through the internet and mobile phones. Products with new designs and functions are released on a regular basis. The changes in the past decades are arguably the most revolutionary of all times. Hong Kong may not stand out as a leader on this front. Our emphasis on developing the finance and services industries means technology has never been our edge.

Thankfully, we are catching up. In a ground-breaking step, five Polytechnic University researchers have developed new optical communication software that boasts the fastest connection speed for data centres. It allows transmission at 240 gigabits per second over 2km, which is 24 times the existing speed offered in the market – and at only a quarter of the price.

It should not be forgotten that broadband transmission today owes much to the former head of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Charles Kao, whose pioneering research in the field has earned him the nickname “Father of Fibre Optics” and the Nobel Prize for physics.

Hong Kong needs to move past short-term profit mentality, says secretary for innovation bureau

The latest breakthrough comes as the city embarks on an ambitious transformation into an innovation and technology hub. In an interview with this newspaper, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung set a target for Hong Kong to become a knowledge-based economy within 10 years. His priorities include creating high-value-added manufacturing industries through re-industrialisation, developing regenerative medicine, and healthy ageing in a “smart city”.

The development blueprint has been long overdue. Now that the new policy bureau has laid down a clear direction for Hong Kong, it has to deliver. It remains empty talk if the vision is not backed by action. Like developing new gadgets for sale, bright ideas have to be matched by commercially viable strategies. Given Hong Kong’s advantages in finance and business, our economy can scale new heights by combining innovation with entrepreneurship.

From Charles Kao to the latest achievement by Polytechnic University, Hong Kong has come a long way towards putting itself on the world map of innovation. With every economy striving to capitalise on the trend, whoever has the brightest idea is set to lead the next revolution. Admittedly, we are still trailing some world-class hubs such as Silicon Valley in California and Silicon Wadi in Israel. But with the right strategy and institutional support, the goal is achievable.