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  • Jul 22, 2014
  • Updated: 7:50pm
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Creative exchange a neighbourly affair

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 July, 2013, 9:12am

There will be a buzz of idea exchanges to develop the creative sector when 120 delegates from eight countries gather this weekend for the Asia on the Edge (AOTE) event.

Started by Singapore's Arts House at the Old Parliament in 2008, it aims to bring together people from the arts and culture field from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to find ways to develop profitable creative enterprises. It also includes a pitching session at which the best idea put on the table will get a S$10,000 (HK$61,100) contract.

Myanmar is at the cusp of developing into a thriving economy
BENNY CHIA (BELOW), HEAD OF THE AOTE PROGRAMME IN HONG KONG

Fong Ngai, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Singapore, suggested that Hong Kong host the event this year after he attended the 2012 edition in the Lion City. There, he learned of a young Singaporean artist who quit her job as a museum curator to design hats using recycled materials. After she won an investment contract from AOTE, "she then went to villages in Southeast Asia to source natural materials to make hats and teach the village ladies the skills so they could earn a living for the whole village. A creative idea turned into a business venture and a social enterprise."

Lyndon Yeo, organising chairman of AOTE, says one of the key components of the event is Pitch It!, a competition where participants with start-up ideas can put their proposals before a panel of experienced creative entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The winner gets prize money and the chance for their idea to be incubated.

Fringe Club founder and director Benny Chia Chun-heng, who is in charge of the Hong Kong programme, says AOTE is an opportunity for the city to make contacts with its Asian neighbours.

"We are at what we call the Asean moment - [these countries] are at the cusp of developing into a thriving economy, particularly places like Myanmar. It will be good to know more of what they're doing, share ideas and network among themselves," Chia says.

He explains the programme is a balance between talks and site visits, and showcasing Hong Kong's venues and local creative enterprises. Delegates will tour renovated historical buildings at Savannah College of Art and Design, the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre and Asia Society, and listen to speakers, including restaurateur Alan Lo of the Press Room Group, Fine Art Asia's Calvin Hui and Michael Tay of the Russia-Singapore Business Forum.

The delegates will also be introduced to local creative entrepreneurs from the worlds of publishing, crafts and even coffee planting.

"We want to show them business opportunities and bring the arts into the business sector," says Chia.

The cultural and creative industries have become Hong Kong's most dynamic sectors, employing 190,000 people and contributing nearly 5 per cent of our gross domestic product, according to Fong. The sector has grown at an average annual rate of 9.4 per cent in terms of value added, outpacing the average annual GDP growth rate at 5.5 per cent, he adds.

Chia hopes by the end of the four-day event, contacts will be established to pave the way for more collaborations with other countries. "This is just the beginning," he says. "We realise how important relationships are and this is not a one-off thing, but a long process of creation."

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