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Chief executive’s policy address 2017

‘New mentality’ needed to support innovation and technology in Hong Kong, CY says in final policy address

Chief executive, without going into specifics, says tax and policy support needed to allow city to be competitive

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 9:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 11:50pm

Tax concessions and financial incentives “must be” explored as Hong Kong needs a “new mentality” to support the innovation and technology industry amid stiff competition, the chief executive said in his final policy address.

Without elaborating, Leung Chun-ying said providing hardware alone would not be enough for Hong Kong to drive innovation and technological development, even hinting that the current financial regulatory framework was too rigid.

“Hong Kong in the past has been competing with her arms tied up,” Leung said on Wednesday.

“In the innovation and technology business, are we able to provide some sort of financial, tax and policy support? Because this is what our competitors have been doing,” he said.

In six pages and 22 paragraphs, Leung stressed innovation and technology “are no slogan” and outlined a list of achievements under his reign, including an Innovation Node set up by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a HK$1 billion Entrepreneurs Fund launched by Alibaba Group. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Generous funding – amounting to HK$18 billion – will be injected in various fields in a timely manner, he said.

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For example, the University Grants Committee has been asked to complete a review of fund allocation within one year to facilitate scientific research, while the HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund will accept applications from start-ups by the middle of the year.

David Rosa, chief executive of fintech start-up Neat, called for the government to encourage more private sector investments into early-stage funding.

“The Hong Kong government could help foster more private sector investment into seed, pre-seed or Series A funding for start-ups.”

“It would be great if the government could provide funds to venture capital firms that can identify and invest in start-up companies [on behalf of the government],” Rosa added, pointing out that the ecosystem in Singapore is already working in this way.

Plots of land have also been earmarked for technology hubs, such as ones at the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point and the Lok Ma Chau Loop.

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But a proposed “InnoCell” project at the Science Park in Sha Tin, which will provide residential units and shared working spaces for overseas research personnel, has garnered attention.

A detailed study is under way, due to be completed in three years.

Rafal Czerniawski, who co-founded start-up accelerator programme Betatron, praised the initiative as it would help lower accommodation costs for employees who move to Hong Kong.

Brandon Ng, chief executive of Science Park-based battery-powered energy storage start-up Ampd Energy, said the InnoCell is conceptually a “great idea”.

“Developing an environment centred around a nexus of innovation and entrepreneurship such as the Science Park ... helps to reduce the barriers for driven, intelligent and globally-minded individuals to connect both professionally and outside of work,” Ng said.