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Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam sets course for hi-tech development in Hong Kong

Chief executive pinpoints biomedical science, artificial intelligence and creative industries as future drivers of economic growth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 July, 2017, 9:32am

Hong Kong’s new leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has identified biomedical technology, artificial intelligence and creative industries as potential new drivers of the city’s economy, two days after President Xi Jinping warned that the city was losing its edge.

At the inauguration of Lam’s administration on July 1, Xi also said Hong Kong had been losing ground on its traditional strengths, while new drivers of growth had yet to emerge.

Asked about Xi’s warnings during an editors’ briefing on Monday, Lam said she expected to see growth in technological and creative industries during her term, especially under an agreement on the development of the Greater Bay Area signed by local and mainland officials on Saturday and witnessed by Xi.

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Lam, formerly the city’s No 2, also said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po would be looking into how regulators could better play their “secondary role” as business facilitators.

Citing the business sector’s complaints about difficulties in opening bank accounts, Lam said while regulators needed to keep the city’s market supervision and regulations up to gobal standards, they also needed to focus on facilitating economic development.

On the city’s new industries, Lam said former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had already identified six new industries for further development in 2009, including medical services, innovation and technology and the cultural and creative industries.

Tsang’s successor Leung Chun-ying had built on the proposal and encouraged innovation and technology in recent years, she said, and as Leung’s successor, it was time to move forward.

Citing the Californian tech hub, Lam believed Hong Kong had the potential to become the Silicon Valley of the region by developing biomedical technology and artificial intelligence as “five of its universities are among the world’s top 100, and two of them have excellent medical schools”.

She was referring to the QS World University Rankings released last month, which ranked the University of Hong Kong , the University of Science and Technology and the Chinese, City and Polytechnic universities in its top 100.

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Last year, the Karolinska Institute, one of the world’s top medical institutes, opened its first overseas base in the city, she said.

Lam added in a recent meeting with Guangdong party secretary Hu Chunhua, the mainland official called for more cooperation between Hong Kong and Guangdong as the city “did well” on research and development, while Guangdong was a manufacturing hub. “Hong Kong will need to attract more talent,” the chief executive added.

She also said her government would take a proactive role in establishing Hong Kong as the region’s cultural and film centre, given local animators’ success.

Executive Councillor Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who also chairs the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, agreed with Lam’s observations.

She said: “On creative industries, we know that our young people are very creative. There is also a free flow of information here, while the clash between Chinese and Western cultures will stimulate new thinking.”

Film Development Council chairman Ma Fung-kwok agreed, but he said it would take time for young local filmmakers to thrive in the mainland market.

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There is a prevailing culture here that people are afraid of failures
Gerardo Salandra, tech entrepreneur

However, Gerardo Salandra, who arrived from El Salvador in 2015 and founded a company specialising in AI-assisted chat applications, warned that the government had to do more than just dish out money to boost the tech sector.

He admitted the city had potential to breed another Silicon Valley, but the chances were extremely low.

“Silicon Valley is such a success because companies are multifaceted – they’re especially good at sales and marketing,” said Salandra, a former IBM and Google worker.

One possible solution, he said, was to encourage experimentation at large corporations. “There is a prevailing culture here that people are afraid of failures.”