The planned innovation and technology bureau is necessary to improve scientific development in the city, a University of Hong Kong scientist says.
The government body would be able to identify Hong Kong's competitive advantages and establish the best directions for research work, said Professor Rudolf Wu Shiu-sun, director of the HKU school of biological sciences.
Wu also called on local universities to capitalise on one another's assets and cooperate more to maintain the city's edge in research. Local research standards were good on an individual basis, but teamwork was lacking on a bigger scale, he said.
"My honest opinion is that universities tend to limit themselves," he said. "We collaborate more with overseas universities than with other local institutions. Each just wants itself to do well. Hong Kong's researchers have to think about this, otherwise we will be overtaken by other places within a short time."
Studies in food safety, for example, held potential for collaboration, Wu said, noting the importance of the issue on the mainland as the economy grew.
That was where researchers would have to draw on multidisciplinary expertise in areas including biology, chemistry, humanities, medical science and legal issues, he noted.
Wu's institution plans to apply to set up a key state laboratory for food safety, and has linked up with City University and Baptist University to form a team of experts. He hoped the lab would study food-testing techniques and set up more specific safety standards for different food. The central government has recognised more than 15 Hong Kong labs as key state labs.
Professor Chen Junshi, of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week that mainland polls had found abuse of food additives the top food-safety concern for consumers. "The cost of committing a crime on the mainland is too low," he said. No one could tell when confidence in mainland-produced formula milk would return, Chan said. "It is not about consumers' confidence in formula milk. It is about confidence in the government."