HONG KONG'S machinery and equipment sector has established itself as a significant part of the territory's industry, with gross output increasing by more than 600 per cent during the decade between 1981 and 1991. Annual exports in recent years have reached $95 billion. This success is due, in part, to the efforts of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association (CMA) and, particularly, its organisation of the Hong Kong New Products Competition from 1970 to 1989 and the subsequent Machinery and Equipment Design Competition - the first step in the Governor's Award for Industry scheme. For the last few years there have been about 30 entries. Last year, there were 29. In his message to the winners, the president of the CMA, Herbert Liang, praised the entrants for the importance placed on the research and development of product design, the amount of new technology being applied and the application of precision engineering techniques. This praise was also reflected in the number of awards presented. As well as the Governor's Award, the CMA gave five CMA awards and eight certificates of merit for products which ranged from a high-precision moulding machine and circuit testing equipment to a boat and fax machines. Francis Lau, the CMA's executive secretary, said because of the gradual improvement in the quality of Hong Kong's machinery and equipment, he felt it could now match the standards of similar equipment made in Japan and Europe. He said Hong Kong's machinery was not inferior and that manufacturers were being helped to compete internationally as a result of the CMA's support. Mr Lau said the CMA had given some thought to changing the conditions of eligibility, or judging criteria, which had been used in six competitions to allow an increase in the number of entries. However, it had decided against any change. The Machinery and Equipment Design competition is divided into six categories. They are production machinery and equipment, add-on accessories and devices for production machinery and equipment, scientific measuring and testing equipment, office equipment, computer software and a miscellaneous category. Judges look for functionality, innovation, application of technology, ergonomics, cost-performance, safety and environmental impact. The judging panel may require the entries to be checked at CMA testing and certification laboratories and may also carry out on-site inspections.