Almost 100 companies have applied to join the Hong Kong Industrial Technology Centre Corp's (HKITCC) hi-tech business incubation programme for 1997. James Juh Liu, HKITCC chief executive, said 97 applications for the incubation programme had been received so far this year, compared with 177 applications for all of last year. HKITCC chairman Raymond Chien said at second anniversary celebrations for the HKITCC's Tech Centre building last week that the programme could be judged on the performances achieved by the graduates. 'This [technology industry] is a window on our economic future,' he said. He also repeated his challenge for the Government to offer incentives for private industry to channel profits into hi-tech start-ups. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang did not respond to Mr Chien's challenge, but, in his Budget the next day, he announced fund allocations for a science park and another tech centre. Dr Liu said the approval process for the programme would be streamlined, and he hoped to have 45 companies installed in the programme by the end of this year. The scheme hosts 22 hi-tech firms in a business-assistance programme in the Tech Centre premises in Kowloon Tong. 'This programme is now one of the largest business-incubation centres in the Asia-Pacific region,' Dr Liu said. 'Our ability to incubate a hi-tech start-up is now well developed, and we are able to deliver our services in a professional way.' The HKITCC said it anticipated opening a second Tech Centre within two years. Dr Liu said the new building, also in Kowloon Tong, would have 50 per cent more floor space than the original and would be able to host local hi-tech start-ups seeking entry to the scheme. More than 30 independent technology tenants share space in the original building, which Dr Liu said created a synergistic relationship.