The Government hopes to develop more business opportunities despite a stale environment in which venture capitalists have become far more discerning. 'We hope to link up and create business opportunities. If we can spring off new opportunities, at the end of the day it would be very good for the business environment and for the whole of Hong Kong,' said Tony Lam, assistant commissioner for the Innovation and Technology Commission and secretary-general of the Council of Advisers on Innovation and Technology. A 'business matching' programme, organised by the commission and the Hong Kong Productivity Council, will be introduced at the Innovation 2001 Expo on November 22 to 25. Mr Lam admitted the gloomy investment environment had made it difficult for entrepreneurs, especially in the dotcom sector, to find investors. The programme aimed to help forge business ties, he said. 'The technology climate is not very good nowadays. It is a global phenomenon and investors, like bankers, venture capitalists and angels, are sitting on a large pile of money,' he said. Mr Lam said the commission hoped to play a 'middleman role' between exhibitors and potential investors. So far, 20 per cent of exhibitors have expressed interest in one-to-one prospecting, where they would sit with investors and discuss business plans. 'It is a very practical way to achieve results,' he said. 'We know a lot of technology entrepreneurs are producing good products and universities are getting good results in their research and development.' Mr Lam is optimistic that venture capitalists are still chasing good projects and that technology remains pivotal in improving Hong Kong's competitiveness. The theme of the exhibition - the third since 1997 - is Today's Technology, Tomorrow's World, which Mr Lam said demonstrated the importance of technology in Hong Kong's future. 'It is a driver for economic growth into the future and we want to put that across to different levels of society,' he said. Mr Lam said the exhibition would allow companies from sectors such as information technology (IT), telecommunications, public utilities and biotechnology to display their latest technology. The response from exhibitors had been overwhelming and the number of participants exceeded the commission's July target of about 100, he said. Mr Lam said investors were looking for opportunities to place their money but the investment climate would not change overnight. 'They will bargain hard on the kind of marginal utility that the projects can bring,' he said. Roger Marshall, managing director of ABN Amro Asia Capital Investment and president of the Hong Kong Venture Capital Association, said venture capitalists were returning to more conventional styles of investments, such as offering expansion capital rather than venture capital. 'The difficulty we are facing is investing in the early stages of business which requires more capital,' he said. 'There is no new money and new entrepreneurs would have a hard time finding investors,' said a director at a venture-capital firm. Mr Marshall said the most prominent quality venture capitalists were looking for in companies was better management. 'Whether e-commerce or dotcom businesses, we want better management. And this is what distinguishes the way we invest this year from last year,' he said. Mr Marshall believed there were still many opportunities in the IT sector and many good-quality subcontracted manufacturers in China.