The business sector can play a critically important role in leading the development of science and technology, according to a chief adviser of former US president Bill Clinton. Dr Neal Lane, formerly the White House director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said Hong Kong should develop its own science policy and pour money into research. Dr Lane, also a former director of the US National Science Foundation, is visiting the SAR to attend a five-day Innovation Expo, which began yesterday and is organised by the Innovation and Technology Commission. Dr Lane said the business sector could motivate researchers because businessmen knew market needs, and the needs of the business sector also influenced the kind of research to be pursued. He urged the business community to build a closer partnership with the technology sector. Appreciating the difficulty of funding in an economic downturn, Dr Lane said scientific research should be viewed as a long-term investment which would 'pay economic dividends' at the end of the day. 'I would have to defend the budget in terms of the public good, why it is appropriate to increase the budget and use more taxpayers' money for research,' he said. 'Many regions and states do have a science and technology policy for economic, job, and education reasons - the same reasons that Hong Kong thinks are important to its future.' But he warned against confining technological development to one specific area. Dr Lane is expected to address a forum today to discuss forging closer ties among the business sector, the Government and universities in a knowledge-based economy. Professor Paul Chu Ching-wu, president of the University of Science and Technology, will also attend. Dr Chu used to be a colleague of Dr Lane at the National Science Foundation. On Monday, Chinese Academy of Sciences vice-president Professor Chen Zhu will speak on the development of biotechnology.