The government should invest in the study of the sciences for its own sake rather than always being on the lookout for an economic return, the man who invited Stephen Hawking to Hong Kong said. Speaking after Professor Hawking's lecture, Professor Yau Shing-tung, director of Chinese University's Institute of Advanced Mathematical Sciences, said although the physicist had not said anything new, there was a very important lesson to be learned from him. 'I hope the Hong Kong government realises that general laymen, Hong Kong citizens, care about this sort of thing, not just about so-called knowledge economics,' he said. 'They are interested in general, fundamental things like the origins of the universe. 'I hope the government might be more willing to spend money on pure science rather than just being interested in the kind of research that brings a return in the market. If you don't pursue science for its own sake it means you don't respect it, and if you don't respect it, you will never create the scientific ideas that produce technology in the long run.' Professor Yau, who is chairing the international mathematics conference on string theory in Beijing at which Professor Hawking is speaking next week, said this was why the United States had led the world for the past 50 years. 'The US has created, applied and really made use of science. It has a huge number of people working on pure science,' he said. 'You need people who think globally, people who think more abstractly, fundamentally. 'Without them you won't know what your strategy is. They are a very small group of people but you have to show respect to them. 'It's the same as in a big company. You have a small group of people who plan. They are important and highly respected and implement their ideas at ground level and that is very important. Fundamental science is like that, a small group of people who plan and organise what is eventually important in technology.' Professor Yau said he was pleasantly surprised at the level of general interest in Professor Hawking's ideas. He hoped this interest would lead to more young people taking up pure science without it having to have an influence on their day-to-day lives and without the motive being making money.