Hong Kong-owned factories on the mainland would be more willing to move to industrial parks if centralised waste management were handled by the Hong Kong Productivity Council, its executive director said. The council has been awarded a contract to provide a waste-water treatment consultancy service for an industrial park in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, by the side of Lake Tai. Under the system, treatment of waste water from electroplating factories is centralised before being discharged. This helps to reduce the burden on individual factories to install treatment facilities to meet the mainland's environmental standards. But the council is treating the project as a strategic step towards achieving a longer-term goal. 'We want to be able to help Hong Kong-owned factories on the mainland,' said Wilson Fung Wing-yip, the council's executive director. 'There are about five to six such establishments in that Wuxi industrial park. If the project is successful, we hope to repeat it in the industrial parks in Huizhou and Jiangmen , where most tenants are Hong Kong-based firms. 'The Federation of Hong Kong Industries has told us that Hong Kong-based firms would have more confidence in moving their operations into these industrial parks where the council has taken part in designing or building centralised waste treatment facilities.' Mr Fung said that with the global financial downturn, he was not optimistic about the prospects of Hong Kong firms in the coming year. 'To secure loans is a crucial problem for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] at present. The government has introduced timely measures, including raising the ceiling of loan guarantees. But firms must not ignore the need to restructure and upgrade their operations. They should move in line with the national policies,' he said. Mr Fung said the council was developing more focused strategies to address the needs of SMEs. 'Many SMEs are slow in moving into new technologies as they have scant resources to invest in new, but often expensive, machinery. 'We have suggested the government provide extra funding for the council to acquire, say, 20 advanced installations from overseas. This machinery can be housed in the council's building for shared use by SMEs, at a fee, for trial, for production of prototypes or even for small-volume manufacturing. The council's role is mainly to promote technology transfer; SMEs can evaluate the installations before making a purchasing decision themselves. 'We have drawn up a list of such machinery after an initial round of consultation with local firms. The response has been very positive, and the government is also willing to consider the proposal,' said Mr Fung. He said he had made a recommendation to the government that could enable SMEs to recruit quality employees while finding employment for local graduates. 'We propose to implement a university-trainer support scheme. If a firm recruits a local graduate, the government may pay half of the new recruit's salary for the first year,' Mr Fung said. He said the scheme was different from the internship programme under the Innovation and Technology Fund, where support is only provided to science and engineering graduates who take part in certain research and development projects financed by the fund. 'The eligible graduates may have, say, a marketing or manufacturing speciality, and they do not necessarily need to work in the research and development centres,' he said.