Although the business and finance sectors remain Hong Kong's main engine of growth, other industries have begun to make their mark, especially in creativity and innovation. Applications to Polytechnic University's bachelor's programme in design have risen 10 to 20 per cent over the past five years. As of last month, it was the university's second most popular course, with 1,393 applicants competing for just 105 places. 'The number of applications is most definitely on the rise, fuelled partly by the government's commitment to developing the creative industry, but also due to the efforts of secondary schools in encouraging students to participate in more design activities,' said Yanta Lam, the programme leader. In the 2009-2010 budget, the government invested HK$300 million in setting up the CreateSmart Initiative, aimed at helping the development of the creative industries over the next three years. The government also established CreateHK, an agency with a focus on driving the growth of the creative economy. As the only university in Hong Kong offering award-bearing design programmes at bachelor's level and above, PolyU has kept basic academic requirements to a minimum, allowing access to a wider pool of candidates. An aptitude test and interview will determine a candidate's creative abilities and whether they have the capability to communicate through visual language. 'Much emphasis is also placed on communication and the ability to read, write and speak well,' Professor Lam said. With a focus on interdisciplinary thinking and teamwork, the three-year course prepares students to be innovative problem solvers and independent thinkers. They can choose to specialise in advertising, environment and interior, industrial and product, or visual communication. 'Though the downturn poses a problem for all graduates, I believe the commercial sector will view design graduates as an investment because they can help to develop business opportunities,' Professor Lam said.