HONG KONG for the first time will present itself to the world as a research and technology centre at the biggest industrial fair of the year this month, writes Elisabeth Tacey. The move reflected research's new position as the ''talk of the town'', said Wong Yuk-shan, associate director of the research centre at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Industry Department consultant Johnson Tang Yuk-kuen said the territory would move its representation at the April 20-to-27 Hanover Fair in Germany from the subcontracting and components section to the technology hall to show itself as a centre of excellence for foreign firms interested in high-technology involvement in Asia. ''We want to get the message across clearly to the people there that Hong Kong has changed,'' Mr Tang said. Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan were among Asian countries sending sizeable technology delegations, he said. China was sending a big delegation both from its Academy of Sciences and its manufacturing sector. The huge fair takes up 23 halls and attracts about 50,000 visitors to see 6,000 exhibitors. ''A lot of people know the other side of Hong Kong,'' Mr Tang said. Perhaps the territory had been ''too successful at projecting a low-tech image''. Now that most manufacturing plants had been moved over the border the image was outdated, he said. Hong Kong's six tertiary institutions, the Productivity Council and the Industry and Technology Council have been asked to submit a list of projects. Of these, 13 have been picked in the four technology fields pinpointed by the universities as ideal for development in Hong Kong - environmental, material, information and biotechnology. The projects include the windshear warning system being developed for Chek Lap Kok airport at the HKUST; a mobile radio network using satellite mapping techniques from Hong Kong University; drugs in traditional-medicine plants and mushrooms to fight disease, from the Chinese University and the next-door Institute of Biotechnology; the feroplug temperature indicator from City Polytechnic; a wastewater pre-treatment method from Hong Kong Polytechnic; and conducting polymers from the Baptist College. The idea was to ''show some of our potential and talent'' to firms interested in technology transfer or hi-tech collaboration with Hong Kong, said Dr Wong. Licensing of the territory's technologies was possible too. Mr Tang said a UK agency was already seeking firms around the world to license the feroplug temperature indicator. Two university lecturers and three Industry Department representatives would go at a cost of $500,000. The projects would be shown through equipment, wall posters, video and computer demonstrations.