HK test lab for electronic startups attracts 120 engineers in first two months

US firm Arrow says the free Science and Technology Park facility proves there is strong demand for SME technical support

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 11:02pm

Arrow, the US-listed electronic components distributor, says it has received a strong response from local SMEs to its new Arrow Open Lab in Hong Kong – a facility that allows hardware start-ups to test their products on expensive equipment they are unlikely to be able to afford themselves.

Esmond Wong, Arrow’s vice president, supplier marketing, said 120 engineers have signed up to use the lab, which opened in June, from 50 companies.

The 3,000 square foot facility, which is free to members at Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, has four resident engineers and HK$10 million in equipment to help speed up the development of products designed by local companies, such as wearable devices while ensuring Arrow is on top of the next big thing.

“This is a bet. Nobody knew [drone maker] DJI would be that big. The problem is, how many are willing to spend time with them [tech startups] when they’re young?” said Wong.

“My role is to provide enough support, to nurture them so they will stay.”

Wong said Arrow can help companies using the lab to find suppliers, such as manufacturers in Shenzhen and global customers through its existing network.

This is a bet. Nobody knew [drone maker] DJI would be that big. The problem is, how many are willing to spend time with them [tech startups] when they’re young
Esmond Wong, Arrow’s vice president

Jacky Wan, its regional director, strategic verticals, said the facility will focus on helping firms, particularly, working on products that fall into the Internet of Things bracket, such as LED lighting, or products with automotive or industrial application.

Such devices are proving an increasingly popular market, with the number of connected devices expected to reach 30 billion by 2020, according to International Data Corporation.

It is also predicting the global market for IoT to be worth US$1.7 trillion in 2020, up from US$665.8 billion in 2014.

The Hong Kong government is actively supporting growth of the Internet of Things. The city is already home to two hardware accelerators, Brinc and Wearable IoT World, which also assist start-ups in developing ideas. The city’s proximity to manufacturers in Shenzhen is seen as a huge asset.

Tim Lui, co-founder of heart-attack warning wearable company Heartisans, which is based at the Science Park, was one of the first to utilised the free facilities.

He said his engineers have been in the lab a couple of times a week to seek advice and test its prototypes using equipment that is out of the reach of the average start-up.

“It saves time as well, because if we didn’t have this close proximity to the Arrow engineering team, there would be a lot of back and forth by email and even travelling time to get an answer. It helps us to save time and money,” Lui said.