Hong Kong’s path to tech hub status is through attracting talent, says former financial secretary
In the race to develop Hong Kong into a technology hub, attracting top talent should take precedence over capital which is already abundant in the city, Antony Leung, former financial secretary of Hong Kong and chairman of Nan Fung Group, said on Wednesday at the official launch of his New Frontier Group.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai-based venture capital investor is reported to have already sunk more than 100 million yuan into entrepreneurial companies since its establishment in August this year, including Hong Kong-based storage provider Boxful and connecting service provider HelloToby as well as several healthcare companies in China.
Leung said life science will be another world-changing industry, adding that he will not set upper limits for his venture investments because there is no shortage of capital in Hong Kong. As an investor, Leung said he values talent the most.
“The personality and character of an entrepreneur will be my first consideration,” he said. “Then I will weigh whether the business idea hits home or not.”
Carl Wu, co-founder of New Frontier, said the company has developed a unique set of standardised and proven processes to build and launch new internet companies in as short as eight weeks.
However, Hong Kong has not built up an ecosystem to nurture a suitable environment for cutting-edge research and innovation developments because the city lacks technology talent and relies heavily on the four pillar economic sectors oftrading and logistics (23.4 per cent of GDP ), tourism (5.1 per cent), financial services (16.6 per cent), and professional services and other producer services (12.4 per cent).
Leung said he is confident Hong Kong has great potential to become a technology centre. “Hong Kong is on the fast track to become the next innovation and technology hub of Asia and technology innovation in the city starts blooming now.”
However, Leung admitted that building a technology hub needed the backing of government policies.
First, he said the government should be devoted to developing in-depth cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China’s hub for technology innovation, as well as with Dongguan, the mainland’s manufacturing hub, and with Zhuhai.
Shenzhen, separated from Hong Kong by a river, is teeming with millions of migrant workers and is home to some of China’s biggest and hottest technology companies, including the country’s second largest internet company Tencent, telecom equipment maker Huawei, and drone maker DJI. Many of these tech firms are led by a new wave of young Chinese entrepreneurs hoping to build global brand recognition and change the world.
The second thing the Hong Kong government needs to do, according to Leung, is to introduce more talent-friendly policies to attract more elite people to the city who will contribute to technology development. “I don’t think the newcomers will take the jobs for locals, but [they will] bring in innovations, development and opportunities,” said Leung.
“However, I do not support governmental capital flowing into entrepreneurial companies directly,” he added. “The failed investments will easily bring about blame from the public, but investing in start-ups always carries high risks.”
What the government needs to do is to make sure current rules and regulations are not outdated, Leung added.
“Another very important thing is to consolidate Hong Kong’s status of being an international finance centre,” said Leung, who views Singapore as a big competitor in Asia. “The high-end service industries should be developed in [Hong Kong], especially education and healthcare which will meet high demand in Asian markets.”