Hindsight is always 20-20, so it may not be exactly fair to judge all the missed opportunities that could have turned Hong Kong into a hi-tech hub in the past two decades. There are usually two ways for international cities like ours to try to achieve that goal. One is to cultivate local talent. Another is to attract big tech firms to set up shop here. We have not fared well on both counts. Some overseas cases may have served as useful examples, even if negative ones. Online retail giant Amazon has been in the news lately. Having turned dozens of American cities into contestants in a “beauty pageant”, it finally picked New York for its second North American headquarters, only to be rudely told that it was not welcome. What led to that unexpected outcome has a lot to do with the internal politics of the Big Apple, but it makes a good case study for Hong Kong. We need to consider to what extent it is willing to go to entice big hi-tech firms, particularly mainland ones, to come here. Once-backwater Shenzhen has surpassed Hong Kong as a productivity hub oriented towards hi-tech industries, and is now home to Tencent, Huawei, ZTE, BYD and BGI and many more. Imagine if one or more of those companies – many didn’t exist before 1997 – had set up in Hong Kong and grown with the city. Hong Kong has gone out of its way to attract mainland tech giants to list on its stock exchange. Having let e-commerce firm Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, get away to list in New York, local financial authorities even overhauled listing requirements to cater for such tech companies. One result was the local debut of Xiaomi’s initial public offering last summer. But such companies would benefit the city far more with their actual presence to provide research and development – and jobs. Perhaps such interactions would even have enhanced cross-border relations, with local young people getting to see what China’s best and brightest have to offer. DJI, the US$10 billion start-up that is now the world’s largest drone maker, is the one that really got away. Founder Frank Wang Tao was a bright mainland graduate of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology back in 2006, but was frustrated by a lack of funding and government support here. Instead, he tried his luck in Shenzhen. The rest, as they say, is history. But it’s not too late. With the “Greater Bay Area” blueprint just unveiled for the city and 10 others to form a regional powerhouse, Hong Kong can leverage its local talent and many other advantages to link up with dynamic firms such as DJI. Our government, though, needs to stop thinking of those firms as just investments in the stock exchange, but as growth and innovation centres that will also inspire local youngsters.