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Is This First

That’s all for now.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 2:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 10:43am

In his 2009/10 policy address, then-chief-executive Donald Tsang acknowledged the need to support and nurture six key sectors in Hong Kong's economy, one of which encompassed the creative industries.

By that time, however, the Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC), in collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong's (CUHK) Centre for Entrepreneurship, had already launched their Entrepreneurship for Design and Creative Business programme. Both institutions believed it was crucial for creative talent in Hong Kong to acquire a certain level of business acumen.

"Design is part of the fabric of our community, society, culture and economy," says Dr Edmund Lee, executive director of the HKDC. "We believe that the way forward for a business to compete is through the use of innovative design to create a 'wow' experience when it delivers its products and services."

Those with creative skills, however, are not necessarily being prepared to realise the commercial possibilities of their own inventiveness.

"Currently, a typical design or creative programme trains the creative person or designer to work for either a design or creative firm, or a creative department within a corporation," says Bernard Suen, project director at the Centre for Entrepreneurship. "Knowledge relating to accounting, business information systems, marketing and starting a business has not been given too much attention."

The "7+1" Entrepreneurship for Design and Creative Business programme consists of seven classroom sessions plus a one-day trip to the Pearl River Delta for a company visit, and covers a range of practical skills.

"Students need to understand the business environments they'll be operating in," Lee says. "They need to learn about marketing, negotiating and how to handle client relationships."

Suen says that learning how to obtain capital, pitch, sell and write proposals are also skills that budding entrepreneurs need to acquire.

The inclusion of a field trip to the Pearl River Delta is an acknowledgement that in order to build a successful business, entrepreneurs are likely to have to look beyond Hong Kong.

"Market trends on both sides of the border suggest that's the way to go," Suen says. "In my interviews and conversations with established designers, many claim that revenue from mainland clients is now greater than that from those in Hong Kong."

The majority of the participants in the programme, which is now in its fifth year, are already in the process of developing a business. Their numbers include not only designers, but also those working in multimedia and video production, and game and apps development.

Lee believes that the network of contacts that participants can develop can be as important as any skill they learn.

"The students on the programme come from a range of creative industries. This enables them to learn not only from the content of the programme but also, crucially, from fellow students who come from other disciplines and industries," he says.

The programme is just one of many ways that CUHK and HKDC are helping to support and develop the creative entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

"Every year, around the end of June, HKDC runs the Knowledge of Design Week, an intensive series of half-day workshops run by design masters and business leaders," Lee says. "We have also recently launched the Institute of Design Knowledge, a virtual learning platform for both design professionals and business executives to advance innovative design leadership."

CUHK runs similar initiatives, Suen says. "The Centre for Entrepreneurship at CUHK has been running its Hong Kong Social Entrepreneurship Challenge business-plan competition for the past five years. For the past two years, the winners have been design students. The prizes include a start-up fund to realise the ideas in their plan. We are also involved in Design Mart with the HKDC," Suen adds.

At the event - spread over two weekends - budding design and creative entrepreneurs get a chance to market their idea in a trade-fair environment.

In addition, CUHK acts as a consultant for incubation programmes at Cyberport and the Science Park. It is also connected to a network of "angel" investors, who help entrepreneurs with very good, scalable products or services to explore another avenue for raising capital.

Both CUHK and HKDC are also aiming to open the eyes of those sitting on the other side of the boardroom table. "We need to educate corporate executives on how to work with designers and creative people as well," Lee says.

Suen thinks that overall, the government has been providing the right level of support to those working in the creative industries. There is one area, however, where he thinks the authorities could do more.

"Every industry has been affected by Hong Kong's land policy and real estate market," Suen says, adding that the solution lies in a better match-up between supply and demand when it comes to land, and also a business-friendly approach to controls on the use of old buildings and unused land.