Tech policies are for officials to decide, new Hong Kong Science Park chief Sunny Chai says while revealing plans for HK$10 billion spending

Incoming chairman says he will spend his energy on things related to Science Park, after outgoing boss Fanny Law admits she may have been blunt when ‘speaking the truth to rich and powerful’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 10:59pm

Hong Kong’s Science Park has proposed 18 projects under the HK$10 billion (US$1.3 billion) funding set aside for it in this year’s budget, its incoming chief said on Sunday, while indicating he would leave policymaking to the city’s technology bureau.

The comments by Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu came a day after outgoing chairwoman Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun admitted she might have been blunt when “speaking the truth to the rich and powerful”, in what was widely seen as a veiled reference to Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung.

Law, who was forced out by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor after four years in the job, had said she did not recall coming up against the technology chief, who had described their relationship as “harmony in differences”.

Her term as chairwoman of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, which operates the Science Park and three industrial estates, expires on June 30. On Saturday she also said the future of innovation and technology in the city depended on finding and retaining talent.

On a TV programme on Sunday, Chai was asked if he would follow in Law’s footsteps in giving policy advice related to technological development.

Science Park boss Fanny Law forced out by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

“I will focus on spending my energy to look at things related to the Science Park … I don’t know everything – if it is something I don’t know, I won’t want to comment on it,” he said.

Chai added: “If [officials in charge of technology and innovation] need me to contribute in giving opinions, and if it is within my intellectual capacity to do so, I will.

“The Innovation and Technology Bureau and Innovation and Technology Commission plan the policies. The park’s role is to go to the front line to contact scientific research institutes and line them up to cooperate with each other.”

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, in his budget address in February, promised to spend an extra HK$50 billion on innovation and technology. The amount includes HK$10 billion for the Science Park to devise a scheme that funds research and development projects in biotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as another HK$10 billion to upgrade facilities and enhance support for enterprises at the park.

Hong Kong Science Park to take the lead on driving innovation and technology

Chai revealed that for the latter HK$10 billion, the park aimed to spend HK$3 billion on facilities upgrades, while the remaining HK$7 billion would be spent on 18 projects to support tech companies.

“I cannot disclose the details yet because the board hasn’t approved them, but some of the projects will be on providing more support for start-ups … and these could last four to five years,” he said.

He said the park intends to spend the other HK$10 billion on attracting top scientific and research institutions and tech companies to establish seven to 10 new laboratories within its compound.

“One of them is Institut Pasteur from France, which will work with the University of Hong Kong in research on infectious disease and immunology,” Chai said.

On a recent visit to France, Hong Kong leader Lam witnessed the signing of a memorandum between HKU and the French institute on establishing a new research centre at the park.

But Chai declined to elaborate on how to attract foreign institutes to Hong Kong, saying it was mainly the government’s job to do so.