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Hong Kong innovators

22 Hong Kong labs to get HK$30 million boost as city’s leader signs technology deal with top mainland research institution

  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam hails the memorandum as a ‘new chapter’ in cross-border technological cooperation
  • The laboratories centre on areas ranging from AI, biochemistry and material sciences, to maths and environmental sciences
PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 7:00am

Hong Kong’s science and technology sector received a boost on Thursday with HK$30 million (US$3.8 million) in funding set for 22 laboratories, as the city’s leader sealed a deal with mainland China’s top scientific research institution to launch a local branch in the science park.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor signed a memorandum of understanding with Professor Bai Chunli, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), at a ceremony attended by about 80 officials, scientists and university presidents in Government House.

Under the agreement, the academy will set up a branch to support two platforms at the Hong Kong Science Park that promote innovation and technology advancements in the areas of biotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI).

“The two platforms are the projects we chose to prioritise … Biological technologies and artificial intelligence are two subjects that the CAS is good at,” Bai said.

The two CAS subsidiaries behind the platforms are the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, and the Institute of Automation in Beijing, both mainland leaders in biomedical and AI research.

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Lam said the signing of the agreement marked “a new chapter” in cross-border technological cooperation.

“The academy’s affiliated institute here would provide new opportunities for the science and technology sectors in Hong Kong and the mainland,” she added.

The affiliated institute here would provide new opportunities for the science and technology sectors in Hong Kong and the mainland
Carrie Lam, chief executive

Biotechnology, AI, smart city and financial technology are four points of focus for local authorities in a bid to boost innovation and technology, especially under President Xi Jinping’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area” project. The scheme seeks to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a financial and innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley.

Bai said the memorandum marked the “implementation of strategy to turn the bay area into an international technology and innovation centre”.

There are three universities under the CAS, and more than 100 research institutes across China, with over 780 academics, 75,000 post-graduates and 68,000 staff, according to Bai.

Lam also announced at the signing ceremony that the University Grants Committee would establish a fund by the end of the year, and offer one-off funding of up to HK$30 million for the academic year 2018/19 to support 22 laboratories jointly founded by the CAS and local universities.

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The laboratories have been researching on areas ranging from AI, biochemistry and material sciences, to maths and environmental sciences.

University of Science and Technology computer science professor Quan Long said the boost would be good for the university, which is home to two such laboratories.

“Funding is always welcomed and needed for scientific research,” he said.

The deal between the Hong Kong government and the academy was first announced in August this year, after an unprecedented meeting in Beijing attended by Vice-Premier Han Zheng and Lam.