AI pioneer named as head of Hong Kong’s Science Park; board of directors gets 8 new members

Incoming chairman Sunny Chai replaces Fanny Law, whose term as head expires at end of month, while big data expert and top immunologist among professionals joining board

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 10:44pm

Eight professionals ranging from a top immunologist to a big data expert will help steer the development of Hong Kong’s Science Park as the government officially announced a reshuffle of its board, confirming on Thursday that a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence will be the new chairman.

Incoming chairman Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu will replace Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, whose term as head of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC), which operates the park and three industrial estates, expires on June 30.

Chai told the Post that with Hong Kong’s strengths and the government’s support, he was confident the science park can help the city to become an international innovation and technology hub.

“Hong Kong’s characteristics are with its intellectual property [protection], talents and its international connections,” he said.

“Coupled with the resources that this government has invested, a lot of foreign friends have discussed with me whether they can do something here, this matched President Xi’s remarks last month that Hong Kong should become an international IT centre.”

The award-winning industrialist said the park would continue to focus on artificial intelligence, smart city, financial technology and biotechnology in the years to come.

I am deeply grateful to Mrs Law for her tremendous contribution to HKSTPC
Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Chai believes he can make a difference by utilising his connections with the industrial and technology sectors.

On Law, the incoming chairman said his predecessor was the “most diligent volunteer” that he has ever seen, and said she was experienced and knowledgeable about the government’s operation.

In a statement, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor praised Law for “capably” steering the work of the park as the city’s “flagship innovation and technology institution”.

“Under her leadership, a number of new initiatives and important infrastructural projects, including the Science Park expansion programme, the Data Technology Hub and the Advanced Manufacturing Centre, have been making good progress,” Lam said.

“I am deeply grateful to Mrs Law for her tremendous contribution to the work of the HKSTPC and the development of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem.”

City turns to award-winning industrialist to head science park

In a separate statement, Law expressed confidence that with his “wealth of experience, profound knowledge on technology and extensive connections among industries”, Chai would lead the science park “to a new height”.

“[I] very much appreciate his unfailing support and sound advice,” she said. “Today the Hong Kong Science Park is imbued with energy, drive and entrepreneurial spirit. It is my privilege and pleasure to be involved with its transformation over the past four years.”

A government spokesman described Chai as “a seasoned industrialist with rich experience in public service”. Chai was appointed a board member of the park in 2014.

The eight new board members include big data entrepreneur Herbert Chia, immunologist Mak Tak-wah, information engineering professor Sean Tang Xiaoou and Denis Tse Tik-yang, founder and managing principal of venture capital company Asia-IO Advisors.

Chia, a former vice-president of Alibaba, is an authority in the field of big data.

Carrie Lam praises science park head – a day after forcing her to quit

Mak is an immunologist and cancer researcher at the University of Toronto, and a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. Tang is an associate dean for research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s faculty of engineering, and the founder of facial recognition systems start-up SenseTime Group, which is valued at more than US$4.5 billion and has been the world’s most valuable start-up involved in artificial intelligence.

A government spokesman said that with the new members, the Science Park’s board of directors “is a repository of strong expertise from a wide variety of technology and professional areas”.

The spokesman added: “With the immense experience and knowledge of board directors, we believe that they can steer the corporation to fulfil its public mission effectively and further enhance Hong Kong’s position as a hub for innovation and technology.”

In his budget in February, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po promised to spend an extra HK$50 billion (US$6.37 billion) supporting innovation and technology, including HK$10 billion for the Science Park to devise a scheme that funds research and development projects in biotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics.

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

Chai is also a nephew of tycoon Li Ka-shing, and a deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, one of the most influential business chambers in the city.

The other four new members of the board are Dennis Ho Chiu-ping, former president of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, industrial sector lawmaker Jimmy Ng Wing-ka, Donald Choi Wun-hing, chief executive of property developer Chinachem Group, and Gavin Poon Ka-ming, a member of the government’s Committee on Innovation, Technology and Re-industrialisation.

Three incumbent members were reappointed. They are former University of Hong Kong head Tsui Lap-chee, Joseph Ngai, managing partner of McKinsey Greater China, and jeweller Theodore Ma Heng.