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Greater Bay Area

HK$5 billion needed to make new Hong Kong biomedical technology centre a ‘bright spot’, top scientist Tsui Lap-chee says

World-renowned expert in molecular genetics heads a preparatory panel for the project, to be built in planned technology park in Lok Ma Chau Loop border area

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2018, 9:12am

A leading Hong Kong scientist has proposed that the government inject HK$5 billion (US$641 million) into setting up a biomedical technology centre in a bid to develop the city as a world-class hub for the discipline.

The centre, which would be built in a technology park planned for a border area with mainland China, should seek to draw the brightest minds from across Hong Kong and Guangdong province to enhance cooperation, according to Professor Tsui Lap-chee, a world-renowned expert in molecular genetics who was tasked by the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to head a preparatory panel for the project.

Tsui said on Sunday his rough estimate was that HK$5 billion would be enough to cover the centre’s operating costs in the first eight years.

Tsui, also president of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, told Commercial Radio: “Hong Kong has an edge in biomedical technology. Our plan is to group together experts from different universities to work in the centre, like a joint laboratory, and make it a bright spot of Hong Kong.

“If needed, we can also cooperate with mainland experts in the Greater Bay Area.”

The “Greater Bay Area” is the Chinese government’s scheme to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an integrated economic and business hub.

He said there was a lack of communication among Hong Kong’s universities, driven by the worry that institutions’ rankings and bids for research funding could be affected by the leakage of research details.

“Perhaps the ways the government grants funding to universities should also be reviewed,” Tsui, who also chairs the University Grants Committee’s task force on review of research policy and funding, said.

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His task force recently issued an interim report for public consultation. One of its suggestions was for the government to double overall competitive research funding from about HK$2 billion to HK$4 billion a year by 2022.

The report said the amount spent on research and development grew from 0.72 per cent of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product in 2011 to 0.79 per cent in 2016. That was well below the world average of 2.2 per cent in 2015, according to World Bank data.

Lam has pledged to promote the development of innovation and technology as the city’s future economic driver. A deal on the development of a Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop border area was signed by the two cities last year.

Beijing’s big idea to transform southern China

In his budget in February, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po set aside HK$50 billion to enhance Hong Kong’s innovation and technology industry. Of the amount, HK$20 billion would be used on the first phase of the border technology park.

Last month, Xinhua reported that President Xi Jinping had instructed state agencies to offer support to Hong Kong to help it become an international innovation hub.