Questions and answers about Hong Kong’s new innovation and technology bureau
1. Why does the innovation and technology bureau matter?
Currently, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau promotes high-value-added and high-technology activities in Hong Kong, on top of its tasks in tourism, consumer protection and economic development. Advocates of a new bureau argue that it would be better to establish a dedicated bureau to promote innovation and technology.
They also believe that a new bureau would help improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness. Investment in research and development only accounts for about 0.7 per cent of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product. This is far behind South Korea (3.6 per cent), Singapore (2.6 per cent), Taiwan (2.3 per cent) and the mainland (2 per cent).
In the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness report, released in September, Hong Kong was ranked the seventh most competitive economy in the world. But the report singled out innovation as one of Hong Kong’s weakest areas, ranking only 27th in the world.
However, radical pan-democrat lawmakers criticise the government for failing to give a clear road map for boosting innovation and technology after the establishment of the new bureau. They also argue the bureau will only serve to give a ministerial job to former Polytechnic University executive vice-president Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, who is regarded as a supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
2. What will the innovation and technology bureau do?
It is responsible for developing policies to strengthen support for the innovation and technology sector, strengthening the linkages among the government, the industry and academia on the issue, and encouraging private-sector participation.
3. When did the government come up with the idea of setting up the new bureau?
In his election platform announced in March 2012, Leung proposed the creation of an innovation and technology bureau in a government restructuring exercise, which was voted down in the legislature in June 2012. His administration had made four attempts to seek start-up funding for the bureau.
4. What has the Hong Kong government been doing to promote innovation and technology?
In 1999, the government made one of its first moves to boost innovation and technology in the city by spending HK$5 billion to set up the Innovation and Technology Fund. By the end of January this year, more than 4,000 projects with a total funding of HK$9 billion were approved, of which 2,466 are R&D projects.
In 2000, the government established the Innovation and Technology Commission and the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation was created in 2001 and the 22-hectare Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin provides laboratories and shared facilities to help technology companies design and develop new products.
5. What are the government’s latest plans to promote innovation?
Last year, the government reorganised the Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology into an advisory committee. The committee is chaired by executive councillor Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, who has been widely tipped to become the innovation and technology bureau’s chief when it is set up.
The government has also been looking at “reindustrialisation” as a strategy to enhance competitiveness. This refers to developing high-end manufacturing based on artificial intelligence, data analysis and the "internet of things".
In January this year, Leung Chun-ying proposed using Kowloon East as a pilot area to explore the feasibility of developing a smart city. But the workload for implementing the idea has been distributed to various bureaus and departments, and critics say there is no clear strategy or objectives.