I&T Ecosystem must play in synch for tangible results
Everyone is talking about a digital future for Hong Kong. Through the collective effort of our innovation ecosystem, we can indeed accomplish something great and meaningful. Hong Kong’s Government, R&D institutions like ASTRI, different enablers within the ecosystem, as well as the industry and the academia are working towards a common vision – to position Hong Kong as a global innovation hub.
Hong Kong is one of the most important global hubs for finance and banking, aviation and logistics, professional and legal services. Investment in Innovation and Technology (I&T) will not only strengthen these ‘traditional strength’ sectors, but also provide a fantastic source of economic diversification. I&T development - particularly in key sectors like financial technologies, 5G, healthcare technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics will power Hong Kong’s smart city development and shape our economy for many decades to come.
In the 21st century, economic growth and development strategies are greatly influenced by globalisation and technological innovation. To that end, Hong Kong is blessed with the perfect set of catalysts. Depending on which global index we look at, Hong Kong is consistently placed in the top league of global economies – some recognising us for competitiveness; some for economic freedom; and some for our world-class institutions, legal system and business environment. Being blessed with seamless connectivity with the rest of our country as well as with the global markets allows us to attract talents, investors and global corporations. It is a perfect breeding ground to establish a global innovation hub.
The HKSAR Government truly means business, and has been taking a series of steps to realise that vision. These initiatives range from attracting and grooming talents to increasing the share of R&D expenditure in our GDP; investing in artificial intelligence, robotics and healthcare technologies to promoting a FinTech boom. A strong personal commitment from the HKSAR Chief Executive, and an unprecedented level of support to I&T announced in the budget should genuinely inspire the ecosystem to step up its game. The Government has correctly identified FinTech, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Healthcare Technologies as its priorities. It has also rolled out a Smart City Blueprint with six cornerstones: ‘Smart Mobility’, ‘Smart Living’, ‘Smart Environment’, ‘Smart People’, ‘Smart Government’ and ‘Smart Economy’. Government Agencies, subvented quangos like ASTRI, universities, and the business sector must align their efforts in that direction - helping to develop innovative technologies and applications, as well as finding markets for those solutions inside and beyond Hong Kong, and nurturing tech talents.
The Central Government fully supports Hong Kong in that mission. Under a recently announced policy initiative, Hong Kong-based researchers and institutions will have bigger, easier and more flexible access to state-level R&D funding. It also means, national-level R&D centres like Hong Kong branches of the Chinese National Engineering Research Centre – the first of these was set up in ASTRI in 2006 – will have greater support from the State. Indeed, a thriving and innovative Hong Kong is great news for the nation, particularly when the Mainland is looking increasingly to Hong Kong for advanced R&D, as well as for world-class services and solutions. We have to focus on the Greater Bay Area development plan, the ‘Made in China 2025’ goal, and international opportunities coming through the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. By tapping into all these, Hong Kong can attain stronger prosperity for itself, improve lives and livelihoods of its people, and also help the country to lead in innovation on the world stage.
Technology makes things simpler and safer. Just like technology makes it easier to pay our taxes, book a holiday, or talk to loved ones, it does the same for trade, finance, transportation, healthcare and so on. That’s the spirit of innovation which inspires ASTRI. Over the years, ASTRI has been granted over 750 patents, completed 400+ completed R&D projects, and transferred 600+ technologies to the industries. We have an extremely capable team of 500+ engineers and researchers – their ‘can-do’ spirit have led to remarkable accomplishments over the years. Hong Kong needs to groom the next generation of tech talents. ATSRI grooms and nurtures the next generation technology talents who come on board, sharpen their skills, make a meaningful difference, and then go on to make greater contributions elsewhere in the industry.
Innovation is the deciding factor that can turn good companies into industry leaders and strong economies into world dominators. Innovation can enable Hong Kong to spot new opportunities, conquer new grounds and stay well ahead in the game. As Steve Jobs famously said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." The entire innovation and technology ecosystem of Hong Kong must come together - to unlock the opportunities in an innovation-led growth journey. If we innovate together, we can achieve more.