Hong Kong innovators

Hong Kong ranks 29th in world in policy support for innovation

City trails other advanced Asia-Pacific economies, including Singapore, Japan and Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 2016, 8:49pm

Hong Kong has ranked 29th in a new international study of how domestic policies can impact global innovation, more than a week after the city’s government unveiled new initiatives to support scientific research and technology start-ups.

The report published on Monday in the United States by think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) saw Hong Kong behind other advanced Asia-Pacific economies, which included Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Hong Kong, however, was well ahead of No 44 mainland China in the ranking because of what ITIF claimed as protectionist and trade-distorting policies in the world’s second-largest economy.

“While policymakers are primarily focused on the interests of their own citizens, they usually overlook that adopting policies ... good for the global innovation ecosystem will compound the benefits for their citizens,” said Robert Atkinson, the president of ITIF and co-author of the report.

“Innovation altruism really does pay.”

Earlier this month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying introduced a new HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund aimed at encouraging increased funding from private venture funds in technology start-ups through a matching process.

Adopting policies ... good for the global innovation ecosystem will compound the benefits for their citizens
Robert Atkinson, ITIF

Through the new Innovation and Technology Bureau, another HK$2 billion was earmarked by the government for universities to carry out applied research projects.

Under the policies to further encourage start-ups, the government-backed Cyberport will provide a HK$200 million fund that will invest in start-ups focused on information and communications technology.

“This is a much-needed investment if Hong Kong is to compete with Singapore and mainland China,”

Paul Haswell, a partner at technology-focused international law firm Pinsent Masons, said.

He pointed out that Cyberport “has been seen by many as a something of a white elephant”, despite providing incubation programmes and co-working spaces catering to the city’s 1,600 start-ups.

A HK$500 million Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living was also created to provide financing for projects using technology to improve the daily lives of citizens, from transportation to health care and education.

Stephen Ezell, ITIF’s vice-president for global innovation, said Hong Kong’s 29th-place overall ranking reflected a combination of policies that the report found to be “31st best in terms of positive contribution to the global innovation ecosystem and 23rd least damaging” among the 56 economies surveyed.

Hong Kong was in a category of economies called “Advanced Asian Tigers”, which ITIF said were committed to high levels of research and development investment, robust education systems and competitive tax environments.

The ITIF report said human capital was vital to nurturing the next wave of innovators and entrepreneurs. It estimated average spending on education for each primary and secondary student in Hong Kong totaled US$10,813. This was 12th highest in the study behind Norway’s US$18,218 and Singapore’s US$17,153 averages.