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Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 22:30

CEO urges more support for innovations from universities

By Wang Yuke

HONG KONG - Concrete measures and explicit policies should be developed to support the commercialization of innovative technologies from Hong Kong’s universities, said Pony Ma Huateng, CEO of Tencent.

Ma made these comments during the launch ceremony of the Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform on Tuesday.

The platform provides support for entrepreneurs from mentoring to financial support. This is to help enterprising youth achieve success.

The platform is the brainchild of Neil Shen Nanpeng, founding and managing partner of Sequoia Capital China, a venture capital firm.

Many innovative ideas and technologies originate from local universities. But there is a still gap between innovative concepts and real applications, said Ma.

He explains there is controversy surrounding the issue – whether university professors can start a company with their students involved in research or whether academics should concentrate on research and teaching. These problems could get in the way of technology transfers and commercialization, Ma added.

His view is echoed by co-founder of the Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform Li Zexiang, a professor from the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

"We rely on KPI (key performance indicators) heavily to evaluate professors' performance. The number of published research papers weighs a lot in the assessments," he said.

This explains why professors normally don't bother looking for market opportunities to turn their innovations into real products.

Most public universities have established their own mechanism and strategy for technology transfers and commercialization.

But, each of these varies and there are too many inconsistencies, said biomedical sciences professor Michael Yang of City University of Hong Kong, a mentor with the startup platform.

Yang said a standard policy on technology transfer which applies to all universities will help technology transfer.

As a mentor, Yang says he will aid young entrepreneurs and encourage like-minded youth to join in. Yang says he will supervise them to plan a business strategy. He will also help them reach out to potential investors and business leaders who might help with their startups.

He emphasizes the importance of diversity in an entrepreneurial team. "A team containing youth with various academic backgrounds is more likely to succeed as they can complement each other's strengths and weaknesses," Yang said.

Young entrepreneurs who attended the event on Tuesday approached mentors- seeking guidance.

Among them were four students who jointly founded a company, Huaxia Elite Alliance. This is dedicated to help tertiary students who want to attract capital funds and angel investment by connecting them with bosses of big enterprises.

The chairman of the startup, Harvey Lau, a student studying business at the Hong Kong Shue Yan University, said their inspiration came from the fact tertiary students have a hard time attracting capital to start up with. Their limited connections with venture investors added to their problems.

Lau and co-founder Kenneth Tse are not inexperienced. Both of run their own business - one in machine exporting and the other in jewelry retailing.

They have entrepreneurial experience and have established sound connections with other businesses. Therefore, they decided to share what they've learnt and accumulated with other young people.

They regularly invite successful entrepreneurs and businessmen to their monthly networking event. There participants can take the chance to pitch their proposals and build contacts. Without a network of connections, startups can hardly take off, Lau said.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying and Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR, attended the ceremony as officiating guests.

They celebrated the launch of Hong Kong X-Tech Startup Platform as a critical step to encourage entrepreneurs and ultimately position Hong Kong as an “Asian Silicon Valley”.

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