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Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 22:54

A ‘salesman’ with a striding vision for Hong Kong

By Oswald Chan
A ‘salesman’ with a striding vision for Hong Kong
A view of Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin. What Hong Kong lacks is the ability to commercialize technological innovations in the midstream research process, as well as the ability to scale up the production process in the downstream stage, experts say. (Provided to China Daily)

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) — created to spur the city’s innovative and technology spirit — should vigorously execute the reindustrialization blueprint over the next decade as part of efforts to bolster economic development, urges its outgoing Chief Executive Officer Allen Ma Kam-sing.

Hong Kong must beef up, specifically, development of the advanced manufacturing segment, Ma tells China Daily in an interview as his three-year tenure at HKSTP draws to a close on Thursday.

The corporation conducted a strategic review of its business vision in 2014 and laid down three new strategies to turn the SAR into a viable technology hub.

Firstly, instead of merely relying on the infrastructure facilities at Hong Kong Science Park to get technology firms to set up their bases in the city, HKSTP should, in future, strive to lure more enterprises to base their business and research services facilities here.

A vertical value chain in advanced manufacturing should also be established by consolidating a platform that involves government officials, business leaders, academics and research fellows.

Ma says Hong Kong is rather strong in upstream academic research as the city boasts a cluster of academic research institutions, especially in electronics products, vaccine prevention technology and stem cell research. Thus, it can provide the fundamental research bases for business commercialization.

Health/aging, robotics and smart-city devices are the three main outstanding segments that Hong Kong can capitalize on with its logistics and design expertise so as to foster reindustrialization, he says.

However, what Hong Kong lacks is the ability to commercialize technological innovations in the midstream research process, as well as the ability to scale up the production process in the downstream stage.

Hence, this brings out HKSTP’s third new strategy: Hong Kong must vigorously pursue a policy of reindustrialization to transform its economic structure. Reindustrialization denotes the high-end segment of advanced manufacturing activities based on technological input rather than physical labor.

“Advanced manufacturing does not require the supply of extensive land. What matters most is that Hong Kong can utilize the niche technology in the upstream process to commercialize the technological innovation and scale up the production process. The mass production procedure can be outsourced to the nearby Pearl River Delta region,” Ma reckons.

“Once Hong Kong’s capability of scaling up advanced manufacturing is established, it can help lift the city’s economic dynamics, driving export growth and diversifying the economic structure that has been too reliant on financial services, property investments and inbound tourism,” he explains.

Since taking the helm at HKSTP in mid-2013, Ma had met people from all walks of life — government officials, legislators, university academics, business leaders, foreign guests, students and parents — to promote his vision.

A ‘salesman’ with a striding vision for Hong Kong
Allen Ma Kam-sing, outgoing chief executive officer of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation
“I think my job is like a salesman. But, what I sell is not a tangible product but a vision that Hong Kong’s economy can be transformed if it makes strides in fostering technological innovation.”

He calls figuring development needs, directing the development path and forging social consensus as the three key elements of his job at the corporation.

Before joining HKSTP, Ma had held senior executive positions with a number of multinational corporations, mainly with giants in the information and communication technology sector, such as British Telecommunications, Motorola and Cable & Wireless HKT.

During his tenure, HKSTP successfully pushed the Legislative Council’s finance committee to approve a HK$12.6-billion funding in May this year to help Hong Kong Science Park’s expansion project, which includes the construction of two new buildings to cater for the business needs of smart city service providers.

The funding also covers the construction of two buildings — Advanced Manufacturing Center and Data Technology Hub — which are located in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate.

After a three-year promotional stint, Hong Kong Science Park has emerged as an important component of the local startup ecosystem. As of June, there were 616 technology companies stationed at the park with an estimated annual turnover of HK$213 billion. Nearly 71 percent of them are Hong Kong-domiciled enterprises.

The number of incubatee firms that have sprung up since the inception of HKSTP’s incubation program has surged to 402, with 302 of them still in business. These companies have already launched their products and have turned profitable. As of March this year, there were still 238 incubatee firms under the incubation program.

Looking ahead, Hong Kong can still expect a bumpy ride on the road to becoming a technology and innovation hub in the region.

Ma believes various factors have to be coordinated if the SAR is to cement its position as an advanced manufacturing center.

“The government can consider formulating an industrial policy to promote advanced manufacturing. The questions include whether the government can purchase local technological products to create a domestic consumption market,” he says. “It should also mull utilizing its overseas economic trade office network to publicize the city’s technological products. Favorable tax packages designed for industry players can also be pondered.”

In addition, the local educational research network should be better capitalized on. Hong Kong badly needs a supply pool of reliable design professionals to carve out the product design framework.

“The tertiary institutions should gear up to reform school syllabuses to train more designers and software engineers to suit market development. Parents should be educated to encourage their children to take software design and other engineering subjects.”

Local business leaders, Ma says, can also play a vital part. “If our business leaders can allocate 1 percent of their accumulated wealth to advanced manufacturing, the process of reindustrialization can kick off with a solid foundation.”

HKSTP was established as a statutory body in May 2001 to promote technological innovation through managing Hong Kong Science Park, InnoCentre and three industrial estates in Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O and Yuen Long.
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