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Monday, September 19, 2016, 23:46

Entrepreneur calls for cooperation over R&D

By Wang Yuke

HONG KONG - Academic researchers should collaborate with local companies on collective research and development (R&D) efforts, said Cheng Liang, a successful entrepreneur, during a forum themed "Youth•Innovation•Future" on Monday.

Cheng said such cooperation would allow innovative concepts to be put to practical use.

There is currently a growing gap between local universities and the business sector in terms of innovation commercialization.

This gap could be bridged by a team dedicated to engineering and manufacturing technology into real products, said Cheng, co-founder and deputy general manager of Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology. This is a startup specializing in unmanned surface vehicles for environmental protection.

It's not that universities are reluctant to industrialize their research innovation and hold back their results from business, argued Cheng. They find it difficult to turn their technologies into products because engineering professionals are hardly involved in the technology transfer process.

"To bridge the gap, universities should initiate a partnership with enterprises (who are keen to put out products based on their research), and engage with engineers who have the know-how about the technology per se and needs of the market as well."

The partnership company should operate following the mixed ownership business model, added Cheng.

He is optimistic about the prospects of Hong Kong's innovation and technology on the grounds that "Hong Kong youth have a broader scope of knowledge in various fields”.

“You don't need to see further for proof than students from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University where I graduated,’’ Cheng said.

“They've come up with many brilliant ideas and a number of innovation projects in Nanshan of Shenzhen (an IT startups cluster) were launched based on these innovative ideas," Cheng said.

Tim Lee Ying-ho, co-founder of QFpay, a mobile payment solution provider, agreed that local youth have an edge over their mainland counterparts in starting their own business.

The advantages include easier access to the world's latest technology and therefore being better informed of global trends, according to Lee.

However, these advantages could be undermined by a serious problem in Hong Kong that poses as a great obstacle to stop many young people trying to be entrepreneurs.

The problem is that "society fails to deliver enough security to youngsters who aspire to be their own bosses," said Tjonnie Li, the only Hong Kong-born physicist and professor taking part in the two detections of gravitational waves.

The fear of failure that has permeated the society and fear of being labeled as a failure is the underlying reason why young people feel insecure and uncertain when contemplating launching a startup, argued Li.

It's an unhealthy entrepreneurial climate that should urgent be changed, he reckons. "We should foster an entrepreneur-friendly environment and get across the message that failure is not the end."

The stereotype that to be a lawyer or a doctor is the most decent, lucrative and stable job should also be revisited, emphasized Li.

A sound alternative to start a business in Hong Kong is to base the company in mainland cities, said Cheng.

“As Hong Kong is already a well developed city, the need for basic infrastructures and facilities is not strong here.”

But on the Chinese mainland, the traffic is often problematic and shopping in physical stores becomes inconvenient for busy residents. This results in a high demand for taxi hailing software and electronic payment applications.

“That's why companies Didi Chuxing and Taobao flourished," Cheng said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Operations Director of Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund Teddy Lui, and co-founder and Chief science Officer of the Insight Robotics Rex Sham also addressed the forum.

Insight Robotics is another oft-cited successful example of entrepreneurship. It specializes in developing risk management tools that aid customers to prevent disasters by helping them visualize data across large areas.

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