Thursday, 11 June 2015

HK keen to help tech start-ups succeed

Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So

We live in the era of technology, an era of unprecedented change. Whether we like it or not, every part of our daily life is related to technology in one way or another.


Albert Einstein once said, "It's become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity." Einstein's words echo today more than ever before.


Technological advances are indeed rapidly changing the way we live and how we do business. Look at Alibaba, Amazon and eBay, they are disrupting the conventional ways of distributing and selling goods. Look at Facebook and Twitter. These social media tools have changed forever the way we manage our relationships with people. Connecting with people has never been more convenient. It's hard to imagine life, or your businesses, without these new technologies.


Beyond communication and interaction, there is a consensus that innovation and technological development are increasingly important to the growth of economies around the world. We are all looking to innovation and technology for that crucial competitive edge.


Vibrant IT ecosystem

Hong Kong, like other major cities, has been sharpening its competitive edge with innovation and technology in mind. Our goal is to nurture a knowledge-based economy and make our city an innovation hub. We strive to provide a vibrant ecosystem for innovation and technology to grow. We create an enabling environment to help our start-ups and tech enterprises succeed.


You may ask, what makes Hong Kong stand out from the fierce competition? First, Hong Kong is a free and competitive economy. We follow the common law legal system and adopt internationally recognised codes of practice in business and commerce. We have a low and simple tax system with no goods and services tax or value-added tax.


We have a clean and efficient government and a level playing field for all companies. Indeed, you would expect nothing less from an economy that is consistently ranked as the freest in the world. We have retained the top spot in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom for 21 years in a row. This status reflects real advantages for starting businesses in Hong Kong.


Abundant start-up support

Then, the resources. We know that start-ups and tech enterprises need many things: seed funding, office space, work visa facilitation, communities network, business development support, design support, promotion platforms, market access and serial investment, et cetera. And so we offer an excellent network to address such needs. We have different types of public and private initiatives especially designed to nurture start-ups and attract talent, including incubation programmes, government funding schemes, networking communities and co-work spaces.


We are also blessed with a geographical advantage. Our location has enabled us to become the key platform between Mainland China and the world in technological collaboration and trading. We are strategically located at the heart of Asia and on the doorstep of Mainland China. Half of the world's population can be reached within five hours' flight time from Hong Kong.


For start-ups and tech enterprises looking to tap into Asia's huge market potential, we are the most convenient base, providing world-class transport, and unrivaled logistic and information and communication technology infrastructure.


Comprehensive IP protection

What else have we done? In line with our policy to promote innovation and technology, Hong Kong has a comprehensive intellectual property protection regime to effectively protect the fruits of innovation and creativity.


Our legal framework fully complies with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights. We also keep our legislation under regular review to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate in present-day circumstances.


With overseas IP owners eagerly eyeing the Asian and the Mainland markets, Hong Kong is poised to develop into a regional marketplace providing professional services in licensing, franchising and IP registration. Our intermediaries can help manage and add value in the IP trading and management processes.


I am pleased to note that our efforts in supporting start-ups and tech enterprises are starting to yield fruit. We have seen an upsurge in private incubators, accelerators and shared working spaces in Hong Kong recently. For example, the number of co-work spaces in Hong Kong continues to climb to well over 40, from just three in 2010.


These platforms offer valuable networking opportunities for technology start-ups. They build connections with potential investors, with business professionals for advice and training, with seasoned entrepreneurs for mentoring, and with industrialists for co-operation opportunities. In fact, quite a number of our start-ups have made remarkable achievements - some have secured substantial investments, some have been acquired by large corporations, while others have carved their niches in the global marketplace.


Trends with potential

Innovation and technology is indeed an industry sector with huge potential for growth in Hong Kong. For technology gurus like yourselves, I am sure you are interested to know in which potential growth areas Hong Kong has a unique advantage. Allow me to highlight a few.


First, FinTech. As a global financial centre and a hub for retailers and brands from around the world, Hong Kong offers an ideal platform for FinTech start-ups and enterprises to facilitate functions such as payment, clearing and settlement systems, big data analytics, cloud computing, information and risk management and network security. Our city may enhance operational efficiency and help open new modes of development for the financial and eCommerce sectors.


Second, the Internet of Things. We are now living in a world full of devices and systems which "talk" to each other. The IoT is indeed a disruptive and transformational technology, and its impact will certainly be felt across all industries and all areas of society. These IoT devices need to be physically manufactured, and this is where Hong Kong comes in.


Hong Kong has deep and broad expertise in design and software development. More importantly, we are strategically located next door to Shenzhen, the hardware capital of the world. We have easy access to the Pearl River Delta and its sophisticated supply chain and logistics platform. We have all the ingredients for start-ups and tech enterprises to develop their prototypes, validate their products and develop large scale manufacturing to bring them to market in the fastest time.


Smart city focus

The third area is smart city technologies. Multinational corporations such as France's Schneider Electric are using Hong Kong as the base for developing and testing total solutions and devices. Other major players like Siemens, Hitachi, NEC and Panasonic are also closely watching the market opportunities in this area.


With the new phase three development of the Hong Kong Science Park, the expansion plans at the Hong Kong International Airport, and planned developments in the densely populated urban areas of Hong Kong, our city offers unique opportunities for start-ups and large corporations involved in smart city technologies to launch their solutions for Asia.


Our Government is committed to helping transform Hong Kong into a leading destination and hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. I encourage you all to consider using Hong Kong as your lab, showcase and global launch pad. Hong Kong offers opportunities for technology firms like yours to get a foothold in the massive, yet complex, China market as well as markets across Asia.


Apart from business-friendly policies, Hong Kong also has a great location, sophisticated infrastructure and a robust IP protection regime to help innovative companies take off in Asia.


I will end with a quote from Winston Churchill. "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." Technological innovation is proceeding at a rate that has never been seen before in human history, and our economies are increasingly relying on innovation-driven entrepreneurship. Let's embrace this change and bring our success to another level.


Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Gregory So gave these remarks at the Tech Symposium in Chicago.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

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