The HKSAR Government and the Shenzhen Government reached an agreement earlier to develop Hong Kong - Shenzhen InnoTech Park (HK-SZ InnoTech Park). What opportunities will this new project bring to Hong Kong’s innovation and technology industry? In collaboration, how should Hong Kong and Shenzhen use each other’s strengths to compensate for inadequacies?
Nicholas Yang: Capitalize on the Loop’s advantages and trailblaze in uncharted inno-tech territory
With HK-SZ InnoTech Park officially off the drawing board, Hong Kong’s inno-tech industry ushers in a new horizon of development possibilities. However, an industrial cluster of innovation and technology with great potential and vigor is essential backup. Nicholas Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, points out that Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecology has improved. And while it lags behind the US Silicon Valley or Israel in figures and there is still a lot to be learned, achievements to date are encouraging.
Cohesive effect of HK-SZ InnoTech Park
The current cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen is inter-complementary. Yang points out that Shenzhen’s strength lies in its nature as a city of migrants where human resources from across the country come together. Hong Kong, on the other hand, enjoys an edge of being an international metropolis. Given adequate land resources and supporting facilities to retain manpower and enterprises, there are great prospects for collaboration between Hong Kong’s and Shenzhen’s inno-tech industries. Yang explains that land area is a crucial advantage, as the Loop has a site area quadruple that of Hong Kong Science Park and triple its floor area. He believes the future HK-SZ InnoTech Park will bring together more worthy players.
Yang does not think it is fair to describe Hong Kong as a laggard in innovation and technology. Although a late starter, Hong Kong has a sound economic foundation. The global inno-tech market is a place of rapid changes. Seizing the right opportunities, Hong Kong can break through. Shenzhen established its Science and Technology Innovation Commission very early in 1996. Major efforts were made to develop Nanshan district into a hub of the innovation and technology industry. By contrast, Hong Kong set up the Innovation and Technology Bureau much later in 2015. “Fortunately, we are not armchair strategists. We have put in a lot of effort since the bureau came into operation and helped bring about this collaboration with Shenzhen.”
In fact, implementation of the HK-SZ InnoTech Park project is well received by the industry. Yang said, “The industry thought it would take some time for the two governments to finalize the deal but they promptly reached an agreement earlier this year. Many businesses want to set up presence in Hong Kong so that they can benefit from the advantages of both cities.”
Time to catch up by re-industrialization
Hong Kong is already showing signs of de-industrialization. Yang suggests promoting re-industrialization, and rediscovering the essence of industry. He stresses that re-industrialization does not mean advocating Hong Kong resume its low value-added old path, but rather focusing on supporting research and development (R&D).
Yang points out that R&D currently accounts for only 0.76% of GDP, and private enterprises make almost no R&D investment. He anticipates the government can enhance R&D both in quality and quantity through policy measures. He also suggests that R&D investments should cater to market and social needs. For this reason, the future HK-SZ InnoTech Park will comprise four major disciplines: robotics, biomedicine, smart city and FinTech. These will be the core development programs.
In the April 2016 issue of CGCC Vision, Yang pointed out that, “…because of its familiarity with Western standards, Hong Kong can help the country more closely align with them. I hope that China’s standards are the world’s standards one day.” He reiterates that Hong Kong’s competitive edge is built on “integrity”. Hong Kong will not take a low-price approach and we “compete on value”, not ”compete on cost”.
Opening up uncharted territory of innovation and technology
Lastly, Yang elevates inno-tech development to a level of philosophical discourse. He quotes a concept from Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, “The ultimate goal is to find out what ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. That means going into uncharted territory that nobody has explored before.” Will HK-SZ InnoTech Park in the Loop reach such lofty heights envisioned by Yang? It is something worth looking forward to.
Tsui Lap-Chee: Can HK-SZ InnoTech Park become China’s Silicon Valley?
Early this year, the SAR Government and the Shenzhen government agreed on the development of HK-Shenzhen InnoTech Park. It will be the biggest innovation and technology platform within Hong Kong. Tsui Lap-Chee, President of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, says Hong Kong and the Mainland are an inter-complementary combination that can create ample and tremendous opportunities.
Amalgamating Hong Kong talent with Shenzhen technology
While economic value is a goal of innovation and technology development, it is more important to build an ecosphere suited to the inno-tech industry. He points out that a complete ecosphere should be made up of three core components: upstream, midstream and downstream. HK-SZ InnoTech Park can precisely bring advantages of this inno-tech platform of the Mainland and Hong Kong into full play. “Using a soccer team as a metaphor, it must have forwards, midfielders, defenders and goalkeeper. Even if all the positions are filled, a seemingly united yet contrary-minded team is not productive. That’s why teamwork and tacit understanding are keys to victory.” He feels that Hong Kong people have creative thinking and sound knowledge of scientific theories, so the local pool is primarily upstream talent. Shenzhen is outstanding in enterprise technology and implementation, and downstream professionals are the majority. Both places have their own strong points.
Tsui explains that Hong Kong does not lack technology professionals but is less sophisticated in terms of ancillary equipment. Hong Kong can therefore develop her innovation and technology industry with the aid of Shenzhen’s strengths. Likewise, Hong Kong has got something that Shenzhen finds attractive, which is adequate protection for intellectual property ― the very reason why many mainland enterprises set up their research bases in Hong Kong.
Determination and strong efforts on the part of the government
To engage more high-caliber professionals to promote the development of HK-SZ InnoTech Park, Tsui suggests the government issue express cross-border passes to inno-tech professionals working in the Park. In addition to convenience measures, he thinks it is more important for the SAR Government to have determination and use its best endeavor for development. “To land-hungry Hong Kong, the 87-hectare HK-SZ InnoTech Park is already the largest innovation and technology base. Contrarily, Shenzhen has sufficient land resources for development and can readily designate lots for innovation and technology development.”
For this reason, Tsui hopes the next SAR administration would not take a casual attitude towards the development of the innovation and technology industry. The government can support growth of the industry by providing funding, allocating resources and introducing suitable policies. It should also actively promote collaboration between government, industry, academia and research institutes. In particular, he mentions that universities in Hong Kong operate in a competitive environment and seldom work together. He hopes HK-SZ InnoTech Park can create space for cooperation and exchange between universities. Their joint efforts will further the development of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology industry.
Forget about duplicating Silicon Valley
Everyone has high hopes for HK-SZ InnoTech Park, anticipating Hong Kong and Shenzhen build a “China’s Silicon Valley” together. Tsui does not agree. He says, “The success of Silicon Valley lies in bringing American talent across the country together. That exchange creates healthy competition. Hong Kong is no match at all either in manpower or market scale.” He stresses that Hong Kong has many outstanding scientists, but the number is much smaller than their US counterparts unless Hong Kong can attract quality scientific researchers from across the country or even the global Chinese community. However, that hinges on our acumen and investment in developing an innovation and technology base.
Tsui’s advice is that Hong Kong should learn from Silicon Valley’s successful experience but forget about copying it. He points out that many cities have been resolved to build another Silicon Valley but only Israel has enjoyed a fair amount of success. “Israel is an interesting example because many outstanding US scientists are of Jewish ancestry and are therefore willing to return to Israel to make contributions to its inno-tech industry.” He says if Hong Kong wishes to imitate Israel’s success, we should first ask ourselves: “Does the Loop have the allure to attract outstanding Chinese scientific researchers from around the world?”