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Repositioning Hong Kong As an Innovation and Technology Hub

Andrew Paul
Repositioning Hong Kong As an Innovation and Technology Hub

Hong Kong is aiming to become an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub. Led by a strong and growing economy, Hong Kong is embracing the re-industrialisation trend with a new focus on smart production, AI, robotics, big data and IoT technologies.

The government set an ambitious target to double Hong Kong’s R&D expenditure from 0.73% of GDP to 1.5% in five years. It also aims to encourage local start-ups to collaborate with Mainland enterprises and participate in major national technology missions.


Hong Kong has been a hub of global innovation and technology for decades. Its high-quality researchers, universities and laboratories, coupled with the industrial might of the Greater Bay Area, make the city a renowned centre for research, entrepreneurship, and investment.

The government has established a number of initiatives to promote innovation in the city. One of the major ones is InnoHK, which seeks to turn the city into a hub for international research collaboration. In its 2018 policy address, the government allocated HK$10 billion (US$1.2 billion) to this initiative.

InnoHK is a platform that brings together leading researchers from around the world to conduct impactful collaborative research in local universities and research institutions. It is dedicated to facilitating closer collaboration between the research community and industries to enhance the effectiveness of I&T development in the city.

Two research clusters are being developed under InnoHK - Health@InnoHK focuses on healthcare technologies and AIR@InnoHK focuses on artificial intelligence and robotics technologies. The two research clusters, which have 28 research laboratories in the science park, aim to bring together leading researchers from local universities and research institutes as well as from overseas.

Under the AIR@InnoHK cluster, PolyU has established a new laboratory called AiDLab. It aims to integrate innovative AI technologies into design to address society’s needs for creativity, efficiency and customisation of products and services. The cutting-edge research at AiDLab will create impacts on society, industry and policy that enhance quality of life.

Moreover, the University has formed a research partnership with the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. With the support of InnoHK, PolyU and CAS will collaborate on frontier research in data science and artificial intelligence and promote the growth of AI industry in Hong Kong.

As part of InnoHK, the Government has also set up a "Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities" to encourage and support universities to establish technology start-ups. Under this scheme, up to HK$8 million is given per year to local universities to fund technology start-ups, with an additional HK$16 million available for a period of three years.

Hong Kong Science Park

Hong Kong Science Park has been a key driver of innovation and technology in Hong Kong for two decades. The statutory body is dedicated to cultivating an innovation and technology ecosystem to connect stakeholders, nurture tech talent, facilitate collaboration, and catalyse innovations that deliver social and economic benefits to the city.

The Science Park is home to some of the city’s most successful innovators, such as SenseTime, Lalamove and SmartMore. These companies have been able to grow into multi-billion dollar enterprises thanks to the help of the Science Park and other support services.

Despite its success, the Science Park faces challenges such as a talent shortage and high housing costs that hinder the growth of the industry. However, the Science Park plans to grow its capacity and reach across the border over the next few years with the upcoming opening of its Shenzhen branch.

HKSTP focuses on five main technology clusters, including Electronics, Information & Communication Technology, Biotechnology, Green Technology and Precision Engineering. These focus on re-industrialisation with modern science and technology, such as food quality assurance, medical equipment, robotics and pharmaceutical products, to create employment opportunities.

These technologies are supported by a number of research laboratories that are operated by local universities in partnership with world-renowned research institutions. MIT, for example, set up its first overseas Innovation Node in Hong Kong in 2016 to take advantage of the city’s ready access to a unique manufacturing infrastructure that encourages prototyping and scaleup.

In addition, the science park is a hub for global research collaboration. It hosts two research clusters, Health@InnoHK and AIR@InnoHK, which focus on healthcare-related technologies and AI and robotics research respectively.

A number of international research universities have also established research centres in Hong Kong, such as MIT, Cornell University and Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet. The Park’s proximity to these institutions enables the transfer of knowledge and research results from academia to business and society.

A growing number of corporates are engaging in incubation and accelerator programmes, as well as launching venture funds and investing in startup companies. These efforts are in response to a growing demand for I&T talent, especially among large enterprises.

Innovation and Technology Venture Fund

The Innovation and Technology Venture Fund (ITVF) is one of the key government initiatives in Hong Kong that encourages private venture capital funds to invest in local innovation and technology start-ups. The Fund co-invests with selected co-investment partners (CPs) on a matching basis to support the growth of Hong Kong’s local startups.

In addition to the ITVF, HKSTP Venture Fund and Cyberport Macro Fund are other corporate venture capital funds that combine public and private funding resources to nurture early-stage businesses. These funds focus on investing in technology enterprises that have strategic value to Hong Kong, and are likely to contribute to the city’s future economic development.

Besides the ITVF, Hong Kong has also implemented a range of incentives to support the growth of I&T startups. For example, the Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus Scheme (RAISe+), announced in the 2022 Policy Address, will provide funding on a matching basis to 100 university research teams that demonstrate potential to develop into start-ups.

These measures are designed to foster cross-border collaboration between academia and industry in order to help build Hong Kong into a global I&T centre. They include promoting the exchange of knowledge, technologies and expertise across different sectors; supporting and providing financial assistance to companies that wish to commercialise innovative products, processes and technologies.

Additionally, the SAR government has established a range of other funding incentives, such as the Greater Bay Area Homeland Investments Limited’s HK$5-billion Strategic Tech Fund, which will be used to invest in technology enterprises that have strategic value to Hong Kok and are likely to contribute to the city’s economic development.

Another incentive for cross-border I&T collaboration is the Hong Kong government’s HK$10 billion “Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus” scheme, which provides funding on a matching basis to eligible higher education institutions and R&D institutes in Hong Kong that wish to conduct joint research with Mainland universities. It aims to speed up collaboration between Hong Kong and the Mainland, and facilitate the flow of talent and scientific research resources between the two places.

In September, the SAR government and the Qianhai Authority of Shenzhen promulgated 18 measures to promote the linked development of Shenzhen and Hong Kong venture capital investments in the Greater Bay Area (GBA). These measures complement Hong Kong’s “three-step strategy” for developing the private equity fund market – introducing a limited partnership fund regime; offering tax concessions for carried interest distributed by eligible private equity funds; and establishing a mechanism to attract foreign funds to redomicile in Hong Kong.


HKSTP has established InnoPARKs in Yuen Long, Tai Po and Tseung Kwan O as an innovation and technology hub to promote high value-added, high technology content and advanced processes for re-industrialisation. This repositioning exercise is aimed at encouraging both old and new industries to embrace smart, technology-driven processes to create a vibrant future for Hong Kong.

The new concept centres on building a community of innovators working at companies from similar industries and creating employment opportunities for young people. For example, Fairwood Hong Kong, a company that provides a range of telecommunications services, has opened a new office in the InnoPARK Tai Po, where it employs more than a dozen local R&D talents.

As well as promoting talent growth, the InnoPARK concept is also helping to develop the local manufacturing industry. This month, Koln 3D Technology, a Hong Kong company that specialises in customised digital medicine technologies and robotics, plans to move into Tai Po InnoPark’s Mars Centre, a purpose-built building dedicated to medical equipment production.

Dr Haoran Sun, founder and CEO of Koln 3D Technology, said that the InnoPARK concept has been a good way for them to build their own business in a safe environment. He said that it had also helped them to secure financing.

To maximise its huge R&D potential, HKSTP is repositioning the city’s iconic industrial estates in Yuen Long, Tai Po andTseung Kwan O as INNOPARKs. This will provide critical capabilities to accelerate the research and development of innovation-driven, market-ready products.

It will also fuel high-potential sectors like advanced manufacturing and help to transform Hong Kong’s industrial sector to become more productive, innovative and competitive. This re-industrialisation will create a new fabric to enable the productisation of new technologies and world-class manufacturing of high value products, thereby generating new business opportunities, high-skilled employment and a brighter future career for the young generation.

The re-industrialisation project is underpinned by eight guiding principles, which aim to support the upgrade and/or transformation of existing operations in the INNOPARKs, as well as to create the fabric necessary to enable the productisation of new technologies and the world-class manufacturing of high value products.

Andrew Paul
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