In her maiden policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed her ambition to invest in and develop new technologies and products.
However, Hong Kong lacks resources, according to Professor Ron Hui Shu-yuen, chair professor of power electronics at the University of Hong Kong, who is often dubbed as the “father” of wireless charging.
Hui started to research wireless charging technology in 1999 and has developed a series of technologies for planar wireless charging systems, underpinning key features of the Qi standard.
The Qi standard has now been established as the universal wireless charging standard, which has been recently endorsed and adopted by Apple Inc., incorporating it in its newest generation of iPhones. Wireless transmission technology has attracted the interest of overseas universities and investment piled in.
“The Hong Kong government is slow on the uptake when it comes to harnessing technology and developing innovative solutions,” Hui said, adding there are various technologies in Hong Kong with great potential but not enough funding from the government.
“In R&D, speed is crucial. Researchers need to get their new technology’s patent registered to generate revenue for funding the next research project,” Hui said. He believes there is a cost to society for lagging behind in research and development (R&D). “The city forgoes the boost to economic development and transformation, as well as an opportunity to lead the world in innovation.”
While working on the wireless charging technology research project, Hui and his team had only tens of thousands of dollars in funding. In contrast, researchers conducting a similar study in South Korea are receiving HK$200 million, a “sufficient amount of funding to build an electric vehicle to conduct studies”.
According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea invested 4.1 percent of its gross domestic product in R&D in 2013, catching up with the biggest per capita investor Israel (4.2 percent).
For Hong Kong, Lam set a bold target of doubling the city’s R&D expenditure to 1.5 percent of annual GDP in the next five years from 0.73 percent now.
Well known for his work on power electronics, Hui and his team have invented a passive LED driver with a lifespan of more than 10 years, with more than 80 percent of the driver’s components recyclable.
However, the internationally recognized product was rejected by the government as street lights. “That is an exclusive technology from a Hong Kong company, and the government just said no to it,” Hui said.
Following a successful initial trial run in Heshan city, Guangdong, the company started to manufacture the new LED street lighting products and entered the mainland China market.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 6
Translation by Ben Ng
[Chinese version 中文版]
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