HK$50 billion pledged for city to catch up in fierce tech race

February 28, 2018 17:15
Financial chief Paul Chan said Hong Kong will focus its efforts on biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city and fintech. Photo: Bloomberg

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Wednesday said over HK$50 billion (US$6.4 billion) would be spent to boost the city’s long-term technology and innovation development, up from HK$10 billion the year before.

In his budget speech for fiscal year 2018/19, Chan said in order to catch up in the fierce technology race in the region, Hong Kong should optimize its resources by focusing on developing its "areas of strength", namely biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city, and fintech.

“Innovation and technology is undoubtedly an economic driver in the new era,” he said.

Of the HK$50 billion allocated for the sector, the government plans to spend HK$20 billion on the first phase of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, mainly for infrastructure and initial operation.

“The whole project will eventually cost far more than HK$20 billion,” Chan said, adding that the city aims to create an international innovation and technology hub in order to catch the opportunities in the Greater Bay Area along with Guangdong and Macau.

Hong Kong will also inject HK$10 billion into the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), up from just HK$1.5 billion last year, in support of applied R&D efforts in the city.

The government is earmarking another HK$10 billion for the establishment of two research clusters on healthcare as well as AI and robotics technologies “to attract the world’s top scientific research institutions and technology enterprises to Hong Kong”.

The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) will get HK$10 billion while HK$7 billion will be used to enhance support for technology firm tenants and incubates.

Chan also highlighted in his speech the government's continued efforts to grow e-sports, which he said "have been developing rapidly with tremendous potential”.

In this regard, HK$100 million will be allocated to Cyberport to turn the Cyberport Arcade into “a local e-sports and digital entertainment node providing a competition venue for e-sports”.

An additional HK$200 million will be granted to Cyberport to enhance its support for startups.

The financial chief noted that the wave of innovation and technology is unstoppable in the global economy.

As such, Hong Kong needs to attract companies from the new economy sectors to set up their presence in the city, he said.

Chan also acknowledged the emergence of the sharing economy, although he did not cite plans or pledge any allocation to support it.

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