Following is a speech by the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Industrial Technology Congress 1999 today (Tuesday)
Dr. Chiang, Professor Poon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Hong Kong is pleased to play host to the Congress for the second time. The aims are to encourage technological innovation and to facilitate the application of technologies. These are subjects which are very close to our heart. Indeed, this meaningful event underlines the importance of technology to Hong Kong as we stand on the threshold of the new knowledge-based century.
We have come quite a long way since the first Asian Industrial Technology Congress was held six years ago. There is now much wider acceptance and awareness in Hong Kong that innovation and technology are the key drivers for the long-term development of our economy. As we enter the information age, we have to make the best use of new ideas and technology in order to add value to our goods and services, to enhance our productivity and ultimately to sustain growth in an increasingly integrated and competitive world economy.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is fully aware of the challenges and opportunities of the technology age. We are committed to providing the best possible technological infrastructure and the most conducive environment to foster innovation and technology. A range of support programmes and facilities are already in place.
But the rest of the world is moving ahead very rapidly, and the last thing we need is to be complacent. We need to do our best to ensure that our support continues to be relevant to the fast-changing needs of our economy. That was why in early 1998 the Chief Executive of the Government appointed a Commission on Innovation and Technology to advise us on the necessary measures to realize our vision of making Hong Kong an innovation centre for the region.
The Commission submitted its first report in September 1998. The Government is now actively following up the Commission's recommendations. We are now working out the details for setting up a $5 billion Innovation and Technology Fund to finance projects which seek to upgrade our industries and to upgrade our innovative and technological capabilities. We are also mapping out the planning parameters for establishing an Applied Science and Technology Research Institute to strengthen our mid-stream research and development capability. The Commission is now pursuing the second stage of its work. We look forward to receiving its further recommendations.
In promoting innovation and technology, our aim is to ensure the spawning of new industries on the one hand and upgrading our so-called "traditional" industries on the other. The latter is in particular worth emphasizing. The added value and the edge of our textile and garment industry increasingly come from the use of new fabrics, improved work processes made possible by computer technology and advanced designs, for example. The themes of the three symposia of this Congress reinforce this point very well. Design technology, new materials and environmental technology have relevance to both new and traditional industries, and are often key factors in determining the value of our products.
In our market-driven economy, the role of the Government is that of a promoter, facilitator and supporter. We constantly strive to create the best environment to foster innovation and technological upgrading. But at the end of the day, the individual and concerted efforts of our private sector are what counts and what are of vital importance.
I am encouraged to see that this year's Congress has successfully attracted participants from so many economies and such diverse backgrounds. Whether they are technology suppliers, researchers, veteran industrialists or budding entrepreneurs, they have come to exchange views on the latest technological developments and explore the potential of technology in enhancing competitiveness. By showcasing the advanced technologies for industries and bringing together suppliers and potential users of technology, this Congress provides an excellent channel for the acquisition and transfer of technology. It also points to how academia and the private sector may cooperate to bring about technological upgrading.
I would therefore like to congratulate the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the co-organizers of this Congress for staging such a meaningful and successful event. You have set a fine example of academia-industry collaboration. I would encourage you to continue your good work.
I wish all participants of this Congress a most fruitful event, and our visitors from overseas a most enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. Thank you.
End/Tuesday, April 27, 1999