Press Release



Speech by STI


Following is a speech by the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the International Conference "Hong Kong - A Silicon Valley for the Pacific Rim?" today (Tuesday)(English only) :

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning. It is indeed my pleasure to be here this morning to deliver the opening speech for this conference.

Customarily, I am expected to say a few upbeat words about the contribution of technology to economic development, make a progress report on government programmes related to technology, and commend the organisers. The last I will certainly do.

The Chief Executive's Commission on Innovation and Technology chaired by Professor Tien Chang-lin highlighted the need to foster a technology culture in the community; and an international conference of this nature will certainly help us to focus on Hong Kong's path to technology development.

It will also help to bring out the wider strategic issues underlining our vision of making Hong Kong an innovation and technology centre in the region. I therefore congratulate the organisers for their efforts in bringing about this event and creating the opportunity for an informed discussion.

But I would like to add value to this event. To do this, I shall try to be provocative.

The topic of today's conference is "Hong Kong - a Silicon Valley for the Pacific Rim?". This is a very meaningful theme and a most timely one. However, I have also noticed that in the introduction printed in the conference programme, the point is made that "the key to enable Hong Kong to become an R&D base catering for the Asian and global market is an indigenous IC design and manufacturing industry." This sounds like our old friend, namely industrial policy in the East Asian context. I must admit that I am a little bit confused.

Nowadays, virtually every government in the world seems to want to create its own Silicon Valley. America alone is home to the Silicon Desert in Utah, Silicon Alley in New York, Silicon Hills in Austin and Silicon Forest in Seattle. Taiwan, Israel and Britain all boast passable imitations. In Asia we also have the familiar example of the Malaysian version of the Silicon Valley, namely the multimedia super corridor that will include an IT city of 100 000 people.

"Silicon Valley" is such a convenient term that we tend to use it in a fashionable but probably indiscriminate way. But we must be careful that it is not used to dress up the familiar debate based on the old paradigm about comparative industrial policy, the industrial might of Japan, Korea or Taiwan, and semiconductors and all that.

We should go back to fundamentals and ask ourselves - what exactly is the Silicon Valley? Here is perhaps where the confusion arises.

Is the Silicon Valley a name used to encompass a high technology industry? There is no doubt that historically Silicon Valley companies relied heavily on semiconductors. But you see mostly fabless and knowledge-based operations there nowadays.

And what are the success factors of the Silicon Valley as we know them? Entrepreneurial clustering, tolerance of failure, risk seeking, singled minded reinvestment, venture capital, enthusiasm for change, competition based on merit, obsession with cool ideas, collaboration, variety and absence of entry barriers. We are in fact talking about a total environment and a total culture.

And should Silicon Valley be seen as a way of doing business with a product that happens to technology intensive? In other words, is it more illuminating to compare Silicon Valley with entrepreneurial clusters in other industries, such as Hollywood or the City of London, than it is to compare it with, say, Taiwan's computer or semiconductor industry?

I hope that, in trying to be deliberately provocative, I have provided you with some food for thought. In March 1998, Professor Tien was appointed by our Chief Executive as the Chairman of the Chief Executive's Commission on Innovation and Technology. He has in the two years since then almost single-handedly brought about a sea change in Hong Kong people's attitude towards technology. Today, Hong Kong's economic development stands at the crossroads. We need to have very clear ideas on how to take forward our vision. I am sure that today's conference will contribute to our understanding of the pertinent issues. And I wish you all a most fruitful discussion.

Thank you very much.

END/Tuesday, February 29, 2000