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FS' remarks at Innovation Expo


Following is the full text of the remarks (English only) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Opening Ceremony of "Innovation Expo : Today's Technology Tomorrow's World" today (November 22):

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Innovation Expo. This event gives me tremendous excitement because it gives all of us a glimpse of the future. What you see in the Expo is curiosity, innovation, creativity and technology in action. A better tomorrow is in the making.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of participating in a technology forum. I learnt from six very successful entrepreneurs their success stories. One common factor is that all of them embrace the prowess of innovation and technology in their services and products.

In the process, not only the emerging industries, such as information technology and telecommunications, are mushrooming. Traditional industries, like toys and garments, are also growing stronger than ever. These together create tremendous new and high value-added economic activities and employment opportunities.

Earlier this week in the Hong Kong Awards for Industry, you again saw exemplary and excellent work achieved by some of our best industrialists in innovative product design, quality and technological achievements.

The common thread linking all these achievements is apparent. Innovation and technology are impacting on every aspect of our life. Information and communications technologies are tearing down geographical boundaries. They bring us worldwide business opportunities but at the same time fierce competition on a global scale. They also streamline work flow, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

All in all, the world is transforming - and indeed transforming very rapidly - into a knowledge-based era. In this era, innovation and technology mean competitiveness. Every economy is benchmarked with the world.

Hong Kong is not an economy rich in natural resources. The only way to lift ourselves up the value-chain is through innovation and entrepreneurship. This requires the presence of entrepreneurs and a culture that nurtures them - a culture that embraces innovation, risk taking, enthusiasm for change and thirst for excellence.

The Government is thus proactively promoting techno-entrepreneurship. Incubation services have been run by one of the co-organisers of the Expo, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, for many years. The results have been encouraging. The average size of the companies has increased by more than three times after the incubation programme. The survival rate of the incubatees is at 90%, which is higher than the industry norm of 87%.

The Corporation is now planning to aggressively expand the incubation programme from the existing 37 incubatees to 100 in 2002 to help Hong Kong to build up its pool of technology entrepreneurs. No doubt that you will meet some of them in the Expo.

Besides, the Government also launched the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme two years ago to provide seed money on a matching basis of up to 2 million dollars for technology entrepreneurs. The Scheme is currently assisting some 60 promising technology-based start-ups to stride forward. We have also launched the 750 million-dollar Applied Research Fund to support technology ventures that have commercial potentials.

Looking in the longer term perspective, we must nurture quality human capital of our next generation for sustainable development. Our education reforms currently underway are seeking to instill curiosity and creativity into our youths, and equip them with skills and knowledge that they will need in the new economy. Life-long learning will become the norm rather than the exception. Our ten-year plan to enable 60% of our young people to acquire post-secondary education will also strengthen our human capital pool to position Hong Kong for the knowledge-based economy.

At the same time, we need to master technologies and strive for excellence. Technology is not an end by itself. It must flow into our community to manifest itself in business and job opportunities to add value to our life.

For this reason, academia and industry have to interact better for greater synergy. You will see some impressive university-industry collaboration research and development projects in the Expo funded by the Government's 5 billion-dollar Innovation and Technology Fund.

Looking ahead, here are quite a few other initiatives further down the road. First, next week, you will see the topping out of the Cyberport - our flagship project that will create a strategic cluster of information technology companies specialising in applications, services and content creation. The Cyberport will become operational by phases from early next year to the end of 2003.

Second, the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute has selected several technology areas including optical, wireless, Internet contents and applications, and semiconductor design. It will attach particular emphasis on the transfer of results developed from research projects to the industry for commercialisation. The objective is to elevate the technological level of our industry and accelerate the expansion of our technology industry base. The Institute, together with its constituent institute in Chinese medicine, is now going ahead in full-steam.

Third, the Science Park will have its first phase open in April 2002. With 13 companies now approved for tenancy, the Science Park is emerging with clusters in information technology, electronics, biotechnology and precision engineering. Total investment of these companies is expected to exceed 1.4 billion dollars, creating some 1,000 technology-intensive job opportunities.

All these initiatives will help Hong Kong propel as a knowledge-based economy where innovation is the new capital, talent and technology the new machinery and information the new currency. Innovation and technology are now part of our economy and society, and they will be more so in the future. We must harness their potentials to serve our needs for a better tomorrow.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you find the above a bit too theoretical, the Innovation Expo today will show you some of Hong Kong's actual achievements. You will see the world acclaimed breakthrough in fabricating the world's narrowest single-walled carbon nanotubes. This product will have exciting application potentials in microcomputers and ultra-thin electronic devices, which will stretch your imagination. You will also see the plasma DNA research, which will help diagnosis and monitoring of many deadly diseases, such as cancer, by just a simple blood test. A lot of other interesting innovation awaits your exploration in the Expo. I hope this Expo will let you bring home one message: Hong Kong can do well on innovation and technology.

Thank you.

End/Thursday, November 22, 2001


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