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Speech by SCIT at HK Design Centre Gala Dinner (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the Hong Kong Design Centre Gala Dinner 2005 this evening (November 21) (English only):

Victor Lo, Freeman Lau, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.  

     It gives me great pleasure to be among so many distinguished designers, business leaders, professionals and academics at the Hong Kong Design Centre Gala 2005. I would like to extend first of all my warmest welcome to all of you who have travelled a long way to come to Hong Kong for our Business of Design Week (BODW) 2005, as well as all those who did not have to travel so far.

     The Business of Design Week is the flagship event of the Hong Kong Design Centre. Since its inception in 2002, the BODW has quickly established itself as the premium annual event of the design world in Asia. Every year, thanks to the hard work of the Hong Kong Design Centre, world-class designers are brought from all over the globe to Hong Kong. They are here not only to showcase their talents, but also to share with us their invaluable experience in the art of creation through the innovative combination of forms and functions as well as the art of revenue creation through the commercialisation of their innovative designs.

     The experience they bring to Hong Kong is of tremendous relevance to Asian economies. We have flourished from the Original Equipment Manufacture, or OEM, business model in the last few decades. With the globalisation process hastened by free trade and the Internet, it is now the foremost question in the minds of our OEM entrepreneurs whether the OEM model, which is largely premised on cost competition, is still applicable, and, indeed, sustainable.

     Many businessmen in Hong Kong are so used to the OEM model that they doubt the worth of investing in good designs and brand-building. They regard such activities only as expenses in accounting terms that do no good but hitting the bottom line in an adverse manner. The benefits are only hopefuls at best, if not outright write-offs in most cases. They would rather have the bird in hand than going for two in the bush.

     The truth is that most of the manufacturing processes in Hong Kong have moved to the Mainland in the last few decades on cost considerations, and they are now under increasing pressure to move even further north and west, exactly because of cost pressures. The writing is on the wall.

     Throughout the entire Asian region, every one is searching for a new success formula to survive in the increasingly knowledge-based global economy. Purely relying on cheap land and cheap labour has become highly vulnerable. It is not sustainable. We have to add value to what we do. And the collective wisdom is that design is one of the key ingredients in this new formula.

     This collective wisdom is witnessed by the enthusiasm the BODW has quickly generated since it was held for the first time in 2002. This enthusiasm is evident not only in Hong Kong, but also among many of our neighbours in the region, some of whom began to organise similar seminars, conferences, expos and the like in their respective economies.

     What we have been able to discover is that Hong Kong continues to have a distinct edge over our neighbours. This is because most Hong Kong designers, besides their talent, are multi-lingual and multi-cultural, with good command of both Chinese and English, capturing the best from cultures of the East and the West. Many of our talents have also proved their worth in both zones.

     In addition, Hong Kong has one of the world's most rigorous regimes in intellectual property protection. All types of intellectual property are accorded the highest level of recognition and protection in line with international conventions. While Hong Kong has an unquestioned free flow of information and freedom of expression, we have zero tolerance towards intellectual property right infringement. I am pleased that Hong Kong has recently secured the world's first criminal conviction in a Bit Torrent P2P piracy case with a three month custodial sentence.

     We have available also unsurpassed infrastructural support for designers. Research institutes and design houses in Hong Kong employ state-of-the-art information technology. The Government has over the years set up a range of support measures, and designers are continuing to harness such measures. Cyberport, for instance, is equipped with top-notch IT and telecom facilities, to provide an ideal environment for developing digital entertainment, software, wireless applications and computer games.  

     Another example is the Hong Kong Science Park, which provides quality premises, shared facilities and incubation programmes for applied research and development. The Science Park is developing an InnoCentre in conjunction with the Hong Kong Design Centre as a focal point and support centre for up-and-coming design talent, through a new design incubation programme and the provision of tailor-made facilities for designers. The Government also provides funding through various schemes to support designers to learn from their overseas counterparts and to network with them.

     Hong Kong is also an ideal test-bed for new ideas and gadgets. Look no further than audio-visual products to witness Hong Kong consumers' remarkable readiness to embrace new technologies and designs. Coupled with our strategic proximity to the Mainland where Hong Kong is usually regarded as the trend setter, there is no better place than Hong Kong for designers to prepare for the rolling out of new products and services in this part of the world.

     The Government will continue to spare no effort in providing an environment that is conducive to creative and good designs, and to promote their use by businesses. But at the same time, we cannot rely on Government alone. From overseas experience, promotion of good design must be a tripartite effort, involving the design professionals, the business sector and the Government. The Government looks to the business sector to play an increasingly important role in nurturing a design culture in their enterprises in partnership with the other two players.

     Lastly, I wish to congratulate the Hong Kong Design Centre, for once again bringing some of the world's best designers, and their wisdom, to Hong Kong. I would also like to thank all the collaborating organisations and sponsors for their support, and all the judges for the various awards to be presented tonight for their hard work. And to all the winners of the awards, I congratulate you for your outstanding performance, and I hope you will all keep up your good work in the future.

     Thank you.

Ends/Monday, November 21, 2005
Issued at HKT 19:15


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