LCQ1: Technology Voucher Programme
In November last year, the Innovation and Technology Commission launched, on a pilot basis, the Technology Voucher Programme with a commitment of $500 million to subsidise local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in using technological services and solutions to enhance productivity, or upgrade or transform their business processes. As at the end of September this year, 184 funding applications were approved under the Programme; the average amount of funding for each approved application was about $130,000, involving a total funding of about $23.8 million (which accounted for only 4.76 per cent of the commitment for the Programme). Some SMEs have indicated that the modus operandi of the Programme has failed to meet their needs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) as the authorities pointed out in reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council on the Estimates of Expenditure 2017-2018 that they would review the effectiveness and modus operandi (such as funding scope, funding amount and vetting procedures) of the aforesaid Programme two years after its launch, or when the commitment was forecast to reach $500 million, whichever was the earlier, whether the authorities will conduct the relevant review earlier in the light of the lukewarm response to the Programme so far; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether the authorities will consider extending the funding scope of the Programme, so that SMEs receiving a grant may apply for funding again when they update the information technology facilities or systems of the relevant projects in future, with a view to enhancing the attractiveness of the Programme; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether the authorities will consider revising the funding mode of the Programme by setting different funding ceilings for different industries, such as maintaining the cumulative funding ceiling for services sectors at $200 000 while raising that for non-services sectors (including manufacturing and industrial sectors) to $400 000, so as to assist the latter in accelerating their digitalisation and automation, and enhancing their productivity and competitiveness; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
We launched the $500 million Technology Voucher Programme (TVP) in November last year as a pilot to subsidise local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in using technological services and solutions to improve productivity, or upgrade or transform their business processes. The TVP provides cumulative funding of up to $200,000 for each eligible SME on a 2:1 matching basis to carry out a maximum of three approved projects.
Our reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:
(1) About 670 enterprises submitted applications under the TVP since its launch. Of these, 223 applications have been assessed by the TVP Committee, with 207 of them (i.e. 93 per cent) supported for funding. Separately, around 130 applications could not be processed and need to be re-submitted due to missing key documents (e.g. company incorporation documents or business registration certificates of the applicant enterprises). Another 100 applications were still awaiting supplementary information, and the remaining 220 applications were under eligibility checking and preliminary screening by the Committee Secretariat.
Since the launch of the TVP, the Innovation and Technology Commission has from time to time fine-tuned the implementation details in the light of its operation experience, and provided clear and concrete guidelines to applicants through briefing sessions and the programme website.
As at end October 2017, over 2 500 SMEs have registered on the programme website and some 1 500 applications are under preparation. Furthermore, the 41 briefing sessions have attracted around 4 000 participants. These show that the TVP was well received by SMEs.
We will continue to monitor closely the implementation of the TVP and collect the relevant data. We aim to conduct a comprehensive review of its effectiveness and modus operandi in the second half of 2018. We consider that the review would be more comprehensive and meaningful when the TVP has been in operation for some time so that sufficient data and experience can be accumulated.
(2) Currently, the TVP has an extensive funding scope. There is no restriction on the types of technological services and the funding can be used for relevant consultancies, equipment, software and hardware, etc. Compared with similar overseas schemes, the TVP offers greater flexibility for SMEs to choose providers and solutions that meet their needs, and provides a higher funding amount. Also, the approved funding amount in the first year of implementation is similar to that of overseas schemes.
The Committee will, based on the information provided by the applicants, assess whether the proposed technological services and solutions could achieve the objective of helping enterprises improve productivity or upgrade or transform their business processes. Under this premise, SMEs that have received funding support under the TVP may submit funding applications again if they wish to further upgrade the equipment or system of their projects in the future, subject to the ceiling of a cumulative funding of $200,000 and a maximum of three projects.
(3) Since the launch of the TVP, the average funding amount requested is around $130,000, and the amount requested by manufacturing and that by non-manufacturing enterprises are roughly the same.
We will continue to monitor the implementation of the programme and carefully consider whether the funding ceiling should be adjusted when reviewing the TVP.
Ends/Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:10
Issued at HKT 14:10