SCED's speech at APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting in Nanjing (English only) (with photo)

     Following is the speech titled "Driving Innovation in Hong Kong" by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Ministerial Meeting in Nanjing today (September 5):

Good morning Mr Chair, ministers, and heads of delegation,

     First of all, Hong Kong, China, would like to join others in expressing our appreciation to China and the city of Nanjing for the warm hospitality and excellent arrangements.

     I would like to thank Minister Miao (Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Mr Miao Wei) and his team for making "innovation" the focal theme of this Ministerial Meeting. It is certainly an appropriate theme, given in today's knowledge-based economy, businesses compete on strength of innovation. What do I mean by innovation? It is the process through which new ideas are generated and put into commercial practice. Innovation, in essence, is the ability to convert ideas into invoices.

     How? One of our strategies, which has shown great promise, is to develop a vibrant startup ecosystem. We create an environment to embrace the startup culture and help our entrepreneurs to succeed. Startup entrepreneurs always possess a sense of urgency because startups are driven by "burn rate". And it is this mission-driven culture that drives the innovation process. Startups either succeed quickly, or fail fast.

     On a macro level, startups contribute greatly to our economies by bringing to us inspiration, technology, talented people and investment from overseas. What can be more exciting than to witness a startup transform into a global brand?

     Last year, Forbes magazine named Hong Kong as the world's top four startup capital to watch. It says:

"... with a community of innovative and ambitious entrepreneurs on one side and a population of internationally travelled, wealthy tycoons on the other, Hong Kong could be a powder keg of a techonomy waiting to explode."

     We know that startups need many things: seed funding, office space, work visa facilitation, communities network, business development support, design support, promotion platform, market access and serial investment, etc.  

     And so we offer an excellent network to support these needs. We have different types of public and private initiative specially designed to nurture startups and attract talents, including incubation programmes, government funding schemes, networking communities, co-work space and more.

     Take for example the co-work space in Hong Kong. The number has really exploded over the past couple of years, from just three in 2010, all the way to 32 in 2014, more than a 10-fold increase. By working with like-minded talented people in the same space, startup entrepreneurs feed on that extra ounce of synergistic effect to help them succeed.

     One of the Hong Kong Government's programmes, StartmeupHK (StartmeupHK Venture Programme), is giving further impetus to the growth of high impact ventures on a global scale, by facilitating their access to financial, intellectual and social capital.  

     Venture Programme participants have the unique opportunity to pitch their ventures to the judges and a crowd of angel investors, venture capitalists, and overseas and local business communities.

     Having a vibrant startup ecosystem is one way to drive innovation. Another driver for innovation is the protection, trading and management of intellectual property (IP). IP has become a very valuable asset for individuals and SMEs and is the currency for innovation. Knowledge protected by law is traded across borders to drive growth. Over the last two decades, we have seen a growing demand for IP rights in Asia and especially in China.

     In 2012, China recorded the highest number of filings in major types of IP rights such as patents, trademarks and industrial designs in the world.

     On the other hand, Hong Kong, China has long been one of the world's key trading economies and a global financial centre. Now, with Mainland China taking off as an important IP supplier and user, Hong Kong, China is fast becoming the regionˇ¦s IP trading hub.

     Last year, we set up a Working Group on IP Trading to devise policies and strategies, pressing ahead in four areas.

     One: Enhance the IP protection regime.

     Two: Support IP creation and exploitation.

     Three: Foster IP intermediary services and enhance manpower capacity. This involves promoting high-quality services in IP valuation, financing, insurance, arbitration and mediation as well as due diligence and IP matching services.

     Four: Enhance promotion, education and external collaboration in IP, raising awareness among companies, especially SMEs, of the value of IP to their business portfolios.

     Fellow ministers, startups and IP trading are two of the latest developments in Hong Kong, China which aim to promote and nurture ideas and innovation. By these measures, SMEs stand to gain the most by migrating to and accessing a brand new ecology and trading platform, which in turn will enable their businesses to be scalable, sustainable and global.

     Innovation is indeed lifeblood to SMEs. To conclude, I would like to repeat a Winston Churchill quote, which has recently been reinvigorated by a television series:  

     "To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often."

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Friday, September 5, 2014
Issued at HKT 17:46