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Speech by CE at opening ceremony of APAC Innovation Summit (English only) (with photos/ video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the opening ceremony of the APAC Innovation Summit this morning (December 3):

Vice Minister Cao, Fanny, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to join you today at the APAC Innovation Summit.

     The name may be new, but this is the 10th year the world has come to Hong Kong to talk about technology and innovation. And for that, my thanks and gratitude to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, and all the organisers, supporters and sponsors involved in this impressive production. As for innovation, any conference that presents its opening ceremony three days into the proceedings is surely that - and more. As someone once said, "Innovation is anything but business as usual."

     There is no shortage of definitions of approaches to innovation. Or its opposite. Consider the likes of stagnation, habituation, inertia. These are old hat. Personally, I like Einstein's take on the inverse of innovation: "If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got."

     For years, Hong Kong has been recognised, and celebrated, as one of the world's leading financial centres. But let me assure you that we are not doing what we have always done. You don't have to take my word for it. According to the latest Global Innovation Index, organised by Cornell University, INSEAD and the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, Hong Kong is ranked in the top 10 among the most innovative places in the world. More than 140 economies, by the way, were involved in that survey.

     As for examples, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, our conference organiser, can offer more than a few suggestions. Indeed, five Hong Kong Science Park companies came home with Gold Medals at this year's International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva. They stood out among some 1,000 inventions from around the world.

     Hong Kong scientists have also earned a place in our innovative books. Last year, they were awarded four State Natural Science Awards. That's China's most prestigious award in the natural sciences field. And Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Dr Agachai Sumalee won the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education. It recognises young scientists who demonstrate a commitment to both excellence in scientific research and co-operation with other APEC economies.

     I am, of course, proud of these and other world-class achievers from Hong Kong. But more than the individual honours, I take heart in the larger message: that we, here in Hong Kong, have the talent, and the opportunity, to succeed at the very highest level of innovation and technology (I&T).

     We have, in short, the potential to be the next I&T hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Three "ICs" will support us in that drive. The first "IC" refers to international compatibility. Under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy; our legal and judicial systems are separate and firmly entrenched in the rule of law. And we have, as well, a powerful financial market blessed with a high degree of liquidity and operating under effective and transparent regulations.

     Our second "IC" is international credibility. Thanks to our unwavering commitment to free trade, the US-based Heritage Foundation has named Hong Kong the freest economy in the world every year since 1995. And our simple, low-tax regime has made us one of the most business-friendly cities in the world. We are also one of the least corrupt economies anywhere. That leaves companies free to pursue their business on a level playing field, that is at the same time welcoming and open. Our talented, multilingual workforce is another Hong Kong advantage.

     The last, but surely not the least, "IC" is international connectivity. Our unique geographical location, on the southern coast of China, coupled with world-class infrastructure and logistics, allow us to reach half the world's population within a five-hour flight. And given our advanced telecommunications network, Hong Kong is effectively connected to the whole world - to you, wherever you may happen to be. More importantly, Hong Kong connects the rest of China with the rest of the world, as the super-connector offering the combined advantages of "One Country" and "Two Systems".

     Three "ICs". Thanks to them, I see innovation and technology becoming central to Hong Kong's economic future. Despite the nearly full employment in Hong Kong, the high-yield jobs are too concentrated in areas that we already excel in, like the financial services sector.

     I&T industries, however, can diversify our economy, providing wider employment opportunities in R&D. And that can enhance the competitiveness and growth of related industries.

     At last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit, the APEC CEO Summit, in Beijing, I put forward my view that Hong Kong can play a unique role, that we can serve as the super-connector for the Asia-Pacific region. With the global economy at a critical moment, Hong Kong will continue to make the best use of its position as the region's business and trade hub. And I envision that this super-connector role can work well in the context of I&T as well. In addition to the three ICs I mentioned, Hong Kong brings to the innovation table internationally respected universities and intellectual property rights protection that business can count on.

     Just across the Shenzhen River, which is about 45-minutes' drive from here, we have one of the largest consumer markets in the world and enormous production capacities in the Pearl River Delta. Some 10,000 Hong Kong companies there produce products for the world, with enormous room for technology upgrading. And that would help enhance both their value-added capabilities and their competitiveness.

     The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, known as CEPA in short, may also attract technology companies to Hong Kong.

     Setting up their R&D operations in Hong Kong, foreign companies can then enjoy the benefits of our high value-added content and IP protection together with the vast market prospects of the Mainland of China.

     Of course, even world-class infrastructure, institutional and geographical advantages, and the benefits of "One Country" and "Two Systems" are not enough to put us on the I&T map. Which is why we are committed to creating a dynamic ecosystem, with superior software and hardware support, through five core strategies:

i. providing world-class technology infrastructure to companies and start-ups;
ii. offering financial support to universities, research institutions and industries to commercialise their R&D;
iii. nurturing human resources development;
iv. strengthening collaboration with the Mainland of China in science and technology; and
v. fostering a vibrant culture of innovation.

     Some 10 years along, we are, I'm pleased to note, gradually building up our I&T ecosystem. Hong Kong's gross domestic expenditure on R&D has risen from US$912 million in 2001 to US$1,902 million in 2012, an average annual growth rate of about 7 per cent. The number of R&D personnel has also more than doubled during the same period.

     Turning to our technological infrastructure: Hong Kong Science Park. It's now home to nearly 500 partner companies, and they provide more than 10,000 technology-related jobs. When the new Phase 3 is fully operational, in 2016, the Science Park will be able to accommodate more than 600 partner companies, along with some 15,000 engineers, scientists, researchers, technology entrepreneurs and support staff.

     On the financial side, the Innovation and Technology Fund is our major tool in encouraging Hong Kong companies to upgrade their technology and introduce innovative ideas to their operations. To date, the Fund has provided nearly US$1,144 million to more than 4,000 projects. Earlier this year, we expanded the Fund's scope, providing stronger support to downstream R&D and extra funding to our universities. We want our post-secondary institutions to start their own technology companies and to commercialise their R&D results.

     We're also setting up the Enterprise Support Scheme, extending our funding support for the R&D projects of private-sector companies.
     Our ability to link Mainland and overseas innovators, creating R&D and value for all concerned, is a unique Hong Kong advantage. Enabling this is the Mainland/Hong Kong Science and Technology Co-operation Committee, chaired by Vice Minister Cao and Secretary Greg So.

     We also work closely with the Provincial Government of Guangdong, which is right next door to Hong Kong and the Municipal Government of Shenzhen, which is even closer to Hong Kong, in technological development. The creation of Partner State Key Laboratories is one key result, bringing together our local universities and their Mainland counterparts. We now have 16 Laboratories in Hong Kong, representing a range of scientific and engineering disciplines.

     That, I believe, is a good start. But I also know that it is not enough. While our students are strong in science, technology, engineering and maths, we need to encourage more of them to pursue I&T careers.

     We also need dedicated leadership and stronger policy co-ordination among the various stakeholders in government, industry, academia and research. That is why we are establishing an Innovation and Technology Bureau. My Government has now tabled this initiative at the Legislative Council.

     In closing, my congratulations to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation for staging this ambitious, international gathering.

     I know it will inspire a multitude of ideas, thanks to all of you here. Some of those ideas may well become start-ups. A few may even become game-changing businesses. When that good day arrives, innovation will have done its job.

     I wish you all a very rewarding Summit. And the best of business, and innovation, in the coming year.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:57


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