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SCED's speech at International Conference on Systematic Innovation and Global Competition on Systematic Innovation (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the International Conference on Systematic Innovation and Global Competition on Systematic Innovation today (July 15):

Dr Li (Chairman of the Institute of Systematic Innovation, Hong Kong, Dr Michael Li), distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to join you all at the International Conference on Systematic Innovation and Global Competition on Systematic Innovation. I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all the participants, especially those from overseas.  

     Systematic innovation, as I understand, is a methodical path or environment that allows innovations to thrive repeatedly. Today is an excellent occasion to hear from various experts their problem-identifying and problem-solving experiences that allow their innovations to materialise. My sharing today, meanwhile, will examine systematic innovation from a different perspective. I will tell you why Hong Kong is an ideal and consistent environment that attracts and allows innovations to grow and succeed.  

     Innovation is all about challenging the status quo. In the past 15 years, we have witnessed the emergence of many disruptive innovations that revolutionise the way we live and communicate, enabling us to do things faster, easier and in a more enjoyable manner. Look at Alibaba, Amazon and eBay, they are disrupting the conventional ways of distributing and selling goods. Look at Facebook and Twitter, these social media tools have changed forever the way we manage our relationships with people.  

     Hong Kong is certainly no stranger to innovations. A prime example is Octopus, a home-grown RFID-based (radio-frequency identification) system. It is now one of the world's leading smart-card payment systems. Another example is Coachbase, a digital playbook developed by a local entrepreneur Keith Rumjahn. This cloud-based app quickly topped the sales chart and won the support of thousands of users from recreational coaches to NBA (National Basketball Association) teams. Sensbeat, a Hong Kong student startup headed by Leo Wong, has been gaining a lot of traction in the angel fund and venture capital circle. Sensbeat is a social networking app that allows users to post status updates based on the song they are listening to and the emotion it elicits. It is like a Twitter for music lovers. Scoutbots, another Hong Kong-based startup, was recently named the 10th most innovative company in China, joining the ranks of Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi. Scoutbots designs and manufactures autonomous sailing boats for various ocean needs such as cleaning oil spill and collecting data for scientists.  

     Another interesting case is Aivvy, a company that originated in the Silicon Valley, moved to Hong Kong and is currently an incubatee in the Hong Kong Science Park. The company met its US$125,000 crowdfunding goal just 26 hours after launching a Kickstarter campaign for Aivvy Q. Aivvy Q is a smart headphone with a built-in music player that learns from your listening habits and intelligently curates playlists based on your personal preferences.  

     Now, you may ask, why do these innovations choose to stay in or come to Hong Kong? What makes Hong Kong stand out from the fierce competition? The answer is we have the right environment for innovative and globally scalable enterprises to grow and sustain their businesses.

     First, Hong Kong is a free and competitive economy. We have a low and simple tax system and we have a level playing field for all companies. Indeed, you would expect nothing less from an economy that is consistently ranked as the freest in the world. We have retained the top spot in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom for 21 years in a row. This status reflects real advantages for starting businesses and sustaining innovative ventures in Hong Kong.

     Then, we have the resources. We know that innovative enterprises need many things: seed funding, office space, business development support, design support, promotion platforms, market access and serial investment. And so we offer an excellent network to address such needs. We have different types of public and private initiatives especially designed to nurture startups and attract talents including incubation programmes, government funding schemes, networking communities, co-work spaces and more. Take co-work spaces as an example - the number of co-work spaces in Hong Kong continues to climb and now stands at well over 40, up from just three in 2010. These platforms offer valuable networking opportunities for technology startups.  

     What else have we done? In line with our policy to promote innovation and technology, Hong Kong has a comprehensive IP (intellectual property) protection regime to effectively protect the fruits of your innovation and creativity. We are poised to develop into a regional marketplace providing professional services in licensing, franchising and IP registration. Our intermediaries can help manage and add value in the IP trading and management processes.

     We are also blessed with a geographical advantage. Our location has enabled us to become the key platform between Mainland China and the world in technological collaboration and trading. We are strategically located at the heart of Asia and on the doorstep of Mainland China. For technology enterprises looking to tap into Asia's huge market potential, we are the most convenient base, providing a world-class logistic and ICT (information and communications technology) infrastructure.

     Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong is an ideal place for innovations to grow and thrive. Apart from business-friendly policies, Hong Kong also has a great location, sophisticated infrastructure and a robust IP protection regime to help innovations like yours to commercialise and take off.

     I will end with a quote from Winston Churchill. "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." We live in the era of innovation, an era of unprecedented change. Let's embrace this change and bring our success to the next level. I wish you all fruitful conference. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:35


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