Speech by CE at Science and Technology Innovation Summit (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, this morning (December 6) at the Science and Technology Innovation Summit at Hong Kong Science Park:

Professor Tsui Lap-Chee, Mr Wan Gang, Professor Bai Chunli, Mrs Fanny Law, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It is a distinct pleasure to join you today for the first Science and Technology Summit. I am grateful to the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong for organising this timely gathering, for bringing together prominent academics and science and technology leaders from Hong Kong and from all over the world.
     To our visitors, a very warm welcome to Hong Kong, Asia's world city. Now that we are in December, looking back on the year so far, I believe we can safely say that 2015 will be described as a science, innovation and technology year of Hong Kong. I shall explain later. Before that, let me delve a bit into history. Historically, the connection between the advent of technology and social and economic developments have long been recognised. We recognised the correlations on the local, national and the global levels. On the people level, new technology improved lives. On the economic level, also throughout history, new technology brought new industry, new trade and new wealth. Porcelain is an example, a Chinese example. The utility of this material surpassed clay and metal in people's daily lives. The growth in demand brought in new industry in many parts of China. It provided wealth, in and around porcelain centres. The export of porcelain then became a major trade, giving China a handsome surplus in silver. Thirty years ago, I visited the Istanbul museum, as a tourist, that has a very large collection of Ming, a blue and white porcelain, that were imported from China. They were all made to order with Islamic features. Silk was the same Chinese story. The extraction of silk from cocoons and the weaving of silk fibre into fabric also required what we today would call innovation and technology. It also spawned no less than a whole new economic sector and prompted international trade. The new product travelled wide and far.

     Today, science, innovation and technology bring revolutionary and disruptive change to our lives at a pace and on a scale that are unprecedented.

     The Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerbergs, Jack Mas and other technology titans of today's world have re-made, and continue to re-make, our lives in countless ways, large and small. An expansion of their businesses have taken on an unprecedented speed. As Bill Gates put it: "Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time".

     My government believes in science, innovation and technology. We believe in the positive impacts that this sector will have on the people and on the economy, and we are committed to creating the necessary ecosystem, government infrastructure and policies to support innovation, science and technology developments in Hong Kong. We firmly believe in the potential of this sector. Our international partners see it exactly the same way.

     In February this year, the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden, a world renowned medical and life science research institution, announced that it would set up Karolinska Institutet China-Hong Kong Regenerative Medicine Centre. Preparation is now underway. The facility will be housed in Science Park and will be ready in some six months. This will be the first research base of Karolinska outside Sweden in its two hundred year history.

     Less than a month ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the launch of an "Innovation Node" in Hong Kong. The "collaborative space" will allow MIT students, faculty and researchers to work on a variety of projects alongside Hong Kong students and faculty, as well as entrepreneurs and businesses. Let me quote the following passages from the MIT announcement last month. I quote: "the Innovation Node will deepen MIT's activities in Hong Kong and, through Hong Kong, in the entire Pearl River Delta region. In addition to the presence of strong research universities, a major reason why MIT chose to establish an Innovation Node in Hong Kong is because it provides ready access to a unique manufacturing infrastructure that encourages prototyping and scale-up. About an hour's commute from Hong Kong's Central District lies Shenzhen, a city home to many scientists and engineers - and fast, low-volume manufacturing. Manufacturers in Shenzhen have mastered the ability to prototype device to unit quantities of hundreds overnight. This unparalleled speed of small quantity manufacturing is unique to Shenzhen."

     Let me offer a couple of personal footnotes to this MIT statement. Shenzhen is about twenty minutes by car from where we are, and is about forty minutes from the central business district of Hong Kong. It has a population of twenty million people, and it has the highest GDP per capita amongst all 660 cities on the Mainland of China. It started life thirty-something years ago as a Special Economic Zone and was given special policies by the Central Government. Now it competes on an equal footing with all cities in the country and all other cities in the world.

     And again a personal footnote to the Pearl River Delta mentioned in the MIT announcement. The Pearl River Delta Region is a very important hinterland, and an increasingly important partner of Hong Kong in all sectors and on all levels. I and some of my colleagues paid a visit to several cities in the Delta region, actually on the west bank of the Peal River, a couple of days ago, having just returned yesterday afternoon. It is one of the most prosperous, and one of the most upward-looking cities, or regions, in the country. Heavy investments are being pasted in this region, particularly to improve the connections between Hong Kong and that part of the country.

     For example when building the longest bridge of its kind in the world to connect Hong Kong and Zhuhai, which is at the tip of this west bank of the Pearl River Delta region, is 55 kilometres long and will be ready in about three years. We are also building a fast speed railway to connect Hong Kong with its region and beyond. Hong Kong to Guangzhou taking this high speed train when it is completed, again in about three years' time, will take about 40 minutes and we have the entire west bank and east bank of the Pearl River Delta region within an hour's reach from Hong Kong.

     What is the meaning to us in the area or looking at the area of innovation, science and technology? It will mean that Hong Kong will be able to co-operate with these cities - major cities in the country in this space, science and technology on all levels upstream, mid-stream and down-stream and that is exactly what I believe MIT had in mind when they chose Hong Kong to establish the first overseas innovation node.

     Now Karolinska. The name of the Karolinska research base China Hong Kong Centre, and as I said the MIT announcement say it all, Hong Kong, among its many other attributes, is the super-connector of the rest of China and the rest of the world. And this applies not only to financial services, trade and culture, but also to science, innovation, and technology as well. It's all powered by the twin engines of our "one country, two systems" arrangements. Hong Kong is part of China, when an international partner works with Hong Kong, it works with China. But Hong Kong offers so as to speak the "other system". And this "other system" will provide a common law system, rule of law, an independent judiciary, and robust intellectual property regime, fully convertible currency, the free flow of information, and the world regulated financial sector.

     Hong Kong is also the most international city of China. English, alongside Chinese is an official language. We are the only city in China where all universities use English as a teaching and research language. We have a user-friendly immigration regime and provide visa-free access to citizens of most countries in the world. Anyone of any nationality who has taken Hong Kong as his or her residence qualify as a permanent resident without change of nationality. A permanent resident of Hong Kong has uninhibited residency and employment rights. He or she becomes a voter upon registration again without giving up his or her original nationality. Above all, we have a simple tax system and low tax rates. We are a welcoming society, we welcome collaboration as much as we welcome competition, because we believe that both collaboration and competition will sharpen our skills sets.

     I went to some lengths to describe these attributes of Hong Kong for three reasons. One, we welcome and indeed we need cross-border collaboration, whether it is collaboration from other parts of China or other parts of the world. Second, by working together in science, innovation and technology of mainland Chinese and international partners, Hong Kong is super-connector at its best. Third, we believe that at the end of the day, the one factor that will determine how well we do in science, innovation and technology, is people. People from Hong Kong, the rest of China, and again the rest of the world. The 27 founding members of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong are outstanding talents from Hong Kong, other parts of the country, and again other parts of the world. They have contributed significantly to society's advancement and well-being. Their discoveries vividly review the impact of science and technology on our daily lives.

     Since we are in the auditorium named after Professor Charles Kao, and since he is one of the honorary members of the Academy, allow me to recognise his contributions. Had it not been for Professor Kao's Nobel Prize-winning discovery, using fibre glass for long-distance information transfer, we would not have known the exponential development of the information and technology communications industry over these past two decades.

     I am confident that our scientific nucleus will only grow in the future. Hong Kong students traditionally excel in science and maths. In its latest findings of Program for International Student Assessment 2012, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at students from some 65 countries and regions. Hong Kong's 15-year-olds, I am pleased to note, ranked second in scientific literacy and third in mathematical literacy.

     Entrepreneurship is also picking up in Hong Kong. Our start-up ecosystem has rocketed in the past few years, with more than 1,500 start-ups in place as of August, up 50 per cent, year-on-year.

     Hong Kong people certainly have the DNA for creativity and entrepreneurship. But we need to look beyond short-term profits, to invest for the future and in the future. I believe we are working in that direction right now.

     Although much of tomorrow's innovation will be powered by the free market, we also need investment, enabling policies and the support of the public sector.

     That means continuing to invest heavily in research and development íV the foundation of innovation. It means continuing to extend our talent pool by promoting collaboration between universities and industry, by promoting collaboration between local institutions and overseas institutions, by promoting collaboration between local scientists and international and mainland scientists. It means, as well, that we will provide support through incubation programmes.

     And we will continue to encourage the private sector's participation in research and development, through funding. In this connection, we have in place an Innovation and Technology Fund; it supports all downstream research, product development and commercialisation activities carried out by universities, research institutes and enterprises.

     Ensuring that we have world-class technological infrastructure is also critical to driving innovation and technology. In that regard, the Hong Kong Science Park is our flagship technology centre. It provides facilities, services and a dynamic environment, enabling companies to nurture and commercialise their ideas.

     At present, Science Park counts some 570 local, Mainland and overseas technology companies; that includes more than 220 start-ups. And we have plans in place to expand Science Park further.

     The Central Government has set out a "Made in China 2025" strategy in its 2015 Government Work Report. It emphasises innovative and high technologies to spearhead a smart and environmentally friendly manufacturing industry.

     To coordinate and further energise the development of the science, innovation and technology sector, we established a new government bureau íV the Innovation and Technology Bureau. A top priority for the Bureau is to strengthen collaboration and coordination between the government, industry, academia and research. This Bureau was established 3 weeks ago.

     So 2015 is indeed a science, innovation and technology year for Hong Kong, and we have three, or four, major initiatives. As I said, one, Karolinska Institutet announcing their establishment of their first overseas research base in Hong Kong, the Karolinska Institutet China-Hong Kong Regenerative Medicine Centre. The MIT announced the establishment of the first overseas Innovation Node in Hong Kong. We have established the Innovation and Technology Bureau in government and last night, in the evening, we witnessed the inauguration of the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong. So, whatever also happen will continue to happen in the rest of 2015. It has been a promising year for this sector.

     And looking ahead, I wish you all a very rewarding summit and further on the best of 2016 in innovation, science and technology.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Sunday, December 6, 2015
Issued at HKT 14:05