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LCQ1: Policies on innovation and technology

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Kenneth Chan and a reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (December 16):


     Established on the 20th of last month, the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) is responsible for formulating and implementing policies on innovation and technology. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that when the Finance Committee of this Council deliberated on the funding applications for the establishment of the ITB in the past, members put forward quite a number of views and recommendations in relation to policies on innovation and technology, whether the ITB will collate and analyse those views and recommendations, and take follow-up actions on them; if the ITB will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the ITB will expeditiously formulate blueprints and objectives for implementing policies on innovation and technology, and establish a series of indicators for assessing the effectiveness of such policies; if the ITB will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; how the ITB will, in the course of formulating those blueprints and objectives, strive to gain support from the public, e.g. whether the ITB will conduct public consultations; if the ITB will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that the resources for various research funding schemes launched by the University Grants Committee are allocated on a competitive basis, whether the ITB will introduce new policies and strategies to promote co-operation among institutions, with a view to developing the innovation and technology industries in Hong Kong more effectively; if the ITB will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The question raised by Dr the Hon Chan concerns the policy objectives and work of the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB), while the third part of the question is about promoting co-operation among universities on scientific research.  Having consulted the relevant policy bureau, my reply is as follows:

(1) and (2) The development of innovation and technology is a strong economic driver, which is very important for fostering the diversification of our economic development and raising Hong Kong's competitiveness, as well as improving the quality of life of our people.  After three years of deliberations, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved the funding proposal for establishing the ITB on November 6.  The ITB was officially established on November 20 and is responsible for policies relating to the development of innovation and technology, as well as information technology.  At this juncture, I must extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the Members who voted for the establishment of the ITB, and for attending over 60 hours of meetings.  We would also like to sincerely thank all Members and different sectors of the community for providing valuable opinions during deliberations of the funding proposal with regard to policies on promoting innovation and technology.  The views expressed by Members of the Finance Committee covered a number of areas, including the provision of sufficient land for developing research and high value-added manufacturing industries, promoting "re-industrialisation", promoting the development of local innovation and technology industry, nurturing local technology talents and increasing employment opportunities, promoting research and development (R&D) and commercialisation of R&D results, setting performance indicators for the development of innovation and technology, using innovation and technology to tackle social problems, co-ordinating among stakeholders, etc.  These views were very important.  Taking into account the views of all Members and various sectors of the community, I have earlier proposed nine work priorities, which aim at setting policy directions on innovation and technology.  The work related to each priority item has gradually commenced.

     I wish to point out that, the successful development of innovation and technology requires the support of all stakeholders, including the full interaction and co-operation among the Government, industry, academia and research sector.  The Government assumes the role of facilitator in providing quality hardware and software support, which allows stakeholders to develop and apply innovation and technology together in a favourable environment, thereby promoting the diversification of our economic development, creating more quality employment opportunities and making people's life more convenient and comfortable.

     Dr the Hon Chan points out the need of setting indicators to assess policy effectiveness.  I fully agree that setting key performance indicators (KPIs) is a very important task.  However, during the process of setting these indicators, we need to reach consensus with stakeholders, so as to ensure that the indicators are effective and acceptable to parties concerned.  The development of innovation and technology is an ever-evolving process, and KPIs are only part of the means to measure our work over this long-term and continuous evolution.  The indicators, after being set, would also need to be regularly reviewed and revised in light of the actual situation at that time.  We are currently discussing issues on KPIs with all stakeholders via different channels, including the Advisory Committee on Innovation and Technology that I chair.  I am confident that the nine work priorities that I put forth will gradually yield results, and lay a solid foundation for the development of innovation and technology.

(3) The Government has always actively supported higher education institutions on conducting research.  The Research Grants Council (RGC) under the University Grant Committee (UGC) currently provides funding to all higher education institutions by means of research grants.  Research projects involving complex or cross-disciplinary subjects would require participation of talents from multiple disciplines and different institutions.  As these projects would have far-reaching technological and academic impacts, the RGC strongly encourages collaboration both within and among institutions.  The RGC currently operates various collaborative research funding schemes to support collaborative research of different scales.  In the 2014/15 academic year, the RGC granted $410 million for collaborative research, involving 103 research projects.

     Apart from the research funding schemes under the UGC, the Government also established the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) in 1999 to support applied research projects that facilitate technology upgrading in manufacturing and service industries, and promote the application of innovation.  The local universities are one of the target recipients of the ITF.  In the past three financial years (2012-13 to 2014-15), the ITF funded a total of over 770 research projects, with total funding amounting to $2 billion.  About 400 of these research projects were carried out by local universities, involving a funding of $820 million.  The industry participated in 222 of these projects, involving a funding of $620 million.

     For the R&D projects under the ITF, there is no specified ceiling on the number of funding projects approved and the total funding amount.  In other words, universities do not have to compete among themselves for funding.  The ITF also welcomes collaboration among institutions on R&D projects.

Ends/Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:49


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