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Opening speech by S for IT at Healthy Ageing Summit of Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit (English only)
     Following is the opening speech by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, at the Healthy Ageing Summit of the Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit today (June 18):

Fanny (Chairman of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Mrs Fanny Law), Albert (Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Mr Albert Wong), distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. I am delighted to join you all at the third and final day of the Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit. First of all, to the fathers who are here with us this morning - happy Father's Day.

     We know very well that Hong Kong is an ageing society. Over the next 20 years, our elderly people will make up about one-third of our people. An ageing society, however, is not necessarily degenerative. Having one-third of our people above the age of 65 does not necessarily mean that our labour force shrinks by a third, and that the burden on our medical system increases by a third. Quite the contrary, we believe that we can, and we should, age healthily and actively. The key lies in innovation and technology.

     The Government puts innovation and technology among the top of our policy agenda. Not only is innovation the key to our sustained and diversified economic growth, it is also the key to improving various facets of our daily living. In fact, when we set up the Innovation and Technology Bureau back in November 2015, we stressed the importance of encouraging the application of technology in addressing social issues. The issue of healthy ageing is particularly close to our heart, and that is why we advocate healthy ageing - especially biomedicine - as one of the key areas for innovation and technology development in Hong Kong.

     Blessed with one of the world's highest densities of top-notch universities, Hong Kong has a pool of high-calibre biomedical scientists who are at the forefront of their disciplines, such as non-invasive prenatal diagnosis and infectious diseases. Amongst the 16 Partner State Key Laboratories in Hong Kong approved by the Central Government's Ministry of Science and Technology, 13 are conducting research in biotechnology-related areas, for example liver research, brain and cognitive science, pharmaceutical biotechnology, molecular neuroscience, digestive disease and cancer. Over the years, the Innovation and Technology Fund - the Government's major vehicle in funding academic institutions, R&D centres and private companies to conduct applied R&D - has awarded over $810 million to over 410 biotechnology-related projects.

     Our edge in biomedical science has also caught the attention of international institutions. Karolinska Institutet of Sweden opened its first offshore research facility in the Hong Kong Science Park last October, focusing on research in stem cell biology, biomedical engineering and regenerative medicine. We are working to attract even more R&D institutions and technology firms in the biomedicine sector to set up their R&D offices in Hong Kong, and in so doing, growing Hong Kong into an international hub in biomedicine.

     Now all these may sound a bit far-fetched to some of you. Please rest assured that we care about transferring these technologies from the labs to our society. In fact, the Government has been supporting R&D centres in applying their R&D outcomes, including those pertaining to improving elderly service and enhancing the elderly's quality of life, in public sector organisations. Just to name a few examples - three of our R&D centres have jointly developed wearable RFID-tagged vests made with comfortable advanced materials for locating elderly suffering from dementia; one has developed a Community Elderly Healthcare System for health data collection, instant feedback on the collected vital sign measurement data and health data report generation; and another has developed a smart guiding cane which provides voice guidance for the visually impaired along tactile paving embedded with RFID tags for easier navigation.

     To encourage our universities to conduct more theme-based midstream research in key technology areas, we launched the $2 billion Midstream Research Programme for Universities last December. Under the theme of "Elderly Health and Care", we have invited research project proposals that aimed to enhance the well-being of our senior citizens, especially those suffering from dementia, in the first round of application. We are pleased that by the application deadline at end-March 2017, we have received over 110 project proposals from six of our universities. Among the proposals, many would leverage technology to achieve the objective and involve collaboration across multiple disciplines or institutions. With the implementation of the Midstream Research Programme, we are hopeful that more research outcomes could be made available for further downstream research or development of new products or services for the elderly.

     Furthermore, we launched the $500 million Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living about two weeks ago. The programme encourages NGOs, public bodies, professional bodies and trade associations to, through the innovative application of technologies, create products and services that improve people's daily living or benefit specific community groups, including the elderly. More information can be found in the leaflets available at the Expo. I am sure many of you will find this programme interesting, and I encourage you to take one step forward - make an application and unleash your innovative power.

     Clearly, healthy ageing is a cross-sector issue which requires joint efforts by our scientists, our healthcare experts, our caregivers, our social service professionals, and our policymakers. The Gerontech and Innovation Expo cum Summit is one such invaluable platform that draws these stakeholders together to promote the power of innovation and technology for healthy and active ageing in the wider community, and to prioritise the areas that are in need of innovative solutions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, as well as the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, for helping to put together this wonderful event. I wish you all a very fruitful discussion today.

     Thank you very much.
Ends/Sunday, June 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 13:10
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