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Unveiling Hong Kong’s Innovation Landscape

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The inaugural PolyU Innovation & Technology Index (the Index) was released by the Policy Research Centre for Innovation and Technology (PReCIT) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The Index aims to provide valuable insights for enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness and integration into national development within the framework of the 14th Five-Year Plan. It compares Hong Kong’s strengths and challenges in innovation and technology (I&T) with various regions in Greater China and four major bay areas.

In the comparison of Hong Kong with other regions in Greater China, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Beijing have emerged as the top three I&T regions among the 34 surveyed, with I&T Index scores of 6.77, 5.20, and 4.72, respectively. Hong Kong secured the 7th position with an I&T Index score of 3.53.

The city’s ranking is influenced by lower scores in areas such as research and development (R&D), patent numbers, I&T practitioners, startups, and the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP. Despite Hong Kong’s increase in Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a ratio to GDP, rising from 0.74% in 2016 to 0.99% in 2022, it still lags behind the Greater China average of 2.4%.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong surpasses other Greater China regions in metrics like average venture capital deal size and high-technology exports, highlighting its strengths as an international financial hub with a free market economy, vibrant trade environment, and livable surroundings. The study projects that Hong Kong’s ranking could improve to 6th by 2027 and 3rd by 2032 if it achieves the objectives outlined in the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Development Blueprint set by the HKSAR Government.

The PolyU Vice President (Research and Innovation) and PReCIT Director noted the importance of increasing private investment in R&D and encouraging venture capital inflow from the Mainland to support the city’s Fintech and I&T ecosystem. The Co-Director of PReCIT highlighted the significance of patents for measuring I&T progress and recommended increasing funding limits for patents to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

In comparing of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) with other major bay areas, the San Francisco Bay Area and Tokyo Bay Area secured the top two positions, followed by the GBA and the New York Bay Area. The GBA scored lower in R&D and startups but higher in Talent and Impact on society. Suggestions were made to enhance social innovation, inclusivity, education, and healthcare within the GBA, and to strengthen collaboration between Hong Kong and GBA cities to leverage Hong Kong’s financial prowess and facilitate regional development.

The Index is expected to serve as a platform for collaboration and advancement in I&T development, particularly in the domains of new industrialisation, digital economy, and smart city initiatives, following the “Co-operation Agreement between Guangdong and the HKSAR on Co-developing a Smart City Cluster” signed by Guangdong and Hong Kong in March 2023.

PReCIT, established in 2022, is an interdisciplinary I&T think-tank at the university, focusing on research areas such as carbon-neutral cities, Greater Bay Area I&T development, and the Belt and Road Initiative’s impact on Southeast Asia.

The PolyU Innovation & Technology Index sheds light on Hong Kong’s dynamic role in the realm of innovation and technology. While the city faces challenges in areas such as research and development and patent numbers, it showcases remarkable strengths in venture capital and high-tech exports, underscoring its global financial prominence and open-market vitality.

The study’s recommendations, aimed at fostering private investment in R&D and strengthening collaboration with the Greater Bay Area, provide a roadmap for Hong Kong to amplify its I&T potential. As the city continues to harness its strengths and address its challenges, it stands poised to carve an even more impactful niche in the ever-evolving landscape of innovation and technology.

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