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HK pushes for tech talent in new sectors

Over the past year, Hong Kong has suffered many blows owing to political factors, whose impact was augmented by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

To help companies return to normalcy and to accelerate research and innovation capabilities within the country, Hong Kong decided to augment its technology talent admission scheme.

It was noted that the scheme has been amended to “add six new technology areas to the existing seven technology areas covered by the scheme and extend coverage to all companies conducting research and development activities within the eligible technology areas.”

The technology talent admission scheme was originally launched in 2018, rolled out by Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) to help companies involved in research and innovation work in the country attract and employ foreign talent.

Initially, the scheme covered tenants and incubates the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) and Cyberport Management Company Limited (Cyberport) in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, financial technologies, material science, and robotics.

Now, with the update, the need to have a presence in HKSTPC or Cyberport has been eliminated, making the scheme available to a wider range of companies involved in research & development activities.

The new areas that the update concerns itself with are 5G communications, digital entertainment, green technology, integrated circuit design, internet of things (IoT), and microelectronics.

Although the scheme makes it possible for companies to acquire and onboard talent more quickly (two weeks versus up to six weeks under regular visa application processes), it does require companies to hire a proportionate number of local talents – but this is done at the initial quota application stage rather than each time a visa is issued.

Over the next few months, as the world battles the COVID-19 outbreak, and Hong Kong deals with obstacles hindering its path to normalcy and accelerated progress with technology, the upgrade to the talent program is expected to provide quite an incentive.

Hong Kong is a great destination when it comes to technology innovations because of its ability to attract talent from the West as well as from the Mainland, fostering collaboration among teams and creating opportunities for exciting innovations that are out of the ordinary in most cases.

The country has been producing a strong pool of fresh talent from its universities as well, which will have better opportunities to train and grow their skills under the management and through the mentoring provided by overseas talent brought into the country.

One advisory was positive about the scheme’s upgrade – but the government might need to further incentivize businesses to take on the offer and make the necessary investments in their operations at this time.

Another article stated that Hong Kong has been considered an emerging digital powerhouse thanks to its growing technology capabilities, digital advances, and innovative breakthroughs.

The unprecedented growth of its technological means has helped position the city’s digital economy as one of the most progressive in the Asia Pacific – but its e-commerce and e-payment markets are yet to truly flourish like those of its neighbours, Singapore and Indonesia.

Interestingly, Hong Kong is saturated with a wide range of physical retailers and services which can be easily accessed and, as such, its citizens haven’t surged online to buy their goods like many other parts of APAC.

However, with the current pandemic forcing would-be shoppers indoors, while those venturing out for groceries are exercising extra caution, both Hong Kong’s e-payments and e-commerce sectors are benefiting – as well as the last-mile logistics market that supports the latter.

While Hong Kong is still in lockdown, the preference for digital services is expected to continue as citizens adapt to these new means.

Concurrently, to support the surge in online activities and ensure businesses scale up their operations effectively, the city is expected to expand its network capabilities through 5G and cloud facilities.

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