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HK urged to adopt risk-taking culture to spur innovation

Hong Kong’s risk-averse attitude must change to foster more successful hi-tech entrepreneurs and start-ups, local industry leaders urged.

As the city works to build its own innovation and technology ecosystem that could rival those of other major cities in Asia, this will be key.

A risk-taking culture needs to take root in the city. It will help young entrepreneurs expand their horizons and not be afraid to fail, as they sharpen their efforts to develop new businesses in the hi-tech field, panellists at the latest edition of the “Redefining Hong Kong” noted.

It is important to not just focus on winning ultimately, one expert said, recalling her struggles to hire local talent in 2012, when her company started its operations.

As an example of Hong Kong’s risk-averse attitude, the expert stated that her local team turned down an opportunity to relocate to Shanghai in 2016, as the firm expanded its operations in the world’s second-largest economy.

Efforts in Hong Kong to change that mindset have taken on more significance amid increased competition for talent, capital and start-ups with other hi-tech hubs like Singapore, Israel and Silicon Valley.

Governments worldwide are tapping the opportunities thrown up by the array of new technologies that have emerged in recent years while trying to minimise the impact that these disruptive forces may have on current jobs and industries.

In February, the Hong Kong government doubled down on its support for innovation and technology by setting aside an HK$45 billion funding package in its latest budget.

That package will finance initiatives that include the IT Innovation Lab programme in secondary schools; the refurbishing of research laboratories and other related facilities in government-funded universities; and further support for the Innovation and Technology Fund to launch a re-industrialisation scheme.

However, a Hong Kong legislator, a representative of the city’s information technology functional constituency, noted that companies shouldn’t rely entirely on the government to take the lead.

On the other hand, competitors are getting a lot of this support. Hence, the aim is to match the same level in some way.

While the government is investing in hi-tech infrastructure and new funding programmes, local entrepreneurs need to be more ambitious and look beyond short-term business plans.

By comparison, the founders of hi-tech start-ups in the Chinese mainland are setting bigger goals based on long-term strategic thinking.

That approach has led to increased venture capital funding to start-ups in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Last year, nine out of the 10 largest public venture capital deals involved start-ups in Asia – seven of which were based in China, according to a capital market research firm.

Hong Kong’s long-term positioning should focus on its advantage in network intelligence, another expert, who also noted that the city remains a bridge between China and the rest of the world. It should help start-ups find and pursue more opportunities.

In January 2019, the HKSAR Government announced it aims to build, empower and boost Hong Kong’s start-up ecosystem and entrepreneurship by bringing entrepreneurs, corporates, investors and the public together, helping to transform Hong Kong into a leading hub for global innovation and technology (I&T).

This echoed the policy objectives of the current-term HKSAR Government in developing an inspiring environment conducive to I&T, with a view to creating new industries and wealth, providing more employment for young people, promoting upward mobility and improving people’s livelihood.

Capitalising on its advantages under “one country, two systems”, strategic geographical location, established a legal system, robust protection for intellectual property, highly efficient financial platforms and world-class universities, with four of its universities among the world’s top 100, Hong Kong has gained a solid footing in driving I&T growth.

Looking forward, the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and collaboration between Hong Kong and Shenzhen will connect the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of innovation and technology industries, thereby developing an international I&T hub in the Greater Bay Area.

The immense synergy effects so generated will provide powerful support for Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem to thrive.

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