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HKUST sets up fund to support tech start-ups

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has set up HKUST Entrepreneurship Fund (E-Fund) to support the development of start-ups at HKUST – especially those in their early stage.

The fund seeks to facilitate knowledge transfer, promote entrepreneurial spirit among HKUST stakeholders, and bring about social and economic impact.

With initial funding of HK$50 million committed by the University, E-fund is expected to invest in HKUST start-up companies for the next five years.

Donations in support of entrepreneurship in innovation and technology can also be allocated to the fund. Selected companies may receive up to HK$2 million of investment from HKUST in support of activities including research and development, as well as business and market development.

Start-ups featuring innovative technologies and/or business models would have advantages of being selected.

The Vice-Chairman of the University Council and Chairman of University Council’s Knowledge Transfer Committee said that while it appeared that more funding is available for start-ups these days, it remains difficult for early-stage start-ups to secure financial support, yet it is most crucial for their survival and sometimes determines if a brilliant idea can be turned into something that changes life.

It is hoped that the E-Fund will provide another platform for the grooming of potential start-ups and talents, and contribute to Hong Kong’s development in innovation and technology.

E-Fund can either syndicate with qualified co-investment partners or act as a lead investor. Co-investment partners can be institutional venture capital (VC) including financial VCs and corporate VCs, or family offices and corporate entities – preferably with an innovation and technology focus as well as VC investment experience.

Co-investment can create a multiplier effect in availing more matching funds to HKUST start-ups.

In addition, the University can leverage the expertise of co-investment partners in due diligence and selection, as well as in helping the growth of start-ups.

There are about 340,000 start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong. They constitute over 98% of its business establishments and employ about 45% of the workforce in the private sector. Their vitality and business performance are of crucial importance to the development of Hong Kong’s economy.

More specifically, tech start-ups are on the rise. As the world goes increasingly digital, it is vital that Hong Kong rallies around these firms to help them gain access to more knowledge and resources.

This was a key point of the Hong Kong Budget 2019. The Government is focused on developing a diversified economy, innovation and technology (I&T) and expanding market coverage. Re-industrialisation has become a salient part of the Administration’s main focus.

In February, the Financial Secretary announced that $2 billion would be injected into the Innovation and Technology Fund for launching a Re-industrialisation Funding Scheme to subsidise manufacturers on a matching basis to help them set up smart production lines in Hong Kong.

The Government has been urged to continue efforts to further encourage re-industrialisation. This can be done by considering the provision of tax concessions or deductions to relevant investments and operations.

In addition, the Government is pushing hard to develop more tech talent. To this end, the Budget suggested optimising the current “Internship Programme” and “Postdoctoral Hub” Scheme and setting aside $16 billion for universities to enhance campus R&D facilities and laboratories, providing the most favourable environment for I&T talents to engage in teaching and research activities.


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