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Hong Kong will invest more tech talent in 2019

The Hong Kong 2019-2020 Budget was announced on 27 February 2019 at the legislature. The regions Financial Secretary. The HKSAR Government is determined to ensure that the standards of living increase and that the region’s population is safeguarded from the looming prospect of economic hardship.

Under one of its objectives, the Government hopes to train more tech talent so as to enable the region to grow as a digital and innovation hub.

Pooling Innovation and Technology Talent

The current job market is seeing keen global competition for technology talent. Thus, the Government introduced the Technology Talent Admission Scheme in June 2018 to expedite the admission of such talent to undertake R&D activities in Hong Kong.

Participating enterprises are required to employ local employees and interns concurrently. So far, over 200 places have been approved under the scheme. The implementation details of the scheme will be reviewed in the first half of 2019.

In addition, the Researcher Programme has so far sponsored over 3,700 local graduates to join the I&T industry. The Postdoctoral Hub Programme launched last year has also sponsored over 350 postdoctoral talents to pursue a career in R&D.

To attract more local graduates to the industry, the Government will increase, with immediate effect, the monthly allowance from $16,000 to $18,000 for researchers with a Bachelor’s degree, and from $19,000 to $21,000 for researchers with a Master’s degree.

The funding period of both the Researcher Programme and the Postdoctoral Hub Programme has been extended from two years to three years with immediate effect. This means R&D institutes or enterprises can hire relevant R&D talents for three years which give them ample time for demonstrating their professional strengths in R&D projects.

To pave the way for nurturing local technology talents, we will also encourage the promotion of popular science education in schools.  The Financial Secretary will deploy $500 million to implement the IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools Programme in the coming three school years.

Each secondary school benefiting will be granted $1 million to procure the necessary information technology (IT) equipment and professional services, and organise more relevant extra-curricular activities to deepen students’ knowledge of cutting-edge IT, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and big data, with a view to helping young people build a good IT foundation early during their secondary school years.

In addition to financial support, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) will set up a one-stop professional support centre to provide assistance.

Supporting Technology Enterprises

Technology enterprises and start-ups, in particular, are an integral component of the I&T ecosystem, with an important role in facilitating commercialisation and application of R&D results as well as developing innovative ideas.

In 2014, the Government launched the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities, which has so far supported 188 start-ups established by university teams to venture beyond their campus.

The maximum annual funding for each university will be increased from the existing $4 million to $8 million starting from 2019-20 to better nurture university start-ups.

IN 2018, $7 billion was reserved for the HKSTPC to enhance support for its tenants and incubatees, with part of the funding dedicated to expanding Incubation Programme. The programme has had over 120 applications so far.

In addition, the Corporate Venture Fund (CVF), launched by the HKSTPC in 2015, co-invests on a matching basis with angel investors or venture capital funds in tenants and incubatees of the Science Park.

The CVF has already committed the entire fund of $50 million to invest in nine projects and acted as a catalyst in attracting more than $670 million from co-investors.  Building on the success, the HKSTPC will expand the CVF to $200 million to support the growth of its tenants and incubatees.

In last year’s Budget, $200 million was injected into Cyberport to enhance the support for its tenants and start-ups. Cyberport used this to increase the financial subsidy under its incubation programme to $500,000 and introduced the Overseas/Mainland Market Development Support Scheme to offer an additional subsidy of $200,000.

Moreover, Cyberport launched the Easy Landing Scheme to attract multinational corporations to set up offices and R&D units in Cyberport through rental concessions.

To encourage private investments in local I&T start-ups, the Government set up the $2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund to co-invest in local I&T start-ups together with venture capital funds.  We selected a total of six Co-investment Partners in mid-2018, and have been receiving co-investment proposals.

Other Supporting Measures

The Government is striving to remove unnecessary constraints for I&T development and create more opportunities for the procurement of I&T products and services.  A pro-innovation Government procurement policy will be produced in April 2019 to enable innovative proposals to stand a better chance of winning government contracts.

The Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office has started reviewing existing laws which are outdated and impede I&T development.

The Way Forward

Thus, Hong Kong is in an excellent position to promote I&T development, and are presented with unprecedented opportunities arising from the Greater Bay Area development, which offers more cooperation opportunities for local I&T enterprises as well as capabilities in commercialising R&D results and advanced manufacturing.

The Government can promote technological collaboration, interaction among industries and productisation of scientific and technological achievements, thereby facilitating the development of the Greater Bay Area into an international I&T hub.

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