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Grid) and The Hongkong Electric Company, Limited (HK Electric) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to extend their joint collaboration in running the “Belt and Road Advanced Professional Development Programme in Power and Energy” (The Programme) for another three years.

The Programme aims to nurture senior management talent in power and energy-related fields through diversified, cross-regional, systematic and innovative training schemes to meet the rising demand for talent in the Belt and Road countries and regions, thereby promoting the sustainable development of infrastructure and facilitating economic growth in these countries and regions in line with the Belt and Road strategies of the Nation.

This cross-regional and multi-cultural university-industry collaboration programme is the first-of-its-kind in both Mainland China and Hong Kong.

The Silk Road International School of Engineering (SRISE) was set up jointly by PolyU and XJTU in 2017 and later partnered with State Grid and HK Electric to organise the first university-industry collaboration programme of this type, to nurture senior talent for the power and energy industry.

The Programme has attracted over 200 industry professionals from Belt and Road countries/regions and has generated nearly 5,300 contact hours through talks, seminars and field trips, achieving remarkable results in promoting knowledge exchange among the participants.

PolyU, XJTU, State Grid and HK Electric are joining forces again this year by contributing their knowledge, research findings and practical experience in the field of energy, to enhance technical cooperation and exchange across Belt and Road countries/regions. The renewed collaboration which is set for three more years will focus on short-term training and exchange initiatives.

Training programmes will be run by SRISE focusing on two major themes, namely the “Key Technologies of Energy Interconnection” and “Electricity Supply in International Cities”. Various seminars, field trips to energy facilities in the Mainland and Hong Kong as well as sharing sessions will be organised to facilitate learning on cutting-edge energy knowledge and understanding of the latest research findings in the field, as well as promoting sharing and exchange of practical experiences among industry players.

The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding was held online in Hong Kong and Mainland China simultaneously.

A member of the Chinese Academy of Science, who is also the Dean of the School of Electronic and Information Engineering of XJTU, said, “The tremendous social impact of the programme has not only enhanced mutual understanding and technology sharing but also deepened the cooperation between industry players, academics and researchers. A training team has also been groomed through this programme.”

The President of the State Grid of China Technology College, also noted that the ‘Belt and Road Advanced Professional Development Programme in Power and Energy’ has become a university-industry alliance and a role model for Mainland-Hong Kong collaboration in serving Belt and Road initiatives.

The Managing Director of HK Electric said, “Despite the impact of the pandemic, HK Electric has set a new supply reliability record last year, achieving an impeccable rating of over 99.9999% and unplanned power interruption of less than 0.5 minutes on average per customer. To combat climate change, three new gas-fired generating units are expected to come on stream by 2023, while an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal will also be in operation by 2022.

By increasing the use of natural gas for power generation, from currently around 50% of total output to around 70% by 2023, we hope to reduce carbon emissions by 40% as compared to the 2005 level. We are happy to share our strategies and carbon reduction experience with our peers from the Belt and Road countries/regions.”

The first training programme of 2021 is planned to be conducted online in the fourth quarter of this year. More seminars for senior executives in the power and energy sector as well as exchange sessions for researchers and academics will also be held in the future.

The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) has adopted blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to create the “Next Generation Cold Food Import Safety Management Platform” to digitise and enhance the monitoring and control of the import of frozen or chilled meat from Mainland China.

The Next Generation Cold Food Import Safety Management Platform stores all import documents and container temperature data on the blockchain. Those who have been granted access rights, including farms, processing plants, importers and exporters, and approval units, will share the same documents and data to ensure consistency.

Trucks will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to record their driving routes and use an advanced electronic lock and thermometer to monitor the status of the container door and the temperature inside, uploading it to the system platform and storing it on the blockchain in real-time.

ASTRI’s Acting Co-CEO cum Chief Technology Officer stated, “ASTRI has always been committed to using advanced scientific research to assist the government and the industrial and commercial sector in addressing problems and optimising operations, thereby improving the quality of life for our citizens. With the Next Generation Cold Food Import Safety Management Platform, we can assist importers and relevant government departments in more efficiently processing food import applications.”

The Senior Manager of cybersecurity, cryptography and trusted technologies at ASTRI, and the project coordinator, said, “Our goal is to deploy blockchain and IoT technologies to ensure that the entire process of transporting and storing chilled and frozen food is efficient and hygienic, and to facilitate food traceability. If a food safety incident occurs, we will be able to trace where the problem food comes from and where it goes.”

ASTRI, with the support from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and a meat importer, has conducted system trials on the routes between a meat processing plant on the Mainland and the Man Kam To Control Point.

Two phases of the trials were successfully completed in February and March 2021. ASTRI will optimise the platform, and share the trial results with the relevant departments on the Mainland and in Hong Kong, anticipating further discussions on the development of the platform.

According to recent research, the global Blockchain in Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 48.1% to reach US$948 million by 2027. Amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global food supply chains’ numerous inefficiencies were realised globally. This has led to the probable opening of opportunities in the mid and long-term technological markets. The blockchain platform offers a repeatable framework for end-to-end digital trade executions.

According to the World Economic Forum, blockchain technology is a highly effective solution to cope with the inefficiencies in supply chains surfaced by the pandemic.

Alliances were conducted between agriculture companies and other logistics and supplier organisations to pilot blockchain for faster cross-continental commodity trading. The imposition of lockdowns has made it further difficult to track many food products’ origin, resulting in more hazardous food.

According to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), food retailers across the world are also demanding certifications of suppliers to ensure food safety for every stakeholder in the value chain. Thus, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increasing use of blockchain in the food sector for traceability and transparency.

Consumers to the present markets are aware of and demand full transparency in terms of their food production processes. With a view of fighting this issue of food safety, many companies have come up with pilot studies to use blockchain technology to determine and control the food production conditions throughout the supply chain.

A research team from the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology (ABCT) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has developed a novel type of biomimetic nanosheet with a multi-modal imaging function, which can track tumour development and treatment processes in real-time.

By harnessing two emerging cancer therapies, namely immunotherapy and photothermal therapy, the biomimetic nanosheet enables effective and precise treatment of tumours, which will significantly improve the therapeutic outcome of tumours, reduce side effects and increase patients’ survival rates. The research findings have been published in the prestigious international journal Advanced Science.

Professor Wing-tak WONG, Chair Professor of Chemical Technology of the ABCT of PolyU (also the Deputy President and Provost of PolyU), and his team started the research in 2018.

Synergistic therapy- Combining immunotherapy and photothermal therapy

New cancer treatments emerge since conventional cancer treatments like surgical therapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have different limitations and side effects.

Dr Summy Lo Wai-sum from ABCT said, “Immunotherapy and photothermal therapy are emerging methods which are expected to provide more options for cancer treatment. The biomimetic nanosheets developed by our team allow us to combine these two methods for synergistic therapy. By applying the synergistic therapy in an experiment for colorectal tumour treatment, we found that it is more effective than single therapy and has fewer side effects on the human body.”

The research team used 2D nanosheets (FePSe3) to develop a novel multifunctional nanomaterial for cancer theranostics. PD-1 (programmed cell death 1) exists on T cells, whereas PD-L1 (programmed cell death ligand-1) exists on tumour cells. Cancer cells inhibit the activation of the immune system and prevent T cells from attacking cancer cells through conjugating its PD-L1 with PD-1 on T cells.

The team, therefore, loaded the FePSe3 nanosheets with anti-PD-1 peptide (APP), which can block the conjugation between PD-1 on T-cells and PD-L1 on cancer cells to achieve efficient immunotherapy. Without directly attacking the cancer cells, blockage of the interaction between the PD-1 and PD-L1 has been reported to revoke T cell functions, leading to enhanced antitumour immunity.

After coating with cancer cell membranes, the nanosheets will become a biomimetic nanomaterial with tumour cell membrane characteristics that provide effective camouflage, enabling them to target the tumour site efficiently. Once the biomimetic nanosheets are injected into the living bodies, the cell membrane enveloping the nanosheets will preferentially adhere to cancer cells and slowly peel away, revealing the nanomaterial to begin immunotherapy.

Dr Lo explained, “The innate immune system attacks foreign objects which makes it difficult for the drug-loaded nanomaterials to reach the tumour site. The cancer cell membrane has a tumour-targeting characteristic that will converge homologous cells. It explains why the biomimetic nanosheets become attracted to the cancer cells when they are in close proximity with the cancer cells during blood circulation.

In addition, the large specific surface area of the 2D nanomaterials is conducive to improving the drug loading ratio of the anti-PD-1 peptide, which will help with enhancing the therapeutic efficiency, as well as reducing the drug dosage and hence alleviating side effects.”

On the other hand, the nanomaterials (FePSe3) chosen possess good photothermal conversion efficiency, and so they can convert near-infrared laser irradiation into heat to kill tumour cells directly, thus achieving effective photothermal therapy. The heat can further promote immunotherapy by effectively inhibiting tumour growth, which results in a synergistic effect of immunotherapy and photothermal therapy.

Three imaging modes to help real-time monitoring of cancer treatment

The PolyU-developed biomimetic nanosheets can also achieve the goals of theranostics. By harnessing magnetic, optical and thermal properties, the FePSe3 nanomaterials enable three imaging modalities, namely magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), photoacoustic imaging (PAI) and photothermal imaging (PTI), for real-time tracing and tracking of the tumour sites and the nanosheets, to achieve multimodal diagnosis in cancer treatment.

PolyU’s novel nanomaterial can facilitate theranostics by combining diagnosis, therapy and efficacy monitoring. It not only enables the imaging and treatment of tumours but also the real-time monitoring of treatment outcomes. The PolyU team carried out experiments on mice bearing subcutaneous colorectal tumours to investigate the application in living animals.

The study showed that the tumour volume had significantly reduced after 25 days of synergistic therapy, whereas the survival rate of the mice was three times higher than that of the control groups. The major organs of the mice, including the heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney, showed no obvious inflammation and damage, demonstrating high biosafety and low toxicity.

The research team also utilised the MRI and photoacoustic imaging capabilities of the biomimetic nanosheet to observe the tumour for 24 hours, visualising the targeting and accumulation of the nano-theranostic material at the tumour site. Through photothermal imaging, it was observed that the nanomaterial can produce localised heat under near-infrared laser irradiation within a few minutes.

The experiment proved that PolyU-developed biomimetic nanosheets, with multi-modal imaging capability, can offer accurate and comprehensive detection and evaluation of tumour development, ultimately achieving theranostics alongside synergistic therapeutic effects.

Dr Lo said, “In view of the fact that there is a lack of efficient and safe theranostics materials, PolyU’s biomimetic nanomaterial has promising prospects in application. In future, our team will further expand the application of this nanomaterial to other cancer therapies and study the metabolism of the nanosheet in the living body, hoping that more cancer patients can benefit from new theranostic methods.”

A survey conducted by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has found that more than 70% of respondents support the development of electronic sports (Esports) in Hong Kong. However, the general public’s understanding of the development of Esports has yet to be enhanced.

Esports embodies elements of team sports with the results determined by personal skill, teamwork and tactics. It also carries the nature of other spectator sports. These features are similar to traditional sports and make Esports different from video games.

Over 70% of respondents support the development of Esports

A research team led by Professor Chung Pak-kwong, Associate Dean (Development) of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor of the Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health at HKBU, conducted a telephone survey with about 1,500 respondents aged 15 or above from April to December 2020 to understand the public’s opinions on the development of Esports in Hong Kong.

A questionnaire survey was also conducted with 2,100 tertiary and secondary school students to understand the nature of their participation in Esports. The study was funded by the Policy Research Funding Schemes of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office.

Among the 1,500 telephone survey respondents, 72% of them said that they support the development of Esports in Hong Kong, and 69% of them believe that the government should subsidise the development of Esports, showing that a majority of the public support the development of Hong Kong’s Esports industry and the investment of more public resources into it.

Nearly 30% of respondents did not realise that Esports featured in the Asian Games

However, the survey showed that 28% of respondents did not realise that Esports was included as one of the Demonstration Sports in the 2018 Asian Games, and 19% of them had no knowledge of the fact that it will become an official competition event in the Asian Games in 2022, showing that public awareness of Esports has yet to be enhanced.

In addition, the survey results showed that almost half (49%) of the respondents considered Esports to be the same as video games. Meanwhile, about 54% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the view that Esports is a genuine sporting event, and 49% of respondents did not agree with the statement that Esports should be an official competition event in the Asian Games, showing that the general public lacks an understanding of the nature of Esports.

Insufficient infrastructure and support for Esports

Among the approximately 2,100 tertiary and secondary school students who responded to the questionnaire, 104 of them (about 5%) had previously taken part in Esports competitions. The questionnaire listed 19 consideration factors for participation in Esports competitions. Respondents who had participated in Esports think that “a sense of accomplishment”, “demonstrating one’s ability”, “a lack of Esports resources” and “the grim prospects of the Esports industry in Hong Kong” are significant factors that affect their decision on whether they should participate in Esports competitions or not.

Respondents who had not previously participated in Esports think that “a lack of Esports skills, “an absence of policies for developing the Esports industry”, “worries about the impact of Esports on academic results” and “time management” made them reluctant to participate in Esports.

Over 60% of Esports participants supported by parents

It is worth noting that 69% of the secondary and 63% of the tertiary school students who have participated in Esports are supported by their parents. Moreover, 63% of the secondary and 79% of the tertiary school students have informed their parents of their participation in Esports. In contrast to the commonly-held belief that parents have reservations about their children’s involvement in Esports, the survey showed that a majority of the tertiary and secondary school students who have participated in Esports actually have their parents’ support and that they continue to communicate with them.

The survey also found that only 23% of the secondary and 18% of the tertiary school students who had previously taken part in Esports competitions felt upset about being unable to participate in further Esports competitions, showing that addiction to Esports is not common among them.

Esports is a major global development trend in the electronic technology, sports and entertainment industries, and the public, in general, hold a positive attitude towards its development, according to Professor Chung Pak-kwong. He feels that the government should seize the opportunity to formulate a policy for the development of Esports in Hong Kong, and deploy more resources to the upgrading of hardware as well as encouraging educational institutions to offer academic programmes related to the industry to cultivate Esports professionals.

On the nurturing of elite Esports athletes, the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong should review the governance structure and long-term development direction of the Esports Association Hong Kong and consider its statutory roles, including organising the preparation and participation of the Hong Kong Esports team in the Hangzhou Asian Games next year.

The government should also formulate subsidy schemes for training and competitions as well as a retirement protection plan for professional athletes, so that young people will be confident in devoting themselves to the Esports industry, he added.

Recently, two tech firms operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab announced that they have launched new solutions which are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.


Solution description

The firm’s solution is an AI-Cloud wildfire detection SaaS that detects forest/outdoor fire that uses standard video surveillance cameras to capture images, then, Machine Learning is applied for objection detection on the images to identify fire and smoke.

The solution is automatic and extremely effective at detecting forest and/or outdoor fires. With the current climate change crisis and the ongoing pandemic, there is a growing number of wildfires as more people are visiting country parks and hiking trails.

The AI-Cloud wildfire detection SaaS helps:

  • Protect valuable natural resources like forests, country parks as well as rural areas from wildfires;
  • Reduce the carbon emissions caused by unwanted forest fires; and,
  • Mitigate wildfire risks and damages to nature, communities, and citizens.

Application Areas

The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of Environment and Infrastructure.

Technologies Used

The solution employs the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as Cloud Computing.

Use case

The solution is able to:

  • Detect wildfires and mitigate wildfire risks and damages
  • Detect wildfires and reduce the carbon emissions from unwanted forest fires
  • Detect fires that may occur on construction sites, thus improving construction work safety
  • Detect fires near infrastructure (such as in an electricity distribution network) and minimize fire risks and damages and services provided to the public
  • Detect fires near rural residential areas to protect lives and assets


Solution description

The firm has developed intelligent energy monitoring systems that are simple and easy to deploy. Data is collected and transmitted to a cloud platform and analysed with the firm’s AI model, which is trained and has been proven to have accurate predictions.

It dynamically accounts for the influencing factors of energy usage (e.g., temperature, humidity and seasonality) to predict energy usage and determine a budget.

Real-time energy data with granular zoning, i.e., down to the AC usage in a meeting room, is visualized in the software with easy-to-understand and quantifiable metrics so users know if they have overused or conserved energy.

This is also facilitated by a series of customized notifications, interpersonal energy training workshops, and through the use of automation, the firm is able to raise energy conservation awareness and knowledge, hence driving behavioural change intelligently in communities.

Application Areas

The solution was developed to be deployed in the areas of City Management, Environment, Finance as well as Housing.

Technologies Used

The solution employs the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobile Technologies.

Use Case

  • User-friendly software platform derived by 8000 users to enhance the awareness and understanding of energy and encourage behavioural change
  • Real-time and granular energy usage monitoring and notification to spot abnormality and take prompt actions
  • Various data analysis metrics by day, by week, by month or by AC, light and socket to deduce energy pattern and saving opportunities
  • AI modelling for energy budget with consideration of actual usage and environmental factor provide realistic target and quantifiable tracking of energy performance for users
  • Energy comparison of different buildings/zones at customized period provide easy benchmarking in a single glass of plain
  • Establish energy usage intensity (EUI) metric in kWh by meter sq. to compare energy usage of own location vs location in the other similar building types
  • Scalable and agile infrastructure which can expand with further integration with other smart sensors or controls

Two research teams at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) contributed to the Nation’s first Mars exploration project Tianwen-1. By harnessing their extensive experience in the field of aerospace science and technology, as well as their commitment to research excellence, PolyU researchers played a vital role in the Tianwen-1 mission, in collaboration with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

Professor WU Bo helped identify possible landing regions with advanced topographic mapping and geomorphological analysis technologies. Professor YUNG Kai-leung developed a sophisticated space instrument, the “Mars Landing Surveillance Camera (Mars Camera)”, for capturing images of the surroundings of the Red Planet and monitoring the status of the Zhurong Mars rover.

The spacecraft for the Tianwen-1 probe comprises an orbiter, a lander and the Zhurong rover, aiming to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one single mission, which is the first such attempt in global aerospace history. The mission aims to obtain scientific exploration data on the Red Planet, and currently, Tianwen-1 has completed orbiting Mars and has successfully landed on a pre-selected landing region on the Utopia Planitia of Mars. The Mars rover Zhurong is also due to begin Martian exploration.

PolyU’s President noted that by leveraging the achievements of PolyU in the field of aerospace technology, the University has decided to increase its support in this area by establishing the University Research Centre for Deep Space Explorations led by Professor Yung Kai-leung.

The aim is to pool together experts in different fields such as Geology, Architecture, Machinery, Physics, and Remote Sensing to conduct in-depth research in different aspects of aerospace technology.

Mars landing site mapping and evaluation

Landing on Mars is a challenging endeavour for several reasons including Mars’ complex surface, a very thin atmosphere and possible dust storms. There is also a 5-20 minutes time delay between Mars and Earth communications. It is therefore of paramount importance to select a landing site that is safe and of scientific significance.

From 2017-2020, upon invitation by CAST, Professor WU Bo from PolyU’s Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics led a team to carry out global-scale analysis and evaluation to help shortlist three candidate landing regions that have adequate solar illumination for optimised power generation and moderate temperature, lower elevation for longer deceleration time, and a flat terrain surface for a safe landing.

The team further conducted detailed topographic and geomorphological mapping and analysis of the candidate landing regions, including their elevations, slopes, rock abundances, crater densities, and geological contexts. As a result of the evaluation, a region in the southern Utopia Planitia (a region on Mars), the largest recognised impact basin in the northern hemisphere of Mars, was selected as the target landing region.

Since entering the orbit of Mars on 10 February 2021, the Tianwen-1 probe has collected and sent back a large quantity of sub-meter-resolution images of the target landing region.

Using the high-resolution images from Tianwen-1, Professor Wu and his team generated high-resolution and high-precision 3D digital topographic models of the target landing region using the self-developed integrated 3D mapping model, to analyse the detailed topography and identify large slopes hazardous for landing.

To facilitate safe landing and roving on Mars, the team also developed AI-based techniques for more automated and robust analysis of geomorphological features like craters and rocks from the high-resolution images in a short period of time.

Professor Wu said that using AI-based techniques, the team analysed over 670,000 craters, over two million rocks, and hundreds of volcanic cones distributed over the target landing region in 1.5 months. They achieved much higher efficiency in the automatic extraction of rocks and craters with about 85% correctness.

From the topographic and geomorphological mapping results, the team successfully identified several landing ellipses for the mission management team to finalise the landing site.

Mars Landing Surveillance Camera (Mars Camera)

With a wealth of experience in developing sophisticated space instruments, Professor Yung Kai-leung, PolyU’s Sir Sze-yuen Chung Professor in Precision Engineering, Chair Professor of Precision Engineering and Associate Head of Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has led a team to undertake the research, design and manufacturing of the Mars Camera since 2017.

The PolyU-developed Mars Camera is located on the outside top surface of the lander platform, for monitoring the landing status, the surrounding environment of Mars and the movements of the Zhurong rover with respect to the unfolding and status of the solar panels and antennae. This information is critical for the successful movement of the Mars rover on the surface of Mars.

The Mars Camera is light in weight (around 390g), yet strong and durable enough to withstand the extreme temperature differences of about 150 degrees Celsius experienced during the nine-month journey between Earth and Mars, followed by immediate operation under the extremely low temperatures on the surface of Mars.

As the Mars Camera is designed for the lander, it also has to withstand huge impact shocks of 6,200G (i.e. 6,200 times the force of Earth’s gravity). Despite having a wide-angle field of view (a maximum of 120 degrees horizontally and a maximum of 170 degrees diagonal), the Mars Camera has low image distortion.

Professor Yung explained, “To capture ultra-wide-angle images on Mars for scientific research, the Mars Camera has to have a wide field of vision with low distortion optics within the little allowable payload, but at the same time must also be able to withstand extreme temperature variation, high radiation, mechanical impact and vibration within the little available mass, whereas maintaining high reliability under the extreme space travel environment such as high radiation.”

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) recently hosted the annual graduation ceremony to celebrate the achievements of a record-breaking number of 165 start-ups from HKSTP’s pre-incubation and incubation programmes.

This year’s cohort sees a record 50% of graduates from the incubation programmes converted into HKSTP’s partner companies, further strengthening the vibrant innovation and technology (I&T) community at Science Park. This year’s all-time-high numbers, particularly during a pandemic, reflects the strength and growth of Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem.

To maximise the innovation potential and ultimately commercial success for start-ups, HKSTP will increase support for start-ups at each stage of the journey of innovation and entrepreneurship. Resources will be invested in the following key areas: the first stage of “Ideation” to test and validate concepts; the second stage of “Commercialisation” to advance productisation and go-to-market opportunities, and finally the “Growth” stage to drive regional and international expansion.

The CEO of HKSTP said: “In this remarkable year, our graduates have displayed huge entrepreneurial spirit as they pursue innovation during the most disruptive of times. This milestone moment is just the beginning of a new chapter in their start-up journey. HKSTP is dedicated to creating the best possible support for these world-changers in their mission to innovate and transform lives and business in Hong Kong and beyond.”

In the pursuit of innovation, the 2021 cohort of incubation graduates is a showcase of international diversity, with ventures from Hong Kong, China, UK, the US, India, France, Australia and Austria, all revealing innovative solutions to tackle pandemic and other societal and business issues.

Riding on a global wave of game-changing technologies including AI & Robotics, Biomedical Technology, Data and Smart City and FinTech, the graduates have risen to the challenge at a time when the world needs innovators and problem solvers.

This year’s graduates mean over 850 start-ups and companies have now graduated from HKSTP’s incubation programmes, which further expands the HKSTP Startup Alumni Association (SAA).

It provides an ideal source of insight and mentorship for rising start-ups while serving as the perfect channel to create a lasting legacy and pass on invaluable experience and guidance to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Growing demand for tech talent

OpenGov reported earlier that, in March 2021, experts are warning of a looming labour shortage in Hong Kong, especially in the information technology sector, as local talent moves away and fewer foreign specialists arrive. Employers say they are competing for the same small pool, and facing shortages in cutting-edge IT areas of data science, cloud and information security.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought international travel to a standstill, closed borders and resulted in Hong Kong imposing travel bans. A 21-day compulsory hotel quarantine has further affected the arrival of new international talent.

Figures from the Immigration Department for work visas show only 14,617 approvals in 2020, sharply down from 41,289 in 2019. The IT sector saw only 652 new visas, compared to 1,655 in 2019. Work visa extensions dipped from 22,159 in 2019 to 19,323 last year, an indication of foreigners who left the city. Talent from mainland China also recorded a sharp decline.

At the same time, Hongkongers with skills in demand are being lured to other tech hubs, with countries such as Britain and Canada loosening their immigration policies for city residents following Beijing’s imposition of national security law in June 2020.

Thus, the programmes of various educational institutions and governmental agencies in Hong Kong are crucial if the region is to achieve its goal of being a global tech hub.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have great potentials to bring revolutionary changes to legal practice. AI can be used to draw insights from past judicial decisions to predict future outcomes. In the criminal justice system, one essential aspect is sentencing.

Much attention has been placed on how AI informs decisions about sentencing and how to use AI to assist people to obtain and make use of sentencing information. The HKU’s research team led by Professor Ben Kao of the Department of Computer Science and Professor Anne Cheung of the Faculty of Law has developed a Stage-1 model of HKU AI Lawyer – an AI-assisted sentencing predictor for the offence of trafficking in dangerous drugs in Hong Kong.

The sentencing predictor is capable of handling 8 types of commonly used dangerous drugs. Users need to only provide relevant information by responding to four simple questions, and the predictor will generate an estimated term of imprisonment with an explanation of the effect of individual selected features on the overall predicted sentence.

Another useful feature of the predictor is that it will at the same time show the links to court decisions that are relevant to the given facts.

A workshop was held on 18 May 2021 to introduce the HKU AI Lawyer and demonstrate its use. Mr Wilson Chan, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, also shared how his organization benefits from the sentencing predictor.

The sentencing predictor is a pragmatic tool for professionals including lawyers, social workers and teachers to access relevant sentencing information of drug trafficking much quicker, thereby reducing their research time and cost. It also serves to inform the public of the likely legal consequences of committing drug trafficking offences.

The predictor is based on an innovative combination of legal domain knowledge and AI technologies. To make sentence predictions, the machine is trained to master two kinds of knowledge. The first kind includes the legal principles, sentencing guidelines, logical steps, and the salient factors that judges generally follow in determining a sentence.

For example, based on the types and weights of the drugs involved in a case, a judge would first determine a starting point of the sentence. The sentence is then adjusted based on relevant aggravating and mitigating factors. The machine was taught domain knowledge by legal experts.

The second kind of knowledge is statistical rules derived from historical judgments. Computer science experts use machine learning and natural language processing techniques to train the machine so that it possesses the intelligence to read and comprehend previous court judgments.

With references to more than 3,000 court judgments, the machine remembers and understands the relevant sentencing logic of the historical cases. This allows the machine to derive statistical rules on the quantitative elements when given a new case for which prediction is to be made, for example, given an aggravating factor, such as cross-border trafficking, the number of months of additional imprisonment that would likely be imposed.

In the next phase, subject to the availability of resources, the research team will apply AI technologies in other legal domains, including developing a personal injuries compensation predictor.

About HKU Law and Technology Centre

The Law and Technology Centre was established in 2001 by the Faculty of Law and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong. The Centre provides public services in the interdisciplinary area of information technology and law and advances research into the relationship between information technology and law.

Through knowledge exchange and public engagement, it aims to translate its research output and legal knowledge into actions that exert positive impacts on industry, government and the public.

GLF Forum 2018

OpenGov Government Leadership Forum – Empowering the Digital Business.