DESPITE a lower-than-expected HK$58.7 billion (Bt237.75 billion) surplus, Hong Kong will still persevere in its efforts to turn the city into a smart, technology and innovation hub in the region, aiming to splash an extra HK$45 billion on high-tech spending, in line with the plan spelt out in the recently unveiled Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area blueprint.
In his budget speech last week, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po revealed that the additional amount will be set aside this year to fund the development of high-tech businesses and the recruitment and training of talent. “The rapid development of innovation and technology is ushering in a new era,” he said, convinced that the I&T industry will be one of the twin key areas to bolster Hong Kong’s vision to switch its focus from labour-intensive production industries or land-demanding economic activities to talent-intensive industries and high value-added activities.
The move will also fit in well with the quest for new growth engines.
To lure leading overseas and Chinese mainland internet and fintech enterprises to set up offices and research units in Hong Kong, Chan proposed another HK$5.5 billion in funding to develop Cyberport to enhance its support for startups.
This follows the granting of HK$10 billion to Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and the allocation of HK$20 billion for the first phase of its wholly owned Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop in last year’s budget.
Emil Chan – chairman of the Association of Cloud and Mobile Computing Professionals – said the government is trying to create a level playing field for various major players in the local tech scene through a fairer distribution of funding resources.
Hailing the measure as “nothing short of necessary”, Stark Chan Yik-hei – founder of Bull.B Technology – said the Cyberport that accommodates far more than 1,000 established digital giants and fledgling startups, and is overly occupied. There is no larger office for his team to move into, he says. A major slice of the new HK$50 billion funding package dedicated to the hi-tech sector is earmarked for universities, reinforcing their supporting role for the city’s tech industry and talent pool.
As highlighted in the budget, HK$16 billion will be used for universities to enhance or refurbish their campus facilities, particularly those for research and development. Up to HK$20 billion will be injected into the Research Endowment Fund of the Research Grants Council under the University Grants Committee to provide research funding.