Hong Kong's long-held traits of determination, resilience, and sense of community in the face of adversity, are all key characteristics that defines past and current innovators in Hong Kong. The city's innovation culture has been front and center as the I&T community and ecosystem rose to the occasion to tackle COVID-19.
When innovation ecosystems are discussed, Silicon Valley is held up as the ultimate benchmark — a magnet for the brightest talent, infused with entrepreneurial spirit, and the home of the biggest and best technology companies. So what makes Silicon Valley unique? The answer for many is culture.
Accenture’s 2013 report on “Decoding the Contradictory Culture of Silicon Valley” surveyed business and technology leaders and concluded that the “Valley culture” plays a critical role in its emergence as the innovation capital of the world. The study highlights the Valley culture as being unique and not something that could be replicated.
So what is unique about the innovation culture in Hong Kong? There are many that argue this culture is lacking in the city. But from its roots as a fishing village, Hong Kong rose to become an international free-trade hub and eventually a global financial centre — a beacon of entrepreneurial spirit and capitalism. This could not have been possible without innovation.
Hong Kong’s diverse innovation and technology community and the focus on impactful innovation is what separates it from other ecosystems. Recent examples from the COVID-19 crisis highlight the enormous R&D and technical talent in the city and critical HK10X spirit and mindset that turn ideas into genuine solutions
Hong Kong’s success is founded on its grit, determination, resilience, and sense of community in the face of adversity — all key characteristics that innovators and pioneers point to as critical to innovation. Hong Kong has faced challenges such as economic crises and pandemics, but it has historically overcome all this and thrived.
Today, with the modern world’s greatest ever health crisis, Hong Kong’s technology community and ecosystem rose to the occasion by innovating to tackle COVID-19.
Within days of the outbreak hitting Hong Kong, the Smart City Consortium, the Lands Department, the Development Bureau and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau came together to rapidly build a real-time interactive dashboard to help visualise the latest COVID-19 situation for the public. At the same time, critical wristbands from the Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre (LSCM) were used in the track and trace programme for quarantined individuals. These were paired with a critical app and algorithm to optimise location tracking — a solution developed by Compathnion, a sensors and location-based technology company based at the Hong Kong Science Park. It is precisely this rallying together of multiple private and public sector partners, plus the vibrant startup community at Hong Kong Science Park, that brought this idea that serves the public good to life.
Another recent example of the collaboration spirit which fuels innovation was the 4-week operation to build from nothing, the purpose-built clean room to produce medical-grade face masks for a health sector and public in dire need.
The challenge was to create a clean-room facility to comply with the ISO 8 international standards and the maximum limit of 100,000 particles in a cubic foot of air. Led by Simon Wong, Chief Project Development Officer of HKSTP, the team identified an 8,000 square feet site in Tai Po, and leveraged private and public sector partners to complete the building of the clean room facility at the height of the pandemic risk. The ability to overcome labour and materials shortage to build such a high-quality manufacturing facility is a huge testament to the community’s resilience and innovation spirit in the face of adversity.
"Success is only possible when great ideas are commercialised into market-ready and relevant products — an area which Hong Kong excels at."
This remarkable feat also paves the way to the reindustrialisation of Hong Kong — an initiative which private and public sector leaders have earmarked as a mission for the city’s innovation and technology community. The prospect of revitalising legacy industries and sectors through technology is something HKSTP’s Head of Reindustrialisation, Dr HL Yiu, believes is a critical step in ensuring broad and impactful innovation. “Innovation in itself is not the end goal and innovation alone does not solve problems, success is only possible when great ideas are commercialised into market-ready and relevant products — an area which Hong Kong excels at,” said Yiu.
HKSTP has been tasked to make the government-led reindustrialisation vision a reality. The goal is to provide purpose-built infrastructure and domain-specific eco-systems, and enable commercialisation of locally innovated, designed and made high-tech products and services. This is being done through the revitalisation of three industrial estates in the Yuen Long, Tai Po and Tseung Kwan O districts of Hong Kong.
HKSTP hopes to infuse an innovation culture across these industrial estates and spark waves of new ventures. Such reinvention of traditional businesses is set to propel Hong Kong into a new economic era.
It is the unique culture of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology community that separates it from other ecosystems. “The feats of recent innovators in Hong Kong highlight the enormous R&D and technical talent we have in the city, and also the required spirit and mindset turning ideas into fruition,” said Yiu. “Culture does not simply emerge overnight, it must be nurtured with the right environment, resources and shaped by a community of driven and like-minded people.”
As COVID has proved in Hong Kong: by uniting communities and different parties on a single goal and by leveraging Hong Kong’s strengths of grit, determination, resilience and pioneering spirit, then the impossible can be made possible.
These stories, contributed byHong Kong Science Park, are examples ofHK10Xin action, showcasing Hong Kong’s world-leading technology innovation and the city’s unique pioneering spirit and scale-up mentality.