To think Hong Kong lacks creative brains in the information and communications technology (ICT) field is a misconception.
The technological ability here is strong but perhaps not widely recognised by the general public, says Yung Kai-tai, general manager, IT industry development, Hong Kong Productivity Council.
"Hong Kong is a small and fast-paced market, with companies focusing more on production and quick return projects rather than projects requiring large sums of venture capital for research and development (R&D)," Mr Yung notes. "As such, you can see that Hong Kong leads the world in developing practical IT applications such as the e-channel border crossing system and the Octopus card payment infrastructure, more so than new technology research projects," he says.
Large-scale R&D projects often require large sums of capital investment and take a long time to reap results. As a result, while the "research elements" are relatively less common in the IT R&D industry in Hong Kong, Mr Yung says it does not mean that Hong Kong lacks the IT research talents.
Made in Hong Kong
Many technological creations have been developed by members from the academic discipline as well as the semi-government R&D body Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI).
For instance, the wireless antenna deployed in the outdoor environment is a technology originated from Altai, a spin-off entity of ASTRI. The enhanced wireless antenna, according to Mr Yung, is a lesser-known "made in Hong Kong" technology that has been widely deployed in the US, Europe and China. The technology has the potential to be a useful platform for the government to turn public parks into wireless hotspots in Hong Kong, he adds.
To recognise the pool of innovative IT researchers in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) organises the HKCS Outstanding IT Achiever Awards 2008 which has a special IT research award devoted to professionals in this area.
"Through the competition, we hope to recognise IT projects that have made a big impact on society as well as to raise the public awareness of the research professionals in the industry," says Mr Yung, who is a member of the competition's assessment panel.
"To turn innovative ideas into widely used applications, we need professionals with not only the technology know-how, but also the commercial skills," Mr Yung says. He adds that successful IT products need teams who understand the market needs and demands as well as how to stand out among competitors.
Many large corporations have set up their R&D arms in mainland China. Mr Yung notes that quality control and market applicability testing are the major R&D focus there at the moment. With sufficient local talent, companies based in Hong Kong can localise innovative ideas to meet the market demands in mainland China.
Bridging the gap
To bridge gaps between the lesser-known innovations developed by local IT professionals and the business sector, Mr Yung says Hong Kong Productivity Council has been taking a third-party role to liaise between universities, ASTRI and the business sector by organising seminars, network hours and roundtable discussion sessions on a regular basis. "The objective is to make different parties aware of the latest technology and projects in the industry and how they can work together to create an impact on the society," he says.