The Hong Kong government is well aware that entrepreneurial enterprise helps the economy grow and creates employment opportunities. It therefore supports innovation and technological development.
One government initiative that is driving Hong Kong industries to become more competitive is the establishment of Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks (HKSTP), a statutory body providing innovative and technology-driven infrastructure and support facilities, including clustered laboratory services.
"HKSTP provides a stepping stone," says Alan Lam, chief technical officer, Sengital Limited, a technology company established in 2004 to capture the growing global market in motion-sensing products, wireless technology and e-certificate applications.
In particular, HKSTP has in place an "incubation programme" for start-up technology and design companies like Sengital. Mr Lam notes that the programme has provided a valuable boost to enable the company to develop viable commercial products based on its scientific research.
Sengital's core R&D (research and development) team comprises graduates, including Mr Lam, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The team has won several academic-paper and business-plan competitions plus several awards over the past year. These included a first runner-up prize in 2004 in the University of Texas at Austin's prestigious annual Moot Corp Competition —t he highest achievement ever for a Hong Kong team in the competition's 24-year history.
"Taking part in different competitions has provided us with knowledge and experience in areas other than our own specialities. By teaming up with MBA students to work out business plans, for example, we learnt how to present our products in a more user-friendly way," Mr Lam notes.
The team's successful exposure of their business plan and innovative technology, Virtual Reality Motion Sensing (VRMS), attracted several investors, including the founder of Sengital, who funded the development of the technology into the company's first commercial product, a programmable VRMS PC game controller.
Sengital joined the HKSTP incubation programme in September 2004. Supported by the technology parks' excellent infrastructure and facilities, as well as the networking opportunities on offer, the company continues to focus on business development using new technologies.
In 2005, Sengital started to develop its own wireless technology and has since built a one-stop shop, providing its customers everything from hardware such as RF-circuit and antenna design to software including wireless communication protocols, network communications and application programming interfaces (APIs).
Sengital's success is reliant on its highly qualified employees and the company has a strong human resources policy. It has connections with several local and international educational institutions and its dynamic workforce is made up of full-time and part-time staff, as well as final year students completing their course projects.
"At the moment we have some electronic engineering students from the City University of Hong Kong and design students from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) working with us. The company offers students the opportunity to practice what they learn. While they get real-life experience, we gain new ideas," Mr Lam says.
"I foresee a steady growth in the IT industry in coming years," says S W Cheung, vice president, HKSTP. "We currently host 223 companies with 6,500 employees, and just looking at HKSTP's development, there will be a great demand for technical talent and supporting staff when more enterprises move in."
The smooth opening of HKSTP's first two phases has provided scientists, entrepreneurs and new ventures not only with cutting-edge laboratories and science facilities, but also with opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.
"HKSTP aims to help entrepreneurs such as Sengital to market their technologies commercially. By providing a bridge between research and clients, we help people to turn their innovative concepts into practical applications and create business opportunities," Mr Cheung points out.
He believes that more professionals will enter the field in future, as it is an attractive alternative to the banking and finance sectors which traditionally attract people with the same logical thinking capabilities that are needed in IT.
In a bid to combat the universal talent shortage, HKSTP has established a strong network with higher education institutions, alumni groups and associations, attracting both local and overseas talent.
Meanwhile, HKSTP's careers website "Talent pool platform" provides access to working professionals, graduates and students, helping to recruit aspirants looking to tap into the field.