While high-tech electronic products such as LCD televisions and colour-screen mobile phones offer a world of entertainment, advanced technology also offers ways to enhance quality of life. For some companies, pushing the limits of technological development means more than just making profits.
Founded in 2004, the Photonics Centre at Hong Kong Science Park offers vital resources for companies engaged in photonics product development in Hong Kong.
Photonics technology is widely used in areas such as high-definition and laser television and lighting systems for automobiles. "With its huge market potential, we are active in attracting companies engaged in photonics product development to use our laboratory facilities and leasing services by leveraging our strength in state-of-the-art technologies and professional technical support from our engineers," says Ken Hui, vice president, marketing and admission, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP).
In 2006, 63 of the 155 companies based at Hong Kong Science Park used its laboratory services. This, Mr Hui says, has been encouraging. However, challenges ahead include the limited supply of experienced engineers and resources for research and development work in photonics. Another concern is whether the scale and pace of development at the laboratory facilities can meet the fast-growing technological advances in photonics and address tenants' demands for the testing of their advanced products.
Photonics technology is specific in nature and advances rapidly, and as the territory does not yet have an abundant supply of experienced researchers and engineers in this field, the centre has faced difficulties in recruiting experienced staff.
Engineers' responsibilities at HKSTP are varied. In addition to their duties at the Photonics Centre, they are required to provide technical support and consultancy services to the IC Design Centre, the IC Development Support Centre and the Wireless Centre. There are also strict entry requirements for securing a position. For example, engineers should have a bachelor degree in engineering and at least several years of relevant work experience, while senior engineers need at least 15 years of relevant experience.
"We expect that our engineers act professionally, providing good technical support and consultancy services to our tenants and supporting them to develop advanced products. So we only consider engineers with extensive experience and technological knowledge," Mr Hui says.
To keep up with technological advances and enhance their professional skills, Mr Hui says engineers at HKSTP are required to take part in comprehensive development programmes that cover regular technological knowledge updates and on-the-job training. An induction programme familiarise new recruits with HKSTP's various facilities and the company's culture and structure. Additional skills training such as presentation, marketing, accounting and language are also arranged on request.
Training from suppliers is also essential for engineers, because some companies use HKSTP to promote new technologies. For example, Mr Hui says, HKSTP recently signed an agreement with IBM to provide multi-project wafer (MPW) services for its semiconductor foundry services. Under the agreement, HKSTP's team will receive technical training in this area to gain knowledge relevant for future technical support to clients. "Before providing consultation services and technical support to our clients, we must familiarise ourselves with the technology. As such, training is indispensable," he stresses.
In addition to recruiting its own staff, HKSTP also helps its tenants to recruit university graduates from Hong Kong, the mainland and overseas, via various channels including summer internships programmes for university students. "Some of our tenants also offer graduate training programmes for engineering graduates based on the two-year programmes endorsed by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers," Mr Hui says.
HKSTP's goal is not to attract talent by offering impressive packages. Instead, its diversified nature and scale of development provide staff with exposure and opportunities for future career development in the field.
With the government allocating more resources to the development of technology in the past few years, Mr Hui says the sector has made progress in the territory. He also believes that after Hong Kong Science Park's phase two is put in place next month, better career prospects and job opportunities will be available for engineering graduates, which in turn will enhance Hong Kong's standing as an international technology hub.