Companies in Hong Kong’s technology sector specialise in commercialisation, application and industrial engineering. A number of clusters, comprising local and foreign technology enterprises, are active in undertaking R&D and innovation activities across the territory.
According to the latest available figures, the R&D and innovation expenditure of the business sector in Hong Kong amounted to US$852 million and US$2 billion respectively in 2012. A substantial portion of these R&D and innovation activities were undertaken in co-operation with external parties.
In terms of contract value, Hong Kong was the seventh largest source of technology imports for the Chinese mainland, according to the latest available figures from the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Technology companies in Hong Kong
Companies in Hong Kong’s technology sector specialise in commercialisation, application and industrial engineering. Both local and overseas companies are active in the sector. High-profile foreign technology companies in Hong Kong include Nvidia (US), Texas Instruments (US), IBM (US), Sierra Wireless (Canada), Samsung (South Korea), Hitachi High-Technologies (Japan), Siemens (Germany), Philips (the Netherlands), Huawei (Chinese mainland), and Macronix (Taiwan).
Electronics-related players, including those in the semiconductor sector and those involved with the manufacture of a wide array of parts and components, are among the most prominent technology-related businesses in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s status as a major IT and telecommunications hub has also led to the emergence of a number of companies in the IT and telecommunications hardware and software design and development sector.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP) alone is home to more than 300 technology players. Overall, companies based at the HKSTP are primarily involved in the following sectors: (1) biotechnology, (2) electronics, (3) green technology, (4) IT and telecommunications, and (5) precision engineering.
In light of the success of this initiative, construction work on Phase III of the HKSTP began in early 2011 and is scheduled to be completed by 2016. The development represents an investment of HK$4.9 billion by the Hong Kong government and is intended to boost the development of green technology in the city, as well as to attract high-tech investment from private companies. This project is expected to create 4,000 research and development positions in the green technology sector. Upon completion Phase Three will be able to accommodate up to 150 green technology companies.
The Cyberport, a wholly-owned Hong Kong government facility, is a creative digital community and home to a cluster of more than 270 technology and digital content tenants. It is equipped with an array of state-of-the-art ICT facilities and features a cutting-edge broadband network, with four grade-A intelligent office buildings. Its focus is to nurture ICT industry start-ups/entrepreneurs and foster local talent; drive collaboration through better utilisation of resources and create business opportunities; and accelerate ICT adoption through strategic partnerships between ICT players in Hong the Chinese mainland and other foreign partners.
R&D and innovation activities
Overall, Hong Kong companies in the technology sector are active when it comes to undertaking R&D and innovation activities. According to the latest survey by the Census and Statistics Department, there were 4,499 Hong Kong companies involved with R&D activities in 2012. Total R&D expenditure in the business sector amounted to US$852 million, up by 7.3% compared to the preceding year.
Innovation activities were even better supported, with 7,360 companies engaging in such activities in 2012. Total innovation expenditure of the business sector amounted to US$2.0 billion, up by 6.4% year-on-year.
In 2012, in total, 932 and 587 Hong Kong companies had co-operation arrangements with external partners in terms of R&D and technological innovation activities, respectively. A substantial portion of such external partners were technology companies or research institutes either in Hong Kong or on the Chinese mainland.
The development of Hong Kong’s technology sector has been facilitated by the advanced technology infrastructure of the territory. According to the 2014 report released by the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland, Hong Kong is ranked number one globally in terms of technological infrastructure. Global rankings of related areas include:
|- Fixed telephone lines/1,000 inhabitants:
||4th (after Taiwan, France and Korea)|
|- Fixed telephone tariffs/local calls:||2nd (after Canada)
|- Mobile phone subscribers/1,000 inhabitants:
|- Mobile phone costs/local calls:
||2nd (after India)|
|- Internet bandwidth speed:
The city’s technology sector is also aided by the R&D activities of various public bodies. In 2006, under the government’s Hong Kong R&D Centre Programme, five centres were established to drive and co-ordinate applied R&D in selected focus areas, as well as to promote the commercialisation of these R&D results and any subsequent technology transfer. The five R&D centres established were as follows:
The Automotive Parts and Accessory Systems (APAS) R&D Centre
This Centre undertakes market-led R&D programmes as well as commercialising its R&D results in collaboration with industry representatives, universities and technology institutes in order to further develop the auto parts industry. It merged with and now forms part of the Hong Kong Productivity Council as of November 2012.
The R&D Centre for Information and Communications Technologies
This Centre is formed under the auspices of the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), whose R&D efforts focus on five main technological areas - communications technologies, enterprise and consumer electronics, IC design, materials and packaging technology, and bio-medical electronics.
The Textiles and Apparel Research Institute (HKRITA)
Hosted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, this Institute’s role is to enhance technological innovation in the development of the textile, clothing, leather and footwear industries, as well as the related/supporting industries, such as Hong Kong’s chemical engineering, machinery, electronics and marketing sectors.
The R&D Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management Enabling Technologies (LSCM)
This Centre’s mission is to foster the development of core competencies in logistics and supply chain-related technologies, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Part of its remit is also to facilitate the adoption of these technologies by industries in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland. The Centre is currently hosted by three universities in Hong Kong - the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
The Nano and Advanced Materials Institute (NAMI)
Hosted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, this Centre is committed to the development of core competences in nanotechnology and advanced materials across a wide spectrum of innovative applications. The Centre is now focusing on five market sectors - sustainable energy, solid state lighting and display, construction and building materials, environmental technologies, and bio and healthcare products.
Hong Kong’s technology sector is also engaged in in trading in a wide range of high-tech products. In 2013 Hong Kong’s exports of high-tech products amounted to US$226 billion, accounting for 50% of its total merchandise exports in the year, according to the latest available figures from the Census and Statistics Department.
Electronic products, especially telecommunications equipment, semiconductors and computer items, are Hong Kong’s major high-tech exports. This is in line with the fact that the electronics sector is Hong Kong’s largest export earner. The Chinese mainland is both the major source and the major destination of Hong Kong’s trading in high-tech products. In 2013, it accounted for 51% of Hong Kong’s imports and 66% of Hong Kong’s exports of high-tech products respectively. These mainland-bound exports are largely industrial inputs, with the majority destined for Guangdong and the mainland’s other major high-tech production sites.
Hong Kong’s technology players are also active when it comes to undertaking technology transfers through such avenues as technology licensing, contract services and industry collaborations with their local and foreign counterparts. The total industry income of the five R&D centres derived from licensing/royalty, industry sponsorship via collaborations and contract services, for instance, amounted to about HK$139 million during the year 2013-2014.
Technological co-operation between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland
In order to foster technological co-operation across the border, Hong Kong’s technology sector has long-established connections with its mainland counterpart. This is of particular note as the Chinese mainland has resolved to use technological advancement and innovation as a key means to foster economic development during its 12th Five-year Programme (2011-2015). Among other priorities, it is determined to increase its GDP share of R&D spending to 2.2% (up from 1.8% in 2010). It is also committed to upgrading its industries and to increasing its imports of technology and related items from abroad in order to enhance its competitiveness. The mainland has further determined to develop seven new strategic industries:
Energy saving and environmental protection
New generation information technology
High-end equipment manufacturing
New energy automobiles
As Chinese companies largely lack the necessary front-end technologies to achieve such objectives, while continuing to foster R&D activities locally, the mainland has also implemented a number of tax and fiscal measures aimed at facilitating the imports of key technologies and related equipment from overseas.
With an appropriate business environment, good protection of intellectual property rights and a full range of professional services, Hong Kong is ideally suited providing a platform for its technology sector to undertake technology transfer to the mainland from the international market.
A prime example of this is the HKSTP, which was designated (by the Ministry of Science and Technology) as a National High-Tech Industrialisation (Partner) Base for Green Technology in 2011 in order to promote green technology. The HKSTP has subsequently established links to science parks on the mainland, forging especially close ties with the partners in the pan-Pearl River Delta in a bid to create a Technology Innovation Corridor in the region.
According to 2012 figures (the most recently available) from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Hong Kong was the seventh largest source of technology imports for the Chinese mainland in terms of contract value (3.2% of the total). Ahead of it are Japan (24.7%), the US (18.4%), Taiwan (11.2%), Germany (10.4%), South Korea (8.3%) and Italy (5.4%).