10 technology firms to establish base in Hong Kong as part of government efforts to lure foreign, mainland companies: innovation chief

More than 10 technology firms are expected to establish a base in Hong Kong under a second round of agreements to be signed in March as part of a government initiative to lure foreign and mainland Chinese companies, the city’s innovation chief has said.

Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong on Saturday also expressed confidence in the IT sector’s economic impact, pointing to a projected rise in the gross domestic product ratio to 1.3 per cent or even higher next year from 1.07 per cent in 2022.

Sun said the companies signing the agreement specialised in areas such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence, data science, advanced manufacturing and new energy technology.

“Many overseas companies focusing on life and health technology have been eyeing Hong Kong as they want to develop in mainland China as well,” he said on a radio programme, adding that such firms had great potential despite being smaller compared with their mainland counterparts.

Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong says the city excels in medical research, with two world-class universities equipped with leading medical schools. Photo: Edmond So

The local health sector’s global links were another reason for overseas firms to set up research centres in Hong Kong, he added.

“For example, our clinical data is recognised internationally. Therefore, they think Hong Kong has more opportunities for development,” he said.

“We have precious data for new drug developments and they will benefit from this and open up on the mainland market as well,” he said.

The government would sign agreements with these companies in March, Sun said.

The innovation chief made the announcement five months after the government signed an agreement with 20 strategic enterprises setting up or expanding their businesses in Hong Kong in a ceremony hosted by the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises.

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The government at the time said more than 30 foreign and mainland Chinese companies had pledged to invest about HK$30 billion in Hong Kong and were expected to create about 10,000 jobs.

Eighty per cent of the 30 enterprises are from the mainland, including top names such as tech giant Huawei, e-commerce company JD and food delivery operator Meituan.

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and US-based biomedical company Sirnaomics were also among the international companies that signed the agreements and attended the event.

Sun said on Saturday that the latest move aligned with an announcement made during Wednesday’s budget address, which earmarked HK$6 billion in subsidies for local universities to collaborate with mainland and overseas organisations to set up life and health technology research institutes in the city.

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Hong Kong excelled in medical research, with two world-class universities equipped with leading medical schools and scientific research teams, he added.

He said in addition to a comprehensive public health system, the city had funnelled a large number of resources into research and development.

“In the past, our allocation [of resources] was basically scattered as Hong Kong lacked a large platform for investment in this area. It turned out that the most talented scientists did not pick Hong Kong and went to other cities and countries,” he said.

“This time, setting up life and health technology research institutes is aimed at creating a critical mass to strengthen Hong Kong’s advantages.”

He called on industry players to invest more in the sector to help transform it into the main driving force behind the city’s GDP.

According to Sun, the government’s investment comprises 53 per cent of the sector, a stark contrast to 10 per cent by the Shenzhen government, with the remaining portion covered by the private sector.

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