Revitalizing the economy through research

Regina Lau

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Representatives from the government, the private sector and academia debated how the advancement of knowledge through research could play a role in boosting Hong Kong's economy at a forum in the Wei Hing Theatre on 4 December. The forum kicked off the Postgraduate Research Expo 2002, organized by the CityU Postgraduate Association to showcase our graduate students' research talent and achievements. 

"Research is important in building an economic foundation but don't expect it to happen overnight," said Dr Paul Cheung, Policy Adviser for the Innovation and Technology Commission of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR. He believes the essence of research is the pursuit of knowledge in its own right. In today's knowledge-based economy, research and investment in R&D present new opportunities for sustaining long-tern economic growth, Dr Cheung said. "The future depends on discovery-based activity; copy-based activity is useless."

According to academic-turned-businessman Professor Cliff Chan, founder and CEO of the TeleEye Group (a listed company) and Adjunct Professor in CityU's Department of Computer Engineering and Information Technology, the way for Hong Kong to survive is, through continuous technological innovation and trademark development, to produce high value added products and services not easily copied by competitors.

"When you do research, don't think of the economy," was the advice of Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor in the Department of Electronic Engineering and founder of e.Energy Technology Ltd, a CityU Enterprises associated company. A realistic business plan, a thorough market analysis and communication with the business community are crucial for anyone carrying out applied research, he said. "Businessmen are not interested in sharing your dreams; they are interested in sharing profits."

Also speaking at the forum were Professor Stephen Cheung, Chair Professor in CityU's Department of Economics and Finance, and Mr S W Cheung, Vice-President (Business Development and Technology Support) of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation. Professor Cheung said that as the future of Hong Kong depended on its ability to attract investment and people, it is important to work out a "happy marriage" between the universities and the private sector.

Drawing the forum to an end, Mr Cheung gave the audience some good news: Science Park, with a new batch of Silicon Valley-type setups, will have to recruit some 225 graduates from local universities in the near future. He said he was optimistic about getting more start-ups: "In the past, the technology industry in Hong Kong was more sales and market driven-now, things are changing."

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