In my opinion, there are two types of innovation. There is true innovation, with the potential to advance societies, and there is innovation for it’s own sake, done as a claim for fame. Sadly, Hong Kong does more of the latter than the former.
Hong Kong’s ranking on the Global Innovation Index has fallen again this year, despite the government’s attempts to build the city up as an “innovation hub”. These attempts have also proven to be incredibly costly – by March 2016, HK$11 billion in funding had been poured into thousands of fruitless projects.
For centuries, the term innovation was defined simply as the creation of new ideas. However, as the business industry grew, innovation became synonymous with the advancement of technology.
Hong Kong has blindly embraced abstract ideas of progress, and adopted global systems without considering the city’s limitations. The scarcity of land in Hong Kong means most landowners invest in real estate rather than facilities for technology production. There is also a lack of local companies or people interested in starting a local company. College graduates, often under pressure from their families, will choose stable careers in finance rather than opt to try their hand at startups.
As a result, Hong Kong’s attempts at becoming one of Asia’s reputable tech hubs have failed. As examples, the Cyberport – a technological centre-turned-lucrative piece of real estate – or the Hong Kong Science Park, a science park that has reportedly not achieved any of its goals since its establishment in 1999.
The two main stages of innovation are research and development, and entrepreneurship. If innovation is like starting a burger business, then research and development would be about creating and testing a secret recipe for a burger, then cooking hundreds of them; entrepreneurship would be selling the burgers to the public.
The problem in Hong Kong is that there is not enough focus on cultivating entrepreneurship. Once frameworks for companies actually exist, foundations for research and development can be established.
Things aren’t as bad as they seem though – there is hope yet for the 852. Hong Kong might currently lack space and technology companies, but our very lack of anything forms the grounds for potential. Given that our technology industry is a blank slate, we should take this opportunity to make a name for ourselves on a global scale.