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HK tech products charm world amid pandemic

By Kathy Zhang | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-09-14 15:47

HONG KONG - The coronavirus has catapulted Hong Kong's high-tech anti-pandemic products onto the world stage, while boosting e-payment among local consumers, says Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang.

The timing has never been better for Hong Kong to promote its high-tech products overseas, and for businesspeople to understand the importance of embracing technology, he told China Daily in an interview on Friday.

The "new normal" created by the COVID-19 outbreak, such as wearing masks and taking temperature checks in public places, has spawned huge demand for technology products that facilitate people's daily life, Sit said.

He cited as examples the locally developed smart wristbands worn by people being quarantined, temperature-taking robots and the reusable fabric CuMask, which was developed by a public research institute and can be washed and reused up to 60 times. The government distributed the masks to all residents free of charge in May and June.

According to Sit, the second batch of the reusable masks will be distributed to residents this month against a possible spike in COVID-19 infections this winter.

He said the mask's award-winning design and the quarantine wristbands caught the attention of two recent webinars in Thailand and Indonesia, adding that more than 10 countries have shown interest in the wristbands.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, second from right, talks to a worker while visiting one of the production sites of CuMask in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong on May 6, 2020. [PHOTO/INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT/HKSAR]

"There's great potential to promote our anti-pandemic technology to countries and regions in Asia," he said.

Hong Kong's application of technology in battling the virus has won recognition from the world community, said Sit, adding that a communications museum in Germany has approached the bureau with an invitation to display the quarantine wristbands at its thematic exhibition.

The pandemic, he noted, has also changed the city's fledgling electronic payment and e-commerce landscape.

As part of its Anti-Epidemic Fund, the government launched a program to support local enterprises in adopting information technology solutions to keep their businesses afloat. In addition to the original HK$500 million ($64.5 million), the government also decided to allocate an additional HK$1 billion to cope with the overwhelming response to the program.

According to the Innovation and Technology Commission, the program had received 19,268 funding applications as of Tuesday. Up to 95 percent of the applicants were small and medium-sized enterprises. So far, 13,890 of the applications have been approved, with total funding exceeding HK$766 million.

Sit reckons that biotechnology will be one of the biggest winners amid the pandemic. He's confident that Hong Kong, as the world's second-largest fundraising hub for biotechnology firms, will hit the top spot within the next 5 to 10 years.

Sit predicted a boom for Hong Kong's biotechnology development in the following decade, spurred by the pandemic and fueled by the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. "The Bay Area offers an enormous consumer market and growing demand for healthcare solutions," he said.

Sit said the government will continue to expand its funding for local research institutes and technology enterprises, and provide more resources to lure top inno-tech professionals from around the world.

Hong Kong may be an option for Chinese professionals who leave the United States amid increased US sanctions, he said.

The SAR government will offer them greater financing support and favorable research facilities, plus more opportunities to network with investors and manufacturers in the Bay Area and other mainland cities to help them commercialize their research work, he said.

"Technology is the new engine for our economy and it will be important for our business revival," Sit said, adding that Hong Kong must make full use of the opportunities.

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