Published: 09:43, March 26, 2024 | Updated: 09:43, March 26, 2024
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Full STEAM ahead as HK takes on new role in GBA
By Meno Monteir

For as long as I have called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region home, there has been an intangible sense that Hong Kong is, or will become, one of the world’s first futuristic cities, a metropolis of sprawling technological innovation like those imagined by science-fiction authors Isaac Asimov, Liu Cixin and Arthur C Clarke.

The best way to describe this sense is that of a forward-facing, technological civic posture that cities like London, New York City or Los Angeles just don’t have to the same degree. It seems that throughout its history, the HKSAR has been able to identify emerging technologies, but also innovatively implement them into diverse facets of our society.

Today, Hong Kong is home to many marvels of engineering and technology, often inspired by the city’s unique culture, spirit of transformation and sheer courage and ambition. For example, most international airports were, and are, designed to give large airliners a final approach run of at least 5 kilometers. With this in mind, few cities today would attempt to build an airport like the former Kai Tak International with its final approach being under 500 meters, which was immediately following a dramatic 47-degree turn.

Closed in 1998, Kai Tak left a legacy and reputation for safety that is still felt around the world. Namely, in how flight schools today still use Kai Tak’s “checkerboard turn” approach in their training simulators. This demonstrates that the HKSAR’s innovative implementation of technology often ends up reaching further than first envisioned, and in cases like Kai Tak, becomes a global standard.

Some people will also remember the same sense of collective awe Hong Kong residents felt at the opening of the third iteration of Hong Kong’s iconic HSBC building in 1985; or when the equally impressive Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was completed in time to host the 1997 handover ceremony.  

This technological civic posture is one that traditionally, as well as more recently, has been reflected in our governmental policies and institutions. In 2015, the Innovation and Technology Bureau (later renamed to Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau) was established to create holistic policies aimed at increasing the global competitiveness of HKSAR’s innovation and technology-related industries.

Reflecting a growing global trend that has seen many global jurisdictions allocating more resources to STEAM education, Hong Kong’s advantage here is in how STEAM education has come to be viewed as a bridge to the future. And Hong Kong-based tech companies are positioning themselves to take on a major role in it

More recently, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, in his 2023 Policy Address, stated that strengthening the promotion of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) in primary and secondary schools was a chief priority, and that a STEAM curriculum framework was to be announced in the 2023-24 school year for implementation from 2025-26 onward.

And as the digital age continues to open new avenues for technological advancement, we have seen the rapid development and adoption of digitally based technologies in Hong Kong. Technologies like fintech and AI are growing as fast as technologies based on the classical sciences like civil engineering.

This is ample evidence that as the speed of technological advancement continues to increase exponentially, the HKSAR is more than ready to keep up. Not just regionally, but on the global stage as well. In December, Hong Kong hosted the Learning and Teaching Expo 2023, an exhibition of educational institutions based in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). Attendees should have noticed that the majority of the exhibitors were STEAM-based educational companies with a heavy emphasis on robotics, eco-tech and coding.

Reflecting a growing global trend that has seen many global jurisdictions allocating more resources to STEAM education, Hong Kong’s advantage here is in how STEAM education has come to be viewed as a bridge to the future. And Hong Kong-based tech companies are positioning themselves to take on a major role in it.

Starting on Jan 9, the US-based Consumer Technology Association kicked off its annual, weeklong Consumer Electronics Show (CES) trade fair in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This year, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), on recommendations from the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp (HKSTP), chose 20 Hong Kong-based startups to form the Hong Kong Tech Pavilion of the trade fair’s Eureka Park Hall dedicated to global startups, more than doubling the previous year’s delegation of eight.

According to HL Yiu, chief corporate development officer of the HKSTP, 40 Hong Kong-based companies vied for the coveted positions but were ultimately selected based on their readiness to compete in the global marketplace.

This year the startups earning nominations from the HKTDC represented the dynamic range of Hong Kong-based tech companies including: AI Guided, which develops haptic feedback belts to aid people with blindness in detecting obstacles; Big Bang Academy, an educational institution offering STEAM and edtech-based curricula in the GBA markets; and Sitan Semiconductor International, a producer of ultrahigh-pixel-density micro LED displays.

Of considerable note, and a positive sign of Hong Kong’s growing influence in the digitally based tech space, two of the startups from the Hong Kong Tech Pavilion were awarded CES Innovation Awards — a real distinction considering there were more than 1,400 startups in attendance.

Aside from international recognition of Hong Kong’s potency in the tech field, Hong Kong institutions continue to foster and promote initiatives for Hong Kong-based startups. The HKSTP has recently launched a yearlong support program for tech-focused entrepreneurs that includes seed funding, coaching, and training as well as the use of Science Park facilities. All this adds up to a bright future for Hong Kong’s technologically minded residents.

The author is a writer, columnist and historian based in Hong Kong.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.