Politicians and public figures from a range of backgrounds take turns to have their say on important matters of the day in this personal view programme.
Catch it live: Sunday 8:15am - 8:25am
Podcast: Updated weekly and available after broadcast.
To the technology-loving youngsters of Hong Kong,
Let me start by saying that the future is all yours. The disruption by technology is obvious in every aspect of our lives and every corner of the world. You are using smart phones, the internet, e-payment, video streaming, and our lives are very different from years ago. Let’s also think about Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Genetics, Stem-cells, new materials, and environmental technologies. Technology is all around us, and you know you have to be part of this global trend.
In the past few years, the Hong Kong Government has invested more than HK$110B to help advance our Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship. We are also receiving unwavering support from corporations and investors. We know we have to get on the train. While we still have a long way to go to becoming a global tech hub, HK is on the right track. You are at the right place at the right time, let’s do the right thing.
Besides the increasing attention towards Innovation and Technology Development, HK has also been bustling with innovative ideas. An entrepreneurial spirit is stirring up around the city – more than 3,000 start-ups call HK home in 2020. In the Science Park alone, we have over 1,000 technology companies, hiring more than 14,000 people from 23 nations, and more than 9,000 of them are R&D professionals. By R&D, we mean Research & Development. In the Science Park, Development and Commercialization are the focuses. We aim at providing a fertile soil for ideas to germinate.
A key component of our Innovation ecosystem is the Investors. Ideas and science can become innovation and products with the help of strategic investments. Early stage, technology and Venture investment is a relatively new concept to HK. This is an area in which HKSTP has done a lot of work. With over 1,000 active investors engaged with our start-ups, Investment activities have shot up significantly in the past few years. HKSTP alone recorded HK$ 29.7 Billion of investment activities within our premises in the past three years.
To drive the future of our city, we need you, our young generation millennials and gen Z, to be on board the HK I&T ecosystem. Talent supply is a significant factor in attracting companies to Hong Kong. Having good tech companies in HK will attract and develop more talent, which will, in turn, attract more companies. We need to get on this cycle. Companies make decisions on their locations based on three factors: Market – Talent – Cost, in that order. Cost is the easiest thing to measure, but it is less of a determinant than Market and availability of Talent. Our strategic position in the Greater Bay Area and the rest of Asia region provide unique business opportunities, and the leading capital market and mature fund raising hub are also enablers for companies at different stages to come to Hong Kong. The supply of skilled talent is perhaps the most pressing agenda for Hong Kong.
While we are seeing a clamour for technology around us, we need talent to support this growth. We saw a major talent mis-match in our annual HKSTP Career Expo last year. While we had over 1,000 tech vacancies at the beginning of the pandemic in the Spring of 2020, only fewer than 200 out of the 1,000 vacancies were filled.
This year’s career expo reported over 2,400 jobs from 270 companies, more than double from last year. More than half, about 65%, of the open positions are from companies involved in AI, Robotics, Data, Smart Cities and Healthcare Technologies. This is good news for you, tech savvy youngsters of HK. There are more jobs than people.
If you love technology, if you are committed to pursuing a career in Research and Development, go after your dream, work hard. There are opportunities.
This window of opportunity for our talent will be open for a short time, and a short time only. Hong Kong is still a good place to attract, develop and retain talent. Four of our universities are ranked among the top fifty in the world. The HK Government is investing heavily in technology & innovation. But if such a talent shortage continues, recruiters will go elsewhere.
Hong Kong is a blessed land. Our location and our system allow us to be the place where the East meets the West. We are the entry and exit of the Greater Bay Area, and we are within easy access to South East Asia and the Belt and Road. We have strong infrastructures and a robust financial system. Rule-of-law and ease of doing business are important to our prosperity. With our spirit of the Lion Rock, we know we are blessed. We love our city.
Prosperity brings comfort. Comfort results in complacency, which leads to failure. For the past twenty years, Hong Kong thrived on financial, retail, logistics and tourism. These pillar industries are important to us, but the “lo-tech” and quick money mentalities will not survive. Hong Kong is a blessed land, but being blessed should push us to work even harder. There is a crisis upon us. We cannot live on our past. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. We cannot predict what technology will prevail in the next ten years, or even five years, but we have to be prepared, mentally, structurally, financially and culturally for the future.
People ask if Hong Kong has what it takes to embrace High-Tech. My answer is a resounding yes. We do. We have the market next door, the talent supply, the institutions, the government, the financial system and the geography. Hong Kong is the envy of many cities in the world.
The most important thing, however, is that the world is being disrupted by technology. Hong Kong has to take this on. It is not a matter of choice, but survival.
Dear Uncle Kay
Over the past one year, the Covid19 pandemic has affected 191 countries, with more than 75 million people infected and in excess of 1.6 million deaths. The situation was particularly bad in the United States, the country where you live. With more than 200,000 patients diagnosed every day, we can't help but worry about you! In these ten long months, Hong Kong has experienced wave after wave of outbreaks. All social and business activities were put on halt. The economy has suffered hefty losses. We are playing catch up with this very smart virus. Its mutation rate is astonishing as highlighted by the D614G mutation of the surface spike protein which greatly enhanced its transmissibility. In Hong Kong, we are currently experiencing the “fourth wave” of the outbreak, initially started by a dance cohort and have resulted in almost 2000 new cases since late November. Despite being highly contagious, the virus virulence remains unchanged as the current circulating clade was the same Nepalese clade identified late September. Most severe cases required intensive care are elderly patients with comorbidity, although a few young patients with high viral carriage who presented late to the hospitals might also presented with deterioration. The cold weather might also increase the viral replication in the nasal passage and upper respiratory tract.
In your previous letter, you asked whether you should receive the Covid19 vaccine once available. I fully understand your doubt as this is a completely new vaccine, without long-term safety and efficacy data. With regards to the Covid19 vaccine technology, there are three main platforms. The first type is the conventional vector based vaccine, which relies on the adenovirus to deliver the spike protein genetic code into human cells, which then produce the protein and prepare the immune system to respond to a future infection. The second type is a completely new platform, using gene editing and modification technology to make messenger RNA of the coronavirus surface spike protein into the vaccine. Once injected into the human body, the immune system will recognize the translated spike protein and start producing antibody against the coronavirus. The third type is a Covid19 recombinant spike protein nanoparticle vaccine with adjuvant, which is also a relatively new technology. In the usual circumstance, it will take 5 to 10 years for a new vaccine to develop from the laboratory to go into the market. First, the vaccine must go through animal testing, followed by a three-stage human clinical trials. The final report must be approved by the local authorities (for example the Food and Drug Safety Administration in the US) before vaccination in the human subjects. However, since the health system of many countries are close to collapse, Covid19 vaccine pharmaceuticals have been given special rights to expedite the clinical trials process, in which the US and UK have already launched the community vaccination program based on the recently published phase III vaccine trial short-term results, with reported efficacy of 95% and 70% respectively. The pharmaceuticals are also given special exemption from liability clauses with regards to adverse effects due to the vaccine. Nevertheless, the vaccine manufacturers still have to take responsibility to ensure the quality of the vaccines. Despite recent worrying reports of facial palsy after the Covid19 vaccination in a few of the trial patients, there are no evidence to suggest these adverse events were associated with the vaccine as similar incidents were also reported in the placebo group. With regards to the long-term results, we have yet to know the one-year or beyond vaccine efficacy and safety. As we previously reported of the world first case of reinfection, we understand that the antibody will drop to an undetectable level over a period of around 6 months. It is likely that similar to the influenza vaccine, annual COVID19 vaccination will be required and vigilance in infection control and face masking might still be needed.
In view of your age and past medical history of diabetes and obesity, I would strongly recommend you to receive the vaccine once available. We learn from our past experience that elderly patients, especially those with chronic illnesses of diabetes, cardiac and pulmonary diseases, immunosuppressed hosts and cancer patients on chemotherapy are at high risks of deterioration and complication of developing of severe pneumonia upon contracting COVID19. These high risk patients should be hospitalized once they are diagnosed and should be started on a combination of antiviral treatment as soon as possible, in order to suppress the viral replication and reduce the risks of subsequent complications and pneumonia associated with the hyperinflammation phase in the second week of the infection.
In your previous letter, you also expressed concern about whether the poorer countries will get a fair share of the vaccines. For this, you could rest assured. The International organization COVAX will be responsible for distributing the Covid-19 vaccines fairly among different countries. The COVAX, co-led by the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunity (GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPi), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. The coalition hopes to provide 2.1 billion doses of safe and effective vaccines in 2021, and to distribute them to all COVAX participating countries fairly according to the population, so as to provide a certain degree of safety net for poor countries.
At the University of Hong Kong, we have developed an intranasal COVID19 vaccine based on an influenza vaccine platform. Hopefully, we will be able to kick start the phase 1 clinical trial on this vaccine early next year. If successful, we will be able to proceed to Phase 3 clinical trial later next year globally. This vaccine has the potential of conferring local immunity at the nasal passage and could combine the seasonal flu and Covid19 as a single vaccine to be given annually.
Hopefully, the universal COVID19 vaccination coupled with the natural infection will shorten the time to achieve herd immunity globally, so that social, economic and traveling activities could be resumed. I look forward to visiting you in San Francisco next year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.