Knowledge-based economy cannot be empty talk
(The original was written in Chinese and appeared in Hong Kong Economic Journal on Friday, 3 September 2010.)
In the Chief Executive Donald Tsang's policy address last year, he proposed Hong Kong should move towards a high value-added knowledge-based economy. He also pointed out that "innovation" and "knowledge-based industries" are not limited to the Six New Pillar Industries (Testing and Certification, Medical Services, Innovation and technology, Culture and Creative Industries, Environmental Industry and Education Services), the Four Traditional Pillar Industries (Trade & Logistics, Financial Services, Professional Services & Other producers Services, Tourism) are also included. The problem is, vertical industry-based development model tends to be fragmented; only horizontal industry support structure that captures the synergistic effect between the industry is a true Knowledge-based Economy development strategy.
Mainland's "Going Out" Strategy is a double-edged sword for Hong Kong
Excellent business environment has always been one of the sustainable development strategies of Hong Kong's economic development. Hong Kong's excellent "First-level Business Conditions" alone (e.g. a sound legal system, open social environment, comprehensive and developed administrative system) cannot overcome Hong Kong limitations of its traditional "middleman" role. As the Mainland gains more frequent and direct contacts with international companies and the outside world, Hong Kong must create new competitive advantages for itself or risks the fate being marginalised.
Knowledge-based economy ─ the only way for sustainable economic development
A sound intellectual property system is important for knowledge-based economy development. Intellectual Property Department (IPD) of the HKSAR Government ought to be able to have an important supporting role in the development of Hong Kong's Knowledge-based Economy. The problem is IPD is required to concentrate on "Intellectual Property Protection" and not to venture out into areas not understood by higher levels of Government. At the most IPD could help Hong Kong companies to do an audit to "… identify knowledge capital and use these sources in formulating marketing plans." The HKSAR Government could have gone a few steps further. Singapore, Scotland and Finland are good sources of reference. The high-level coordinating unit within the Singapore Government is the Economic Development Board (EDB), an agency that charted Singapore's economic development since the 1960s. Specific support measures include establishing the research council called A-Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) that coordinates cross disciplined researches in universities and overseas investments.
HKSAR Government should consider the Knowledge-based Economy as an economic development strategy. The successful experience in Ship Registration Services could be seen as a useful reference. In 1999 the HKSAR Government implemented innovative survey and the quality management system of ships. This has led to a significant increase the total tonnage of ships registered in Hong Kong; from November 5.5 million tons in 1997 to a historical high of 52 million tons in July 2010. This arrangement also brought the ship sale and purchase, financing and insurance services business to Hong Kong. Compared with the Ship Registration Service, Knowledge-based Economy involves a much broader range of services, such as testing and certification, branding and packaging, IP registration, technology transfer, IP commercialisation and other areas which Hong Kong could assist and complement the Mainland on.
HKSAR Government also needs to adjust the definition of Knowledge-based Economy. The Census and Statistics Department published the "Hong Kong as a Knowledge-based Economy ─ A Statistical Perspective". However, the report focuses on narrowly defined indicator from the ICT industries (Information and Technology) and has ignored human resource development and introduction of innovative systems. These generic indicators have completely forgotten Hong Kong's characteristics as a service-based economy, the relations between the "Four Pillar Industries" and the "Six New Pillar Industries" and the "Knowledge-based Economy". To develop the Knowledge-based Economy, HKSAR Government not only needs to allocate more resources targeted at training talents, but also to monitor the knowledge content of industries, human resources from a more useful set of data collection and statistics.
Development of knowledge-based economy also needs to be upgraded to a strategic level, for example, the Financial Secretary should consider establishing a "Knowledge-based Economy Coordination Unit" to co-ordinate the policy development output of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and other government departments, and manage other related knowledge-based economy policy and issues in a timely manner.
Alan Lung Ka-lun
知識型經濟非空談 2010-09-03 信報財經新聞
完善的知識產權制度對知識型經濟的發展至關重要。知識產權署其實可以為知識型經濟的發展提供「軟技術支援」，問題是該署現時的工作重點限於「保護知識產權」，最多只能幫助他們「從現有知識資本中鑒別潛在收入來源，並就這些收入來源制訂市場推廣計劃」。特區政府可以多走一步，新加坡、蘇格蘭及芬蘭的例子可茲參考。新加坡政府早在1960年代便成立高層次的統籌單位 ─ 經濟發展局(EDB)，透過科技研究局(A-STAR)，協調跨學科以至海外投資。
特區政府也須調整對知識型經濟的界定。政府統計處出版的《香港 ─ 知識型經濟統計透視》是認識本港知識型經濟的權威性刊物，可是報告的重點限於資訊及通訊科技的普及與應用情況，人力資源發展及創新系統的介紹卻流於泛泛之談，完全忽略本港是服務型經濟的特性，四大支柱產業及六大優勢產業與知識相關的資料均付諸闕如。特區政府若要發展知識型經濟，除了投入更多資源針對性地培養人才外，更須全面監察有關行業的知識含量、人力資源狀況、資料收集及統計等。
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