In Hong Kong, to take the shortest path to bring new technologies to market, start-ups have the opportunity to partner with universities and laboratories while benefiting from the industrial power of the Hong Kong region, the Great Bay.
At the “Science and Technology Park” in Hong Kong, research groups called InnoHK are developing international collaborations. Health@InnoHK focuses on health and AIR@InnoHK on artificial intelligence and robotics.
Among the participants in the first is the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Science and Technology of Hong Kong. “Science Park” helped him in his joint work with University College London (UCL – University College London -) and Stanford University.
“One of the projects we are collaborating on concerns the development of a blood biomarker test to detect Alzheimer’s disease,” explains the director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases Nancy Ip. “With the aging of the world population”, she comments, “The prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases, as they are age-related diseases, has increased considerably.”
“This is a very interesting project for us because it shows the strength of the collaboration between our three institutions”, it underlines before specifying: “Hong Kong’s “Science Park” provided the necessary infrastructure for innovation in technology development. Biotechnology startups can establish many synergies by interacting with each other within the Park”, she congratulates herself.
As for AIR@InnoHK, it involves, for example, the Center for Perceptual and Interactive Intelligence which depends on the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His teams work with MIT and other institutions on electronic devices embedded in textiles.
“We can use them for rehabilitation”, describes Center director Helen Meng, “but also in the field of sport, in the training of athletes. Sensors integrated into the clothes can be used to measure their movements”, she specifies.
“Make the most of limited resources”
One of the start-ups that is part of this ecosystem is the French company InvivoGen. He designs tools for advanced biological research. Xiaobing Li, commercial director of the company, introduces us to his product “Reporter Cell Line”. “These are the cells that are in the devices used in the development of vaccines”, he indicates. “For example, after vaccination, [chercheurs] use our Reporter Cell Lines to measure the immune response after vaccine injection.”
For this type of operation, high-tech equipment is required. “We have to use a flow cytometer,” says Xiaobing Li. “These are devices that can cost up to 500,000 euros, but “Science Park” makes one available for us”, he said.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) which manages this “Science Park” is twenty years old and includes a thousand companies. But it doesn’t intend to stop there, according to its CEO Albert Wong.
“We need to grow exponentially, leveraging our core strengths, including fundamental research and market access,” he believes before adding: “All my life I worked in multinationals, especially in western companies, and I spent several years in a very large company; I work in mergers and acquisitions and business management. The common point is that resources are limited and you need to make the most of them”, he points.
The potential of the Greater Bay Area
And here’s how HKSTP plans to do it:We have electronic and biomedical labs, we leverage data, robotics and artificial intelligence, and we provide virtual labs,” describes Albert Wong.
“Our users don’t have to buy all this expensive equipment, they can start developing their technology right away,” he points.
Due to its geographical location, “Science Park” is also a springboard for conquering the promising markets of the Greater Bay of Hong Kong.
“80 million people live within a one to two hour commute: this is a great opportunity,” recalls the CEO of HKSTP. “But Hong Kong can also play a role in spreading locally developed technologies to Southeast Asia,” he believes.