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CNBC Transcript: Nicholas Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Hong Kong Sar

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Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Nicholas Yang, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, of Hong Kong Sar. The interview was broadcast on CNBC on 27 April 2017 at 08:40AM SG/HK Time, during CNBC’s “Hong Kong versus Singapore” theme week.

All references must be sourced to a “CNBC Interview.

Interviewed by Bernie Lo, Anchor, CNBC, and Chery Kang, Correspondent, CNBC.

Bernie Lo: When people criticize us in Hong Kong for not being innovative enough, you know for, you know, having lots of money surpluses in the budget. Throwing money, paying lip service and throwing money at this and that and trying to foster a spirit of innovation, but not really being able to create an environment where it sticks or lasts or builds on itself. What do you, how do you reply? And I’m sure you’re asked this question in various forms many, many, many times.

Nicholas: Yeah, I think it’s important to realize that innovation is a continuous process. The fact that you are number one today doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay number one, five to 10 years from now. And in many ways, Hong Kong is quite innovative. But you know, what we need to do is revamp our ecosystem a little bit. And this is what the chief executive, current chief executive wanted to do, back in 2012. Unfortunately as you mentioned, politics came in, and then it was filibustered for about three-and-a-half years, before this bureau was finally set up about 16 months ago. So during the past 16 months, what we have focused on is trying to, really try to revamp our ecosystem you know, upgrade it so that our people, our Hong Kong people can better connect to innovation and technology. Better understand innovation and technology. Give you an example, you know, money is one thing. We put in about 18 billion Hong Kong dollars to help our R&D, to make it more translational. We also put out some money to help our SMEs to upgrade. Okay, we also try to create so-called new spaces, which would be conducive to advanced manufacturing and also data technology. Which as you know, the future of money is data. And so and so…but the most important thing here is that we are attracting some of the top world organizations into Hong Kong. MIT came here, set up its first innovation node here. Karolinska institutet came here. And also I wanted to tell you a lot of people have not paid attention to University Chicago, which is also quietly setting up here in Hong Kong. Alibaba is also, you know, putting some resources here to help.

Bernie: Because university of Chicago actually first set up in singapore, but then decided to relocate to Hong Kong. And a lot of people actually, a lot missed that. We’ve got an incoming administration. And you know, because of the required, because of what they need to do to engage with the local audience and interface with local audience, most of the issues and most of the press coverage tends to be on livelihood issues. You know, housing, jobs, minimum wage, things like that. Innovation…

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