Smart moves en route to make sar tech haven

Top News | Amy Nip 12 Oct 2017

It's full steam ahead for Digital and Smart Hong Kong.

Carrie Lam will offer tax incentives and invest HK$700 million for smart city initiatives, while saying she wants to see expenditure on research and development as a percentage of the gross domestic product double from 0.73 percent to 1.5 percent, at about HK$45 billion a year by the end of her current five-year term.

Lam will lead a high-level, inter- departmental Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology to foster IT development.

Lam has set aside at least HK$10 billion as funding for university research.

Additional tax deduction will be offered for expenditure incurred by enterprises on R&D. The first HK$2 million in eligible R&D expenditure will enjoy a 300 percent tax deduction, and the remainder will be 200 percent.

"If a firm makes HK$10 million profit and it spends HK$1 million on research, then it only needs to pay tax for HK$7 million of the profit," a source explained.

The Innovation and Technology Bureau meanwhile will launch a HK$500 million "Technology Talent Scheme" in the coming year. A "Postdoctoral Hub" will provide funding support for enterprises to recruit postdoctoral talent for scientific research and product development.

Another HK$3 billion will be injected into the Research Endowment Fund for local students admitted to UGC-funded research postgraduate programs.

Smart city initiatives include an "eID" to be created for all Hong Kong residents, so they can use a single digital identity and authentication to conduct government and commercial transactions online.

A pilot Multi-functional Smart Lampposts scheme will be launched at urban locations to collect various real- time data to enhance city and traffic management.

Legislation will be reviewed to remove outdated provisions that impede development of innovation and technology. Financial incentives will be offered for telecoms companies to extend their fiber-based networks to rural and remote areas.

According to Google Hong Kong's Smarter Digital City white paper released last month, more than half of SAR firms are looking to invest more in technology, said Leonie Valentine, its managing director of sales and operations.

"The tax deduction announced in the policy address can encourage businesses to invest more in research and development, particularly in machine learning and artificial intelligence to accelerate Hong Kong into becoming a Smarter Digital City," she said.

IT-sector lawmaker Charles Mok said Lam departed from previous emphasis on throwing money to solve problems, and moved forward to addressing obstacles such as the lack of leadership in IT development.

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