[Herald Interview] Hong Kong lures investment in AI, robotics

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Jul 15, 2018 - 16:14
  • Updated : Jul 15, 2018 - 17:48

Hong Kong has long been a financial hub in Asia but it is now seeking investment to nurture innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, said the head of an investment promotion agency in Seoul.

“Hong Kong is now very much focused on innovation and technology. We genuinely think that greatly fits with Korea having very advanced companies in the areas -- both large and small -- at a global level,” said Stephen Phillips director-general of Invest Hong Kong, in an interview with The Korea Herald after attending an investment seminar in Seoul jointly hosted by Invest HK and KOTRA on Thursday.

Stephen Phillips, director-general of Invest HK (Invest HK)

Hong Kong traditionally has strengths in finance, logistics, marine, airports, cargo and tourism. Its government is now encouraging new areas, including artificial intelligence, robotics, smart city, financial technologies and bio medicine, Phillips said. 

Hong Kong has also set aside more than $2.9 billion to boost innovation and technologies through diverse schemes.

Currently, Korea is the 20th-largest investor to Hong Kong, with companies, including Samsung Electronics, Amorepacific, Shilla Duty Free and KEB Hana Bank, having a presence in the nation. Korea’s largest-search engine Naver set up an AI lab within the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in April.

“Because Hong Kong is changing, there are new avenues for Korean conglomerates doing leading-edge businesses globally to grow beyond consumer products in the market,” said Phillips.

The agency is also talking to big Korean companies at strategic levels about how their new businesses can tap into Hong Kong, he said.

During his three-day visit to Korea from Wednesday, the investment promotion head said he met with Korean companies, including AI-related companies, investment banks and hotels, without naming the companies.

For the benefit of Korean companies, Hong Kong can be a great center to tap into Asia, Phillips said.

“They can tap into multinational companies in Hong Kong itself, and from Hong Kong into China and into the rest of Asia,” said the director-general.

Hong Kong is already a melting pot of high-quality companies from around the world. In addition, foreign companies can also access surrounding regional markets.

The country has close economic collaboration with Macau and nine cities in Guangdong with a population of 68 million and combined growth domestic product of $1.5 trillion.

It is also playing a growing role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in terms of finance and investment. The Belt and Road initiative is China’s development strategy that seeks to expand maritime routes and land infrastructure networks connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe.

“The initiative can give Korean companies business opportunities for less developed economies, particularly in Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East in the longer term,” he said.

By Shin Ji-hye (