Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Speech at the Networking Dinner of the 2013 International Symposium on Innovation Excellence and Practices (ISIEP2013)

Ir Dr Li, Ir Tse, Prof Tsui, honorable guests from locally and all over Asia and the world, it is my honor to have the opportunity to speak to you here tonight.  For those of you who came from outside of Hong Kong, once again a big welcome.

First, I must apologize for missing your conference today, as I was tied up in meetings in the Legislative Council from this morning, and had to miss the great presentations and sharing of experiences from experts throughout the day.  I hope I can at least make up a little for myself by catching up with you tonight in this dinner.

While I myself represent the IT sector in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, and IT stands for information technology, indeed, it can also refer to innovation and technology in my mind.  And the issues that we frequently have to grapple with here, such as a sustainable model for public and private cooperation for research and development, and how to commercialize research results by building a closer and symbiotic relationship between research institutions and the industry, are issues faced in common by economies everywhere, even though each may be at a different stage of maturity.

But as I look around Asia, innovation here sometimes takes on a few different characteristics from the rest of the world, especially the developed western world.  First, many of our markets are relatively small, with only one or two exceptions, so our innovation products and services must cut across borders and fit customers’ needs in multiple markets.  That often means Asian businesses must expect and live with changes and uncertainties a lot more than businesses residing in a large domestic market such as North America and a unified Europe.

There is also a cultural aspect to consider.  Asians and Asian firms may need to develop a higher tolerance for failure for more innovation to flourish, especially for younger people and new startups.  For our larger firms looking for internal innovation, the traditional emphasis on a hierarchical decision making approach should be changed to accommodate a flatter, more democratic and open approach to let innovation develop and rise to the occasion, wherever it may come from within the organization.

Today, in the Internet age and the social media era, we are facing greater opportunities to capture innovative and creative ideas from more people in a bottom-up way, in a faster turnaround time frame, but that may also mean that more good ideas may end up being wasted and lost along the roadside.  And this is the challenge to both policy makers and corporations alike to minimize this loss and wastage, and make our overall systems and culture more efficient to these changes and adaptive to new ideas.  This new innovation-friendly environment must be supported by a change in educational priorities and cultural mindsets.

I believe that is more of a change to our societies than technology and business models alone.  But if history offers any guidance for us all, it is that the future will be brighter than today.

Finally, the last thing that I want to do is to further stand between you and your dinner.  Once again congratulations to the organizers for a successful symposium, and may I wish the dinner a success and I look forward to the sharing tonight with you all.


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