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Hong Kong's newfound confidence in tech business

Posted: 16 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:3G? 3.5G? wireless testing? EDA tools? logistics?

Ahmad: Design services are a critical part of the electronics supply chain, and their value is closely tied to innovation.

The opening of the second phase of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp. (HKSTP) last month brought a new sense of optimism to electronics design activities in Asia.

The second phase of HKSTP houses a new Wireless Communication Test Laboratory (WCTL) that is equipped with 3G and 3.5G wireless testing capabilities for both product testing and pre-conformance testing. Likewise, semiconductor design support entities of the park provide access to the latest EDA tools and IC design platforms.

Beyond IC design, the park promises intellectual property (IP) peace of mind through global best practices in IP protection. Moreover, a strategic alliance with IBM Corp. would allow silicon startups to use foundry equipment for multiproject wafer (MPW) and low-volume production (LVP) services.

Established in June 2002, HKSTP is a three-phased project occupying an area of 22 hectares and is located on the Tolo Harbor in Shatin, New Territories. The park is mainly focused on the four clusters: electronics, precision engineering, biotechnology, and IT and telecommunications. HKSTP also runs a business incubation program for startups and provides technical and business support to successfully commercialize their products. The first phase of HKSTP has over 160 technology enterprises.

In retrospect, Hong Kong used to have a significant design community during the 1990s. But as electronic product makers moved their manufacturing operations to different cities in the Guangdong province, the design part migrated with them as well.

Thus, Hong Kong, with its emerging status as the gateway to mainland China, became content with providing marketing, sales and logistic services. Over the years, however, the island discovered that just marketing- and logistic-related services were not sufficient to claim a decent stake in the electronics business.

Design services are a critical part of the electronics supply chain, and their value is closely tied to innovation, which in many ways keeps electronics business going. Moreover, Hong Kong's engineering universities, built over the last few decades, felt the squeeze after the flight of design jobs to the Pearl River Delta.

Nevertheless, Hong Kong could still lure international semiconductor companies with its world-class communication and logistic infrastructure. Here, the design ingredient would further reinforce that value, and of course, bring new jobs for engineering graduates.

Incubating startups with dreams of design wins in the Pearl River Delta, combined with the presence of design houses from established chip industry players such as Pericom Semiconductor Corp. may do well for HKSTP in the coming years. And the fact that it is sitting next to a giant electronics market could also help.

HKSTP doesn't merely embody Hong Kong's quest for an identity in the technology business, or for claiming a stake in the electronics industry activity scattered across Pearl River Delta. It could also be seen as a reminder of the fact that innovation is the key to the riches of the electronics world.

They say that it's never too late. Perhaps neighboring electronics markets in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam may want to look carefully into Hong Kong's catch-up with electronics design innovation. They must also contemplate why Hong Kong needs to do all this despite its reputation as a successful financial hub.

- Majeed Ahmad
Editor-in-Chief, EE Times-Asia

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