Andrew Young: At the forefront of technology innovation in Hong Kong

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Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance

As the Chief Commercial Officer of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Andrew Young is responsible for formulating and executing strategies to engage with technology companies and institutions to enrich the ecosystem for technological innovation. He executes strategies for strategic partnerships with industry associations, universities and research institutes both locally and internationally (including Australia!) to facilitate global technology transference and commercialisation.

Young offered his insights on how studying at an Australian University prepared him on a successful global career, and what industries are leading the charge of innovation culture in Hong Kong.

How did your education at the University of South Australia help prepare you for a global career?

Australia has a really excellent education system. Coming from Adelaide made for a very good career foundation, because it is relatively small. Often, I think if I went to a larger university in another country how different my life would be. I think at times, in smaller towns such as Adelaide, it gives you the impetus to work harder and more competitively, as you don’t enjoy the natural advantage of living in a larger city. This rings true with education as well as business. For many business opportunities, you really need to go national. 

University really prepared me to face the world in a different context. In Australia, we have an attitude of “never give up” and you need to be a go-getter. I think the spirit of “can do” really prepared me well for a global career.

How long have you been in Hong Kong?

I lived in Australia for 18 years and came to Hong Kong to work in 1997. I’ve been here ever since. I was lucky that when I came to Hong Kong I was able to build a lot of contacts and travel a lot through work. In that context, it’s easy to feel like you can conquer the world and have more opportunities open up.

How would you describe the innovation/entrepreneurial culture in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has always been a migrant city, with many different backgrounds contributing to the culture. People who live in Hong Kong are very entrepreneurial and they embrace change and thrive on opportunity. I think the entrepreneurial culture in Hong Kong has really taken off in the last three to four years, and the traditional trajectory of getting a job straight after finishing University has changed. More people want to give things a go themselves.

Which industries are leading the innovation culture charge in Hong Kong?

I think there are many different industries and sectors that are involved in the innovation movement in Hong Kong. For example, FinTech is one that’s huge, what with Hong Kong being a major financial centre of the world. While there are advantages to setting up in Hong Kong, there are also a few disadvantages – being an advanced industry, the accompanying rules and regulations are mature, making it difficult for entrepreneurs and innovations to challenge the status quo. Some regulatory bodies are very conservative. They don’t want the new technology disrupting what’s already there.

Does HKSTP collaborate with any Australian associations, universities or institutes?

I have a very international team that teams with different countries. In Australia, we work with the University of Sydney, Macquarie and Monash. Australia has an amazing IT and biotech industries. The problem with Australia is that the market is too small, and there are very few pharmaceutical companies. We have been encouraging some of those universities to explore markets outside of Australia, in Hong Kong or the wider Asian market. It would be a great opportunity for international innovation.

What are the benefits for Australians starting a business in Hong Kong?

The advantage of having a business in Hong Kong is the convergence of many different cultures in one city, which creates an international eco-system there. The melting pot of cultures really challenges and spurs people to think differently. I think the innovation and entrepreneurial culture in Hong Kong is changing for the better.  

Hong Kong has a legal system that’s based on common law, and is very similar to Australia in that context. Hong Kong really offers a good base for Australian companies if they want to move offshore to expand their marketplace and development. 

I think there are enormous opportunities for Australians to bring their business over to Asia. The ubiquitous multiculturalism is really a unique feature of Australia, and I think this makes economic emulsion easier with neighbouring Asian countries. There’s lots of capital in Asia looking for opportunities to invest in.    

The mission at HKSTP is to “change the world we live in with technology”. What projects are you currently working on to realise this?

There are a lot of exciting things we deal with on a daily basis, many of them medical. For example, one thing that I’m working on at the moment is with the Imperial College in the UK. This work will change how surgery is done, focusing on minimum intrusion to the patient, and also overall affordability. Imperial College is applying their innovation but is using the advantage of Hong Kong’s manufacturing facilities, for commercialising that technology in to a viable product.

And what’s your favourite thing about living in Hong Kong?  

The efficiency of the city! It’s very easy to go virtually anywhere in the world from Hong Kong with a lot of ease.