In the Middle Kingdom – Afterword on the Silicon Alps delegation trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen

Afterword on the 2017 Silicon Alps delegation trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen

On 19 November 2017, 22 Silicon Alps cooperating partners embarked on the cluster’s first delegation trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Under the auspices of Mr Reinhart Rohr, the first president of the Carinthian state parliament, the cooperating partners from the fields of startups, companies, science and research, politics, state institutions and media met at Graz Airport. At a welcome reception, airport director Mr Gerhard Widmann personally greeted the Silicon Alps delegation. At the airport, there was time to have a snack before departure and get to know each other before the trip.

The economic delegate Franz Rössler from the Foreign Trade Centre Hong Kong met the delegation in Hong Kong on Monday 20 November. Before the arrival day came to an end, Monika Müller-Fembeck, the Consul General in Hong Kong, and Franz Rössler talked about Hong Kong, the culture, economy and the planned itinerary.

The Silicon Alps delegation’s first excursion on Tuesday 21 November led them to the Hong Kong Productivity Council, a multidisciplinary organisation in the form of a public-private partnership that advises SMEs in Hong Kong and supports them in increasing their productivity and competitiveness. HKPC’s advisory activities cover the areas of management, IT, technology development, and manufacturing. Furthermore, HKPC offers services and training in the fields of R&D, innovation & IP. After interesting presentations on increasing productivity and on initiatives for Smart Cities, Smart Mobility and Smart Manufacturing in Hong Kong, as well as a meet & greet with the “greeting lane” that is typical for the region, the delegation was given a guided tour of the building featuring presentations of several HKPC projects. In the greeting lane, the hosts line up next to each other and the guests go from one person to the next to chat briefly with them and exchange business cards.

The main focus of the afternoon was the workshop “Innovation in Hong Kong and South China” at the Naked Hub, a modern co-working space in Hong Kong. After a welcome by Monika Müller-Fembeck and Franz Rössler, Günther Lackner presented the Silicon Alps Cluster. The head of StartmeupHK Ms Jayne Chan reported on this initiative, which supports the startup scene in Hong Kong and networks companies in an effort to bring innovative and high impact startups to Hong Kong. The initiative organises the annual StartmeupHK Festival, which is a highlight of the local startup scene.

Subsequently, Eric Voigt and David McCallum presented their company One Point Zero, which offers multidisciplinary services for SMEs and investors in the areas of financing, IP issues and sourcing/Internet of Things. The organisation also supports other companies in entering the market and in their search for business partners or buyers in Asia.

During a panel discussion, Michael Bruck, Shiau Sin Yen, Florian Spiegl and Jürgen Höbarth talked about their motives for leaving Europe and setting up a company in Hong Kong. Michael Bruck’s company SPARQ Capital is an investment partner for family businesses, funds and wealthy private clients and offers venture capital for founders and entrepreneurs in the technology sector. Shiau Sin Yen’s VENTRIS CAPITAL cooperates with over 500 companies in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and Australia to drive their expansion in Asia. FinFabrik, represented by Florian Spiegl, develops technology solutions for startups and companies in the financial services sector and offers strategic consulting. Jürgen Höbarth and his company Hexagon Concepts Ltd. advise startups and other companies on digitalisation and user experience.

During the evening reception at the Naked Hub, the three winners of the startup tender, Alexander Elbe from crank-e mobility solutions, Christian Flechl from NRG-X Charging Systems and Michaela Schicho and Manuel Kapeller-Hopfgartner from sticklett technologies were given the opportunity to present and pitch their companies to interested businesses in Hong Kong and Austrians abroad. The evening concluded at a networking event with an Austrian buffet and a glass or two of Austrian wine, provided by Foreign Trade Centre Hong Kong.

On Wednesday 22 November 2017, the Silicon Alps delegation visited the Hong Kong Science Park. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Park Cooperation (HKSTPC) is a state-owned non-profit organisation that provides laboratories and various R&D facilities to the companies and research institutions gathered therein. In the Applied Science and Technology Institute Company Ltd. (ASTRI), Edward Wong, Strategy and Business Development Manager at ASTRI, presented Hong Kong’s initiatives in applied research and its commercialisation. After a talk by Günther Lackner on corresponding initiatives in Southern Austria, there was a sightseeing tour. This was followed by a visit to the Nano and Advanced Material Institute Ltd, which conducts research in the fields of nanotechnology and advanced materials with the aim of commercialisation. Marian Gaultney, Head of International Relations and Business Development at Hong Kong Science Park, introduced the park, and this was followed by a lunch with staff from Hong Kong Science Park in the Italian restaurant “Meraviglia”.

The afternoon led the delegation to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the largest state university in Hong Kong, which is particularly renowned for design and science, and the campus designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. The delegation was received here by the President of the University, Prof. Timothy Wong and Vice President Prof. Miranda Lou among others. After some information about the university, President Rohr welcomed the participants, Tanja Arzberger of Silicon Alps introduced the cluster, and each participant had the opportunity to briefly present his institution. A coffee break provided the opportunity to get to know the Austrian students on campus. The university was very pleased about the Austrian visit and assured us that they would contact us soon regarding some cooperation projects.

In the evening, several delegation participants accompanied President Rohr on a walk up the “peak” to look down on the bright lights of Hong Kong. Some participants took the ferry to Kowloon to stroll around the night market and have dinner there, where they ate dishes that would strike a typical European as very unusual, such as frog hotpot. Another part of the delegation found itself in the famous China Club. After the individual city visits they spent a relaxed evening at the bar of the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel.

On Thursday 23 November 2017, delegation participants set off on their next trip to Shenzhen and mainland China. President Rohr and the participants bid farewell to a long-standing employee of the Foreign Trade Centre Hong Kong, Winnie Wang, who had been responsible for delegation trips for the Hong Kong centre for many years. After the Silicon Alps trip, which marked the 100th trip under her care, Ms Wang went into retirement. We thanked her for her excellent support and congratulated her on the 100th trip, and of course also on her forthcoming retirement.

This was followed by the official reception of the delegation at the government of the Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen. President Rohr and Günther Lackner presented the cluster and the region of Southern Austria to the government representatives, and the participants of the trip also had the opportunity to briefly introduce their organisations.

Over lunch on the terrace of the Langham Palace Hotel overlooking Shenzhen, Harald Obereder, Chief Technology Officer at Emporia Telecom, spoke about Shenzhen and “Shenzhen speed”, which makes it possible to produce prototypes and special components much faster and more cheaply than in Europe. This means that when a certain design is submitted, something that would take up to 6 weeks in Europe can be achieved in half a day. Using “WeChat”, an app that is similar to “WhatsApp” but offers a much wider range of services, such as money transfers, ticket bookings, direct payment at ATMs, etc., you can easily ask where a particular component is available within a larger community. The app plays an important role in both business and private life. When asked whether there was any concern about possible imitations, Harald Obereder replied that he often saw copies or partial copies of his mobile phones and that this was the incentive to further advance the quality and technical development of his devices.

In the afternoon there were guided tours through Huaqiangbei Market, the largest electronics market in the world. The market comprises several high-rise buildings and looks like a labyrinth at first glance. Whether you’re after a component or spare part for a mobile phone, a copy of a brand-name device or a toy drone, you can find almost everything there, and if not, you’re in the right place to have it built if you spend some time and seek it out.

Just across the street is HAX, the world’s best-known hardware accelerator, which has sites in Shenzhen and San Francisco. Here, too, Günther Lackner presented Silicon Alps and the cluster region. Ji Ke, Program Director at HAX, reported on the possibilities of supporting product development, market launch and export and personally guided the delegation through the premises. With the attendance of interested companies from Shenzhen, HAX employees and Austrians living in Shenzhen and with an Austrian buffet and excellent Austrian wine, this time provided by Foreign Trade Centre Guangzhou, the evening networking mixer was another opportunity to network in an informal setting.

On Friday 24 November 2017, part of the delegation, together with the Economic Delegate of Guangzhou, Fabian Gems, and Harald Obereder of Emporia Telecom, was received by the Vice Mayor of Shenzhen, Zimin Gao. The meeting was dedicated to the possibilities for cooperation between the two regions. Both the Austrian contingent and the government of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone found the meeting to be very positive and emphasised their willingness to work together.

After a guided tour through the modern campus of HUAWEI company headquarters, there was a final tour of the x.factory maker space with seeed, a hardware platform that allows startups and developers to quickly and easily access required hardware parts.

Afterwards it was time to return home. From the port of Shekou in Shenzhen, the delegation took the ferry directly back to the airport, getting one last look at the sea of lights that is Hong Kong.  After the flight and transfer into Frankfurt, the delegation returned to Graz on 25 November, safe and sound and full of new impressions.

Our thanks for this first Silicon Alps trip go to the organisers, the Internationalisation Centre Styria, the Foreign Trade Centre Hong Kong and Foreign Trade Centre Guangzhou and to all sponsors, the Internationalisation Centre Styria, the Foreign Trade Centre Hong Kong and the Foreign Trade Centre Guangzhou, the Carinthian Economic Development Fund, the State of Carinthia and the State of Styria, and the Austrian Consulate General in Hong Kong.