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Hong Kong must take risks to nurture entrepreneurship, says Secretary for Innovation and Technology

The Hong Kong government needs to take more risk and embrace failure in order to create a successful and innovative ecosystem for philanthropic entrepreneurship in the city, according to Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, Secretary for Innovation and Technology.

“If you look at the government, we don’t take risk, and that’s not synonymous with tech and innovation,” Yang said, speaking at the Philanthropy for Better Cities forum on Thursday.

He said that the government’s HK$500 million Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living, which was announced in the 2016 Policy Address in January and aims to finance projects that improve everyday life for Hong Kong residents, will help to incubate social innovation ideas.

“This government will work with different organisations and NGOs to help them build something that will improve the life of residents over a three-year period and hopefully make them sustainable three years later,” he said, adding that this is the first time that the government is taking the lead in such a scheme, since it usually gives funds to organisations and leaves them to “figure it out”.

Key performance indicators and objectives will be set to help NGOs achieve their goals, Yang said.

The funding for the initiative has already been received from Legco and will begin to be distributed in the second quarter of next year, he revealed.

Yang said that it is necessary for social innovation ideas to be incubated in order to promote a sustainable business model, and that failure should be embraced and shared so that others can draw on those experiences.

“It’s okay to fail, but the key thing is once you fail, you need to disseminate your [experience] to the others. That itself is very enlightening for all the other people who are trying the same thing,” Yang said.

It is imperative to help entrepreneurs who do not find success in the government’s incubation programmes to revive themselves in order to build up a successful ecosystem and nurture serial entrepreneurs, he said.

“You have to try to regenerate them, help them to revive or recharge themselves from this experience. If you look at Silicon Valley, that’s how it continues, one wave after another. That’s how you get serial entrepreneurs who succeed, you need people who are willing to try and fail, and an ecosystem to help you revive.”