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Hong Kong talent: Empowering the new digital world
  • “Much of the rest of the world sees Hong Kong as just a commercial and financial hub, but in reality, we have so much more to offer for innovation.”
  • “Much of the rest of the world sees Hong Kong as just a commercial and financial hub, but in reality, we have so much more to offer for innovation.”

“Much of the rest of the world sees Hong Kong as just a commercial and financial hub, but in reality, we have so much more to offer for innovation.”

Nov 2018

When Mr Lee Wai Kwong, Chief Executive Officer, ASM Pacific Technology Ltd. (ASMPT) had finished the first year of his electrical engineering degree, he realised that he had still not learned how to troubleshoot something as basic as a television. He questioned his professor who told him that he was there not only to learn skills to fix basic electronic products, but to gain knowledge to empower the world. This advice proved to be a light-bulb moment for Mr Lee. He noted, “After this conversation with my professor, I realised the wider implications of technology and that electronics were transforming societies all over the world. The thought that I could be a part of this transformation filled me with an excitement and passion to know more and that enthusiasm has never left me.” 

Mr Lee has been a part of the technology industry for over 30 years with ASMPT, an internationally-recognised supplier of semiconductor assembly and packaging equipment as well as SMT equipment. ASMPT is unique as it is one of the few Hong Kong technology developers that did not join in the mass exodus to mainland China in search of lower labour costs. Instead of relocating, ASMPT invested heavily in Research and Development (R&D) to innovate and expand their product range. Mr Lee explained, “Many companies tried to simply imitate consumer trends and reproduce similar products at a lower cost. They saw huge profits for a while but were unable to sustain this growth. Unlike ASMPT, many companies failed to innovate which left them unable to compete with more agile companies like our own.” 

Discussing the challenges faced by ASMPT senior management over the years, Mr Lee said, “Understanding the market and customer needs has always been the most important factor. Analysing market trends leads to many internal debates about how to steer a company that is constantly pursuing change.” 

Mr Lee highlighted, “Having passion in this industry is half the job. Passion ensures that you will make valuable contributions in the right direction for the company. We provide our R&D Department with the platform and freedom to really pursue whatever aspects of technology they see fit. We drive the technology for our customers, and so we are constantly pushing the boundaries of the current technology to provide innovative future solutions.” He added, “If you walk through our R&D department you will encounter engineers working on highly specialised projects. They might be optics engineers designing digital and visual technology, control engineers working on the mathematics of algorithms, or engineers trying to minimise vibrations on conceptualised transport travelling with an acceleration of 30g.”  

To illustrate this R&D talent diversity Mr Lee shared, “When you have a sizeable R&D department you can bring amazing people together to work on the very cusp of cutting-edge technologies. Young engineers are engaged in being able to share and discuss their knowledge at a very technical level while continuing to self-develop through such interactions and experience sharing with their peers. The environment we have created stimulates talent growth, this in turn fuels innovative technological development, and this empowers future civilisation.” 

As Hong Kong develops into a Smart City, forward-thinking engineering companies are more necessary than ever.  Mr Lee explained, “The Smart City development initiative aims at improving the connectivity, efficiency and environment throughout Hong Kong by leveraging advances in digital information technology and data collection. Realising this goal requires organisations with vision and agility. Creating a Smart City also requires a tech-savvy workforce highly skilled in science and technology, and for this reason, there have been a plethora of government, industry and education initiatives to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.” 

On the issue of talent supply, Mr Lee noted, “There is a world-wide shortage of STEM talent. To help resolve this challenge, as well as transforming infrastructure, we also need to transform mindsets. At the moment the majority of our best and brightest students go to university to become doctors and lawyers. While these are noble professions, we need to help students understand that STEM subjects hold the key to revolutionary change in the future. We want students to see the theory of engineering being actualised in their daily lives. In terms of this change, Mr Lee noted, “The Smart City initiative will transform every aspect of our society. Presently, it is an evolving concept; no one can give you a clear picture of exactly what will take place over the next 10 to 20 years.”  

He added, “Preliminary concepts describe technology being implemented to improve almost every facet of our daily lives from health services to transportation. The speed and success of the transformation will be dependent on how well we can promote and stimulate the young people’s interest in the STEM fields.” 

Mr Lee concluded, “I get the greatest satisfaction from being able to make practical contributions to society. Seeing our technology implemented in smartphones, security systems and concept technologies is extremely rewarding. Much of the rest of the world sees Hong Kong as just a commercial and financial hub, but in reality, we have so much more to offer for innovation. I hope those starting their journey in our industry will share our passion and join us as Hong Kong walks proudly into the future.” 

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