Up apps and away
The introduction of apps and smartphones has revolutionised consumer behaviour, with shoppers receiving or surfing for news on new products whenever and wherever they want.
Given the city's more than 200 per cent mobile phone penetration rate and with new apps going viral every minute, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC) has been working hard to attract talent into the sector.
"Apps combine technology, creativity and business. Every corporate is trying to create its own app. The demand for app developers will only grow, so we want to attract more talent into the industry by offering the Incu-App Programme," says Allen Yeung, HKSTPC vice-president of business development and technology support.
Offering incubation programmes for budding companies is nothing new to the Science Park managers. Before the Incu-App Programme, HKSTPC has already ran a two-year Incu-Design Programme, a three year Incu-Tech Programme and a four-year Incu-Bio Programme, with full-support services offered to help companies develop.
"The latest Incu-App Programme has a quicker selection procedure than previous programmes because app development is a race against time," says Yeung.
"Many parties may have similar ideas to develop an app and it is extremely important to finish developing it first, so we only have a 26-day period for choosing suitable companies as opposed to 52 days in other programmes.
"An applicant must be a Hong Kong-registered technology firm established for no more than two years. One-man band companies are also welcome," he adds.
The programme gives app developers comprehensive support, from free office space to securing funding.
"We provide two free working stations at the Science Park for every participating company. We have strategic partners from different sectors providing support," Yeung says.
"Nokia and Samsung will provide app developers with the latest phone models to test-run their apps. Cluster Technology has agreed to provide data to developers at a discounted rate.
"For marketing, Citic Telecom has offered to help promote apps developed from the programme through the four major mobile networks on the mainland. The Business Angel Network will help attract investors to fund further development," Yeung adds.
Since the Incu-App Programme was launched in January, it has received more than 12 applications and three companies have been accepted so far. "We choose companies based on the creativity and market impact of their apps, and their ability to fulfil their business plan," says Yeung.
Yeung notes that one advantage of the programme is in stimulating innovative ideas by getting people in the same field to work together. "Having app developers work together at the Science Park allows them to interact with one another and come out with better products and ideas. This mode is being practised in Silicon Valley [in the US] and has proved to be very successful," he says.
He expects apps development to remain buoyant. "Apps took online shopping to another level. They benefit both consumers and corporates. Consumers can be connected to business providers like never before, and corporates can also make use of the new platform to inform consumers of their latest products and promotions," he says.
"Every industry is crazy for apps now and I don't expect it to be a short-term boom. It is developing on a sustainable mode with huge potential," Yeung adds.
Another promising technology sector is the so-called cloud computing. A recent survey by market research company International Data Corporation (IDC) concluded that cloud computing will create 14 million jobs globally by 2015.
About 6.75 millions of those jobs will be created in India and on mainland China, with the latter accounting for 4 million jobs.
Experts believe that by eliminating the need for in-house servers and storage devices, cloud computing will free up resources, enabling enterprises to invest even more in IT innovation, which could mean more jobs.
The IDC report says that between now and 2015, cloud-computing jobs in small and medium enterprises in Asia will grow at an annual rate of 28 per cent compared with 25.8 per cent for large enterprises.