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Cyberport sets up cyber-fund

The region's young technology inventors and entrepreneurs have no cause to complain. Plenty of support is now available to transform their dreams into money-making businesses. As part of its creative micro-fund programme for young entrepreneurs, Cyberport has stepped forward to provide practical advice and initial financial support.

The aim is to give Hong Kong or Shenzhen residents, aged below 30, the know-how and skills to capture opportunities in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Cyberport hopes this would boost innovation and collaboration.

Selected teams or individuals can receive funding of HK$100,000. Their proposals can be for applications, digital games or media, or new medical devices, so long as they reflect "the emerging web".

"We have been doing `incubation' over the past years and have helped establish around 120 companies," says David Chung, chief technology officer of Hong Kong Cyberport Management. "With the micro-fund programme, we are going a step further. We want to act as a training school and give opportunities to a lot more youngsters who may have great ideas but lack the necessary support."

Scheme participants will have a few months to work on their concepts - refining, testing and doing basic market research. The initial funding is not intended to make them rich but to be enough, say, to produce a prototype. If they come up with something judged to be commercially viable, there is then the possibility of graduating to Cyberport's formal incubation programme.

Along the way, they will learn how to scale up and put in place the structure and organisation needed to sustain success. There will also be training in soft skills and advice on launching products or identifying opportunities not initially apparent.

Chung makes no apology for supporting a number of projects that design and produce games and other forms of digital entertainment.

"If we look at success in commercial terms, these deserve a certain credibility," he says. "Remember that, in today's world, we require a lot of entertainment and some of these products [catch on] globally."

He emphasises, though, that the first batch of micro-fund proposals also concerns other matters. One project considers the use of wireless technology to create a "digital hospital". The objective is to make some processes, such as patient monitoring, less labour intensive. Other ideas have focused on language learning in a 3D environment, internet security, and the possible use of game technology for CT scans or to model a patient's heart.

"E-health and the development of lower cost [treatment] is a critical area, especially for the second- and third- tier cities in China that can't afford to buy the most expensive medical devices," Chung says. "But we don't preclude anything. The ICT sector itself is undergoing a big transformation and we want more `crazy' ideas that can change our way of thinking and are good for both the Hong Kong and China markets."

Overall, he notes there is still a shortage of professional software developers, an issue that must be addressed if Hong Kong is to take full advantage of existing opportunities.

"We are starting a collaboration centre to help local ICT companies grow faster, accelerate and land in China," Chung says. "With cloud computing now so hot, we want to capitalise on this by opening doors and tapping into the China software market."