Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks grooms local biotech start-ups for success
Biotechnology requires a huge investment in R&D, financial resources and talent. As returns can only be seen years later, support from the government and industry is crucial for biotechnology companies to thrive.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) launched an incubator programme known as the Incu-Bio Programme in 2006 to provide financial subsidies, office space and facility services to local biotechnology start-ups over a four-year incubation period. It includes a financial aid package valued at HK$860,000 going to each qualified biotech company.
Allen Yeung, HKSTP’s vice-president of business development and technology support, says 14 biotech start-ups have completed the four-year incubation period since its launch. Biotech start-ups under incubation cover diverse R&D areas, including drug and health supplements, test methods and tool kits for biotech labs, disease diagnostic and DNA sequencing, new materials for medical treatment, health monitoring devices, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Yeung says there has been an increase in start-ups in stem-cell-related applications and cancer disease diagnostics. “We also see more and more university-based research projects applying to join our programme to continue their R&D at HKSTP because of our environment conducive to commercialisation and global expansion.”
One example is Multigene Diagnostics, which was founded by City University as a spin-off business and was admitted to the programme in 2009 as a biotech start-up specialising in disease diagnostic through DNA sequencing. The company has now become Prenetics.
HKSTP adopts a “3C” strategy – connect, collaborate and catalyse – to help biotech start-ups commercialise their research results and sustain their business.
“We offer tailor-made support to incubatees at different stages of their endeavours,” Yeung says. Such support comes in the form of research partnership and resources sharing; strong networks of partners with research institutes and university laboratories in Hong Kong and abroad; overseas investment and business matching opportunities; business coaching and mentoring; and marketing and promotion services.
Yeung says the programme’s incubation period and funding will be enhanced in future.