Local industries and the public in Hong Kong are becoming more conscious about environmental protection and long-term sustainable development than ever before. Working with the Environmental Protection Department, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and other relevant organisations such as the local universities, R&D centres and Hong Kong Productivity Council, we hope to identify and facilitate development of environmentally friendly technologies and processes to serve the needs of our community.
Environmental protection therein also lies immense business opportunities for the environmental technology companies. With the increasingly stringent regulatory regimes on environmental protection in the global market, many industrial sectors have recognized the need to adopt and develop green manufacturing practices and clean technologies in order to survive and compete.
One of the fast growing and important markets for Hong Kong companies on environmental technologies and related services is Mainland China. China is now a world leader in clean technology investments. Energy efficiency and environmental protection remains a key focus in the latest National Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) of the Chinese government. It is anticipated that the Mainland’s environmental industry will enjoy a 15 – 20% growth each year under the new government policy.
The potential for Hong Kong companies to grasp this significant market opportunity is further fueled by the implementation of the Close Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the Mainland from 2004 onwards. Goods of Hong Kong origin can enjoy tariff-free access to the Mainland. The liberalisation measures under CEPA also provide Hong Kong service suppliers including environmental services with preferential access to the Mainland market. The free trade pact has become one of the major catalysts in attracting trade and manufacturing investment into the local environmental technology industry.
Environmental Technology Industry in Hong Kong
According to the latest research updates by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the value-added of Hong Kong’s environmental protection industry grew to approximately HK$5.6 billion in 2010. Currently, there are about 300 establishments in Hong Kong involved in the environmental technology industry-related business with a total of about 36,000 employees. These companies can be broadly grouped into six sub-sectors, namely 1) water conservation and pollution control, 2) air pollution control, 3) waste management, 4) noise control and mitigation, 5) energy saving and 6) environmental consulting services.
Many Hong Kong companies in the industry have excellent understanding and experience in the local and Mainland markets. Considerable number of them have good technical capabilities in their specialty areas, such as water conservation and pollution control, air and odour pollution control, waste recycling or recovery, noise control and energy conservation. However, majority of them (89%) are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with less than 100 staff. These SMEs, in general, have limited resources in developing and integrating innovative environmental technologies, hence dampening their competitiveness to realize the market opportunities through reacting to the rapidly advancing technological needs and evolving regulatory requirements in different markets.
Support for Environment-Related Projects
Funding supports are available for eligible environmental technology-related R&D projects and other projects/activities in relation to environmental and conservation matters under the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) and the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF). Since its establishment, the ITF has approved around 80 R&D projects in developing clean environmental technologies and processes suitable for application in Hong Kong, with the total funding amount exceeded HK$155 million. These projects cover a wide variety of environmental technologies including solid waste treatment, energy conservation, control of traffic pollution, noise control technology, sewage treatment and water recycling. Occasionally, specific R&D themes on particular environmental technologies may also be solicited by the ITF to address new challenges to the industry due to new regulatory requirements or arising environmental issues in Hong Kong.
In order to encourage continuous skill improvement of the local workforce and nurture technical expertise and professional engineers for the industry, companies which wish to have staff trained in areas that would be useful to their businesses may apply for a training grant under the New Technology Training Scheme (NTTS) and the Professional Services Development Assistance Scheme (PSDAS).