Opto-electronics is an enabling technology platform for a wide range of applications in areas such as communications networks, industrial applications and lighting. The market focus prior to 2001 was on telecommunication applications, but it has recently shifted to datacom and other short-distance applications. The trend is to bring opto-electronics enabled systems into consumers' daily lives. The fast growing opto-electronics industry presents new opportunities for Hong Kong. With its strengths in opto-electronics R&D and IP protection, Hong Kong could serve as an opto-electronics R&D IP supply center to complement the existing manufacturing strength in opto-electronics in the PRD.
Hong Kong has a strong research base in opto-electronics. Many top-notched research groups at local universities are conducting research work in this area. The ASTRI (Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute) has identified photonics as a key strategic area, while the HKSTP (Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation) has identified opto-electronics as one of the strategic clusters in the Science Park.LED for general lighting and LCD backlight have been the hot topics of R&D by ASTRI and local universities.
Not restricted to the application to opto-electronics, materials and packaging are also the key technology areas for electronics in general. ITF has been funding R&D projects targeting on electronic product miniaturization, thermal management as well as performance improvement and cost reduction. Information on these projects can be found in Internet-based Technology Information System.
Strengths and Opportunities
There are many strong opto-electronics research groups in local universities and ASTRI. The opto-electronics laboratories of these institutions are equipped with world-class facilities and serve as ideal training grounds for technical personnel and students. These research groups have demonstrated capabilities in conducting R&D projects and helped put project results into commercial use. As an example, Acasia Ltd., originally part of the photonics research group in ASTRI, was successfully spun off from ASTRI and acquired by SAE Magnetics in April 2004. In addition, Hong Kong has well-established electronics and precision engineering industries which can offer valuable support to the opto-electronics industry. Hong Kong is also in close proximity to a large number of opto-electronics manufacturers in the PRD.
Excellent opportunities have emerged from the strong manufacturing sector and fast-growing economy in Mainland China for new opto-electronics components and systems in the key-topics identified. For example, businesses in home network and automobile manufacturing are growing rapidly, increasing demands in short distance optical networks. High brightness LEDs will be a good candidate for new energy-saving light sources for both indoor and outdoor lighting. Opto-electronics sensors have found increasing applications in construction and industrial areas. Recently, some European and North American opto-electronics companies are setting up branch operations in or relocating to Asia, where a good proportion of the market is. This presents a good opportunity for local companies to cooperate with or to support these foreign companies.
Risks and Weaknesses
The local opto-electronics industry is rather fragmented and there is no opto-electronics cluster in Hong Kong yet. Overseas markets and foreign suppliers play important roles in this industry. Typical local companies would require assistance in technical marketing and in promotion of their products overseas. Many of them also rely on foreign suppliers for critical components or technologies. In addition, Hong Kong faces strong competition from Japan, Mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, which have enjoyed strong government support in opto-electronics and have built up various depth of industry strength in this area.