Over the past decades, Asia has seen and experienced a significant technological transformation and growth, and there is potential for more.
Tech industry capability in Asia truly shone during the Covid-19 pandemic; from mobile app-based track and trace to using robots to enforce health safety. Besides healthcare and safety, there are three other areas where Asia has a high share of both startup investment and strong patents; mobile devices (mobile applications and games), artificial intelligence (machine learning, etc.) and the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) made a survey in 2020 and looked at 33 companies, and found that Asia has built a strong startup investment and Intellectual Property (IP) creation.
On top of that, the Asia region continues to see more unicorns appear as technology develops and enables businesses in Asia to expand their reach. It was in 2014 when the Asia region saw an explosion of unicorns and by 2016 there were a total of 60 unicorns in Asia. And according to a report by Nikkei Asia, Asia has a cumulative amount of 321 unicorns as of late July last year.
In short, Asia has positioned itself well and set itself up for strong growth potential, despite multiple disruptions such as supply chain disruption, inflation, etc. that have occurred over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In essence, tech hubs are a space or a region with a high density of startup companies located in and become a part of the economic infrastructure of the community or area. Tech hubs are also the place where things happen and move faster; a place where product and ideation can be streamlined.
Tech hubs exist to educate new and encourage new talent to adopt new ways of thinking by providing them with a space where tech businesses can experience accelerated business growth, which in turn will contribute to the region’s economy. Besides polishing new talent, tech hubs also offer seminars, workshops and mentorship programmes to current talent, so that they can equip themselves with the appropriate skills and connect experts to expand their career network.
Tech Hubs Main Focus
Thanks to its prime location; in the heart of fast-growing Asia and well-developed infrastructure, Singapore has become one of the leading tech hubs in Asia; attracting talent from across the globe to contribute to the Republic’s tech industry growth. Thanks to Singapore’s unique position between East and West, the country is attracting over 600 investors and 200 incubators and accelerators.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Asia Digital Transformation Index, Singapore was ranked in fourth place for digital infrastructure, after Denmark, the United States and Sweden, leading Asia’s ranking.
Singapore offers pro-business policies and environments; absorbs bank loans up to 70%, and grants to support training and building capabilities for research and innovation. On top of that, Singapore has fully streamlined and digitised the procedure for registering a company --- it only takes 15 minutes to register and approximately 1.5 days to set up a business. Furthermore, there are also various state and government-linked initiatives such as the Smart Nation Singapore programme and the Grants for Innovation to provide support for tech startups.
Also, according to a report from Deal Street, Singapore is the home to 25 unicorn companies. One of the unicorn companies is Grab, the renowned e-hailing service and one of the first unicorn companies in Singapore.
Currently, Singapore is invested in researching and developing communication technologies with a focus on 5G and the nationwide adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).
Hong Kong offers not only a geostrategic location that is close to some of Asia’s boom markets such as Mainland China, but it also offers a dynamic startup ecosystem, world-class infrastructure and a pro-business environment. As proof, Hong Kong consistently ranks within the top 10 for digital readiness, as reported by IMD.
Hong Kong provides a great and encouraging business environment for startup companies because of how easy it is to register and set up a business there. Besides easy business registration, Hong Kong also offers free economy and trade --- which means any business established and based in Hong Kong has permission to have a bank account anywhere without any restriction from the Hong Kong government.
Another perk that Hong Kong offers as a tech hub is that the government provides various support and initiatives for Hong Kong’s tech industry such as Hong Kong Science Park and Cyberport. The Hong Kong Science Park is managed by HKSTP, a statutory body set up by the HKSAR Government in 2001. As the largest R&D area and leading innovative ecosystem in Hong Kong, HKSTP is home to more than 1,100 enterprises and 17,000 innovators. With state-of-the-art facilities and support services for tech companies, startups, and research institutions, the high-tech hub fosters collaboration, nurtures talent, and drives technological advancements, contributing to the region's economic development and global competitiveness.
Apart from the R&D of artificial intelligence, which is currently the hottest trend, HKSTP also has another focus - healthcare technology. As a key driver of the biotechnology scene, the Hong Kong Science Park provides ample support from laboratory space to research facilities to funding opportunities, sparking innovation in medical devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, and personal care, as well as regenerative and traditional Chinese medicine. Some life-saving technology innovation spearheaded at HKSTP includes Phase and Biotheus, two pioneering healthcare startups with the aim of improving the health of humankind.
Besides Hong Kong Science Park, there is also another thriving digital community and area in Hong Kong; the Cyberport. The Cyberport is an innovative digital community and is currently the base of operation for over 1,900 startups and tech companies. Much like Hong Kong Science Park, Cyberport is managed by Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, a corporation wholly owned by the Hong Kong Government. Cyberport's main focus is to facilitate the growth of trending modern technology such as FinTech, smart living, digital entertainment and cyber security. Besides facilitating modern technology growth, Cyberport also aims to cultivate new talent and enhance current talent skills through various programmes and resources.
Tokyo is one of the biggest and most populous cities in Japan and the economic centre of Japan and has always been considered Japan’s hub for technology, business and innovation. Tokyo's current startup scene and ecosystem are booming; according to Startup Genome’s ranking, Tokyo ranks in 12th place. The current booming startup scene and ecosystem is the result of the Tokyo Government’s coordinated efforts in response to the acceleration of digital technology.
One of the efforts is an initiative launched in 2020, called Tokyo Consortium. Currently, Tokyo Consortium is moving as a leading member of Tokyo’s startup community made up of more than 270 leading companies, investors, incubators, universities and the government. There is also another initiative by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government called Global Innovations with Startups. The programme aims to build an encouraging startup environment and to attract overseas venture capital and accelerators to transform Tokyo into one of the most startup-friendly cities in the world.
Besides being the home to giant tech and engineering companies such as Sony, Mizuho, Honda, SoftBank, Mitsubishi and Toyota; there are currently over 1,200 startups in the city and the startup ecosystem is valued at $62 billion, with the most rapidly growing sectors being robotics, SaaS, Fintech and consumer services. There are already a few successful startup tech companies in Tokyo such as SIVA, Cogent Lab, PlayBrain, Visual Alpha and dotData.
With the emergence of the mentioned successful startups, Tokyo has become an ever-growing innovation centre with an advanced and efficient system. On top of that, sustainability and energy security are also the top priorities in Tokyo; making the city a great place for startups to establish a foothold.
The Korean tech hub and startup scene are centred around Seoul. With the recent announcement and showcase at CES 2023 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and its partner Seoul Business Agency (SBA), coupled with Seoul's recent jump in ranking to 4th place for Digital City Index 2022 as reported by The Economist Impact’s whitepaper — Seoul has positioned itself a potential tech hub and a city ripe for early stage startups. Because of that, Seoul is currently home to 39 incubators and accelerators and attracted 296 venture capital funds as of December last year.
This showcase is a display of Seoul's determination to become a haven for startup companies and to transform Seoul into one of the world’s leading startup and tech hubs. Though Seoul is already home to several successful tech companies such as PlusLab, LG, Oracle, and more; Seoul’s mayor --- Mayor Oh Se-hoon stated he plans to attract and bring in more foreign companies through the Invest Seoul programme for the aforementioned reasons. To further solidify Seoul’s efforts in transforming into a tech startup hub, the mayor also mentioned he plans to open a second FinTech Lab and a digital financial support centre to support FinTech startups in Korea. Aside from FinTech, Seoul is currently focusing on 6 other major industrial clusters; Biotechnology, AI and Big Data, Fintech, Robott, and IoT.
Besides the various government-backed programmes, Seoul also has a dedicated main tech hub, another Korean Government initiative to transform Seoul into a startup haven and tech hub; The Pangyo Techno Valley. Pangyo Techno Valley was built in 2012 as a Korean hub of innovation, similar to Silicon Valley. Currently, there are over 1,700 companies in Pangyo Techno Valley and 92% of them are tech companies. The current combined revenue is over $100 billion, marking Seoul’s Pangyo Techno Valley as a potential tech hub for tech startups to develop and establish their business.
The Zhongguancun Science Park, also known as China's Silicon Valley, has outlined ambitious plans for the growth of its digital economy in the next five years. The park's management committee has released a roadmap to achieve an average annual growth rate of at least 15% and a total income of over 6 trillion yuan (approximately $917 billion) by 2025.
The park has already demonstrated strong performance, with year-on-year revenue growth of 16.3% from January to October of the current year, reaching 2.56 trillion yuan. This growth has been driven by significant developments in various sectors, such as Internet applications for medical services, education, and offices. As a testament to this strong and ambitious development, Beijing placed itself in 5th place for Digital Readiness Cities Index 2022, reported by The Economist Impact.
Moving forward, the Zhongguancun Science Park aims to make breakthroughs in core and applicable technologies, provide support to digital economy enterprises, and advance industrial innovation. It will focus on enhancing innovation and the application of key sectors, including AI, big data, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). These areas are crucial for driving digital transformation and fostering the integration of the digital economy. The said aims have managed to attract and convince 34 incubators and accelerators to choose Beijing as their development ground.
By emphasising innovation and the utilisation of cutting-edge technologies, the park aims to solidify its position as a leading hub for technological development and entrepreneurship. The growth targets outlined in the roadmap reflect the park's commitment to driving economic growth through digitalisation and fostering an ecosystem conducive to innovation and industrial advancement.
Zhongguancun Science Park is also home to many world-renowned tech companies such as AMD, Google, Intel, Sony and Oracle Corporation. Further solidifying its status as Asia emerging tech hub.
Also, besides Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing is home to 2 other tech and science research and development zones; Huairou Science City, and Future Science City. The three zones form and establish a world-class scientific platform.
Beijing also has another active initiative going on currently, the Beijing E-Town initiative. Beijing E-Town was launched to provide support to leading industries such as automotive, science, digital technology, etc. Aside from providing support, Beijing E-Town also aims to draw in foreign investment by attracting more industry-leading companies and unicorns and boosting China’s Free Trade Zone (FTZ). As of December last year, Beijing has 344 venture capitals investment. Signalling that Beijing has the potential to become one of Asia’s leading tech and startup hubs.
Since the 1980s, Taiwan has consistently strengthened itself to position itself as Asia’s leading tech hub. To ensure it won’t lag behind, the island nation launched a government-linked initiative called Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA).
Located in the Taipei Arena, the Taiwan Tech Area (TTA) is a specialised hub for technology innovation and entrepreneurship. Its mission is to establish itself as the preeminent tech-focused ecosystem in Asia, by facilitating collaboration and innovation among Taiwanese and international startups. TTA fosters an environment that cultivates entrepreneurship and encourages the exchange of ideas and expertise within the tech industry. This initiative has placed Taiwan in 11th place on IMD Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2022.
Funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), TTA provides a co-working space that features 250 desks, 22 meeting rooms, and a mix of social and event spaces - an ideal launchpad for startups in the tech industry. TTA's immersive programs accelerate the growth of more than 100 startups each year. Moreover, it serves as a platform not only for startups to network with one another but also for investors seeking investment opportunities.
Other than TTA, there is another initiative to provide support for startups; Invest Taipei. This initiative was launched by the Taipei City Government's Department of Economic Development to provide assistance and support to both domestic and foreign companies or entrepreneurs by providing them with an understanding of Taipei’s business environment, including related policies and legislation. Thanks to this initiative, there are currently 26 incubators in the Taipei City startup hub. As a result, Taipei has become home to several successful startup techs companies such as KKDay, TXOne, Blocto, Vpon, and WOO.
Besides TTA and Invest Taipei, Taiwan also has another initiative programme to help build and develop the startup ecosystem in Taiwan. That initiative is called Taiwan Startup Stadium (TTS), the leading startup ecosystem builder in Taiwan. TTS was established in 2015, but it has already supported over 230 startups through a network of more than 120 mentors, 500 investors, and 30 corporations. TSS's primary objective is to foster strong connections among its member startups and forge partnerships with local and international entities, including international accelerators, conferences, partners, and corporate organisations.
Hong Kong's tech hub is a thriving ecosystem that has gained recognition as a major player in the tech industry. The city's strategic location, highly skilled workforce, and business-friendly policies have made it an ideal destination for startups and established companies alike. The key tech industries in Hong Kong include fintech, e-commerce, and logistics, as well as renowned companies such as Tencent and Alibaba, have contributed significantly to Hong Kong's growing tech sector.
Some of the advantages of working in Hong Kong's tech hub are access to a highly skilled talent pool, diverse funding opportunities, and supportive government policies that facilitate business growth. Hong Kong also serves as a gateway to the Chinese market, offering unparalleled access to a vast consumer base.
Compared to other tech hubs in Asia, Hong Kong stands out for its unique blend of Chinese and Western cultures, highly efficient infrastructure, and proximity to other major Asian markets. As a result, the city makes for an attractive destination for entrepreneurs looking to expand their business in Asia.
In addition to its unique culture, strategic location and highly efficient infrastructure, Hong Kong also offers various programmes and resources to support tech startups such as HKSTP's Hong Kong Science Park and Cyberport.
Hong Kong’s thriving tech hub is a testament to the city's ability to innovate and adapt to the ever-changing tech landscape. As the tech industry continues to evolve, Hong Kong's tech hub is poised to play an even more significant role in shaping the future of the industry in Asia and beyond.
Looking to discover more about what Hong Kong tech hub has to offer? GRIT and HKSTP are hosting a career networking event for top tech talent like you to not only learn more about Hong Kong’s thriving tech scene but also connect with like minded professionals and top industry leaders from companies like Lalamove, Fano Labs, Huawei, Aerosim, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) Hong Kong Institute of Science & Innovation Chinese Academy of Sciences, and more. This is an opportunity you don't want to miss to expand your network, gain valuable insights from experts, and potentially take your tech career to the next level. Register now and be part of the exciting tech hub in Asia. Learn more about the event or register for the event based on your current location below: