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Hong Kong’s new hi-tech star: SmartMore.

ByYasmeeta Oon

Jun 14, 2024

Hong Kong’s new hi-tech star: SmartMore.

In a significant endorsement of Hong Kong’s aspirations to become a leading technological hub, SmartMore, a smart manufacturing start-up founded by a Chinese University of Hong Kong professor in 2019, has been spotlighted by the government as a key player in the city’s tech ecosystem. This announcement came during a ceremony on Wednesday, where the Hong Kong Investment Corporation (HKIC) and SmartMore celebrated their strategic partnership.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po praised SmartMore as a quintessential Hong Kong success story: nurtured within the city, expanding across the Greater Bay Area, and aiming for global prominence. The partnership marks a rare official endorsement for a start-up and underscores the government’s commitment to fostering innovation and technology.

At the ceremony, SmartMore showcased a range of its cutting-edge products, highlighting its rapid growth and technological prowess. These products include:

  • Sensor Bar-Code Readers: Essential for streamlined inventory management.
  • Automated Inspection Machines: Designed to detect defects in production lines quickly, such as in mobile-phone frames and earphones.

These innovations reflect SmartMore’s focus on applying artificial intelligence, automation, and optics engineering to enhance manufacturing processes. This aligns seamlessly with China’s broader strategy to modernize its vast manufacturing sector with advanced technologies.

Carl ZeissAdvanced Lens ManufacturingGlobal
AirbusAircraft ManufacturingEurope
CanonCamera and Office EquipmentJapan
TCLTelevision ProductionChina
OppoSmartphone BrandChina
Foxconn Technology GroupElectronics Contract ManufacturingChina

These clients underscore SmartMore’s global reach and the diverse applications of its technology across various high-tech sectors.

Despite not disclosing its financial data, SmartMore is recognized as one of China’s fastest-growing start-ups. Its valuation is estimated at around HK$10 billion, bolstered by investments from prominent backers such as IDG Capital and HongShan. The company’s trajectory has been fueled by the research expertise of its founder, Jia Jiaya, who has over two decades of experience in artificial intelligence and optics engineering.

Jia’s vision for SmartMore includes leveraging its technological innovations to drive significant advancements in manufacturing. He emphasized that the firm’s technologies are designed to be resilient to geopolitical tensions, particularly concerning restricted chip supplies from the US. The chips used in SmartMore’s machines are generally less advanced than those in consumer electronics, reducing their vulnerability to such curbs.

Looking ahead, Jia expressed that Hong Kong would be the preferred location for SmartMore’s initial public offering (IPO). He noted that listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is crucial for the company to finance its expansion and deliver returns to its shareholders. However, he did not specify a timeline, stating that the company would wait for a favorable financial and economic environment before proceeding with its IPO plans.

The support from HKIC is a testament to the government’s confidence in SmartMore’s potential to enhance Hong Kong’s technology ecosystem. HKIC CEO Clara Chan Ka-chai highlighted that SmartMore has been tasked with advancing the city’s tech capabilities but did not disclose the amount of investment from the government.

In a prerecorded speech, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu applauded SmartMore’s collaboration with HKIC, describing it as a milestone for the city’s tech sector. He emphasized that this partnership includes plans to establish the “first artificial intelligence academy of Hong Kong,” which is expected to play a significant role in nurturing future tech talents.

  • Strategic Government Partnership: SmartMore has been chosen by the Hong Kong government as a representative of the city’s hi-tech ambitions.
  • Showcase of Innovations: At a celebratory event, SmartMore demonstrated products that underscore its technological advancements and rapid growth.
  • Valuable Clientele: The company’s technology serves major clients globally, including Carl Zeiss, Airbus, and Canon.
  • Future IPO Plans: SmartMore’s founder, Jia Jiaya, indicated that the company aims to go public in Hong Kong, pending favorable conditions.
  • Resilience to Geopolitical Tensions: SmartMore’s technology remains largely unaffected by US-China trade tensions due to the nature of the chips it uses.

Hong Kong’s strategic push into the tech start-up space comes at a critical time. The city’s traditional economic pillars—finance, shipping, and trade—are under increasing pressure from geopolitical developments, particularly the escalating tensions between the US and China. By fostering a vibrant tech ecosystem, Hong Kong aims to diversify its economy and maintain its competitive edge in the global market.

SmartMore’s story is emblematic of this shift. Founded by Jia Jiaya, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2000 to pursue studies at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and later joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2005, the company has rapidly ascended to become a beacon of innovation in the region.

As Hong Kong continues to navigate the complexities of its economic landscape, the city’s focus on technology and innovation is more critical than ever. The strategic cooperation between HKIC and SmartMore not only highlights the government’s dedication to supporting hi-tech enterprises but also sets a precedent for other start-ups looking to make a significant impact.

SmartMore’s journey from a university lab to a burgeoning tech powerhouse illustrates the potential of Hong Kong to become a global leader in smart manufacturing and advanced technologies. With continued support and strategic partnerships, the city is well-positioned to cultivate the next generation of technological innovators.

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Featured Image courtesy of CUHK in Focus

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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