The slogan "build it and they will come" symbolized much of the tech boom of the late 1990s. But the mantra didn't quite work for the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. Opened in 2001, the park at one point seemed like nothing more than a bland aggregation of nice buildings. There were simply too many holes in the grand plan.
But now, five years later, Hong Kong is finally coming to terms with the realities of the silicon world, and there are more signs of life in the Science Park today than ever before. Hordes of visitors and delegates populate the park's once-quiet corridors, amid the hustle and bustle of the construction of Phase Two, which is expected to be complete in 2007. Elegant galleries now showcase the latest design wins.
ON Semiconductor was one of the first prominent silicon vendors to move to the park back in 2002. Philips and National Semiconductor recently followed, leading many observers to hope for a domino effect.
The park's synergy concept has started to work for small design outfits like Lexiwave Technology (Hong Kong) Ltd. Lexiwave, an RF chip maker, uses the park's infrastructure services by sharing the design tools for layout, test and debugging. Design engineers at Lexiwave especially cited the park's Failure Analysis Lab as a valuable resource made available to the park's tenants.
The Science Park sponsors special programs in which companies can join the park in investing in certain design tools and test devices that can later be shared with other tenants. For instance, Pericom Semiconductor, one of the early tenants, is working with the Science Park management to purchase an HDMI switch that tests certain eye patterns for HDTV products. Pericom's design house in the Science Park is focused on clock design for PC products.
There are only a few IC design houses in the park right now, but officials say that could change with the completion of Phase Two. Along with low rents, large chip vendors get the benefit of Hong Kong's inherent infrastructure advantage. And the fact that Hong Kong sits next to the Guangdong area of China--probably the world's largest manufacturing base--adds to the island's attractions.
However, it remains to be seen whether Hong Kong will be able to make it big in the hypercompetitive semiconductors world. Credibility is an issue, and the key drive still comes through incentives, not relationships. Moreover, Hong Kong's marketing prowess has to be logically connected to the tech competitiveness required in the semiconductor business.
Nevertheless, the island seems to have put itself on track in terms of the right infrastructure. It's possible that the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park may one day start to look like a miniature Silicon Valley.