How the I&T Development Blueprint paves way for PropTech development

Arthur Tsang, Tech Innovation Researcher, Our Hong Kong Foundation / Research and Content Committee Member, Hong Kong PropTech Association

11 Jan 2023

In its long awaited I&T Blueprint, the Government not only rightly captures the city’s I&T strengths but candidly admits its shortfalls. Yet, the admission of shortfalls comes with four “broad development directions” and eight “major strategies” which comprise of clear development targets and reasonable recommendations for the government to optimise the entire I&T ecosystem.

Not only is the Blueprint an honest document but also an awakening one. On one hand, it realizes existing international competition and geopolitical tensions, and on the other, it seizes the golden opportunity of the blossoming of China’s I&T development. The bold promise of the creation of a vibrant I&T ecosystem in 2027 and a global I&T hub in 2032 clearly shows the Government’s determination amidst such a testing but opportune era; the pledge of a minimal doubling of basically all major indicators – from R&D to GDP ratio to the number of unicorns and I&T workers – makes it even more so.

The Blueprint’s first two directions aim to strengthen the entire I&T value chain and its talent pool, from foundational upstream university research, through technology transfer and industry development, to the very end of advanced manufacturing, alongside venture financing and I&T culture. The blessings of the “life and health technology”, “AI and data science”, and “advanced manufacturing and new energy technology” industries as the three core industries recognizes the city’s edges in these areas, and the latter two are in fact the backbone technologies of PropTech.

The adoption of AI, extended reality, blockchain, internet of things and the like in all stages of urban planning and real estate development rides on data analytics and is manifested by applications like Building Information Modelling (BIM), Smart Buildings, digital transactions, to the ultimate construction of digital twins. Besides AI and data science, the development of Robotics-Modular Integrated Construction (MiC) for smoother construction and Green Buildings for energy saving are also clear depictions of advanced manufacturing and new energy technology.

At the tip of the value chain, despite the commercial impression it may give, our universities and R&D centers have been the unsung cradle for such technology breakthroughs. For instance, among our renowned InnoHK laboratories, HKUST’s Hong Kong Center for Construction Robotics is dedicated to facilitating construction automation with robotics. On the far end of the chain, architects in town such as AD+RG and LWK+PARTNERS have been designing MiC installation systems while our reinforcement fixing industry have been industrialized for prefabrication and be incorporated as part of the BIM process. The targeted fivefold increase of our manufacturing GDP in 2032 makes such development even more promising.

The Blueprint’s third direction aims to develop Hong Kong’s digital economy and smart city, comprising both hardware, including digital infrastructure like data centers and 5G networks, and software, including platforms and technologies for smart government services, smart living, and FinTech. A standalone paragraph on facilitating spatial data applications in the Blueprint exhibits the Government’s dedication to this particular PropTech subject. As reiterated in the Blueprint, measures such as the development of a Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) as the single source of truth, the establishment of a Geospatial Lab for proof-of-concept of prototypes for innovative applications, and the adoption of the BIM-AM/FM (Asset management/ Facility management) platform in building facility management have already been in place and in motion.

Moving forward, as the Government pledges to proactively facilitate the “development of digital twin city” and rightly recognizes the involvement of both the public and private sectors in building CSDI, the development of an active digital economy is the key to this arduous pursuit. This presents huge opportunities for the real estate and urban planning sectors to undergo digital transformation and engage in data sharing, which is, without doubt, the vital drive for PropTech development.

The last direction put forward by the Blueprint is consolidating Hong Kong’s role as a bridge connecting the mainland and the world. Indeed, Hong Kong has a vibrant and adaptive real estate sector, yet the huge market and complete supply chain in the mainland provides a greater stage for our I&T industry. In 2022, the PRC Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development published the indicative ‘Development Plan of the Construction Industry During the “14th Five-Year” Period’ and called for the development of intelligent construction including widespread adoption of BIM. This echoes the earlier ‘Plan for Development of the Digital Economy During the “14th Five-Year” Period’ issued by the State Council in 2021, which calls for “harmonized development of the digital urban-rural area” in creation of “digital twin cities”. All these offer vast market opportunities for Hong Kong’s I&T sector. Meanwhile, the mainland’s booming PropTech industry equally presents wide choices for the construction of our smart city; expectedly, many of the rising stars come from Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing, with some from Hong Kong like Raspect Intelligence which successfully tapped into the Chinese market through the Greater Bay Area to drill on AI-driven autonomous inspections.

To develop the data-driven and duly regulated PropTech industry, data flow and standard harmonization across the border are important and specific elements to be addressed. The Blueprint’s commitment to streamlined cross-border flow of factors of production, development of major platforms like Hetao, Qianhai, and Nansha, and deeper and wider collaboration with the mainland at the national, provincial, and municipal levels opens doors for such cross-border breakthroughs.

Afterall, the Blueprint serves as the perfect start for the work to be undertaken by the new government, and most importantly, it injects confidence, builds consensus, and strengthens unity within and beyond our I&T sector, and PropTech will surely be part of the movement.

Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Development Blueprint

"How the I&T Development Blueprint Paves the Way for PropTech Development"