HKAI Lab plans to nurture 20 startups annually

HKAI Lab opening ceremony (image: HKAI Lab)

The Hong Kong AI & Data Laboratory (HKAI Lab) is open for business at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks   (HKSTP). Jointly established by Alibaba Group, SenseTime, and HKSTP, the HKAI Lab plans to incubate up to 20 AI startups every year under its accelerator program. 

The first batch of seven startups moved into the Lab in early October. They are focused on developing AI offerings for urban planning, influencer marketing, fintech, property inspection, and social networking.

“The HKAI Lab showcases how partnerships between the government, industry, academia and research communities help fuel innovation and technology development,” HKSTP CEO Albert Wong said. “Our ultimate goal is to make Hong Kong an AI innovation hub.”

The HKAI Lab will support the Government’s blueprint on innovation and technology development to build the “research cluster on AI and robotics technologies”.

“We hope to build the HKAI Lab as a platform that connects the research, business, and education sector. Workshops and seminars will be organized at our Lab,” said Timothy Leung, HKAI Lab CEO.  Participating startups have the chance to meet venture capitalists and potential strategic partners through these events.

The HKAI Lab runs two accelerator cohorts every year, taking in six to 10 startups each time. During the six-month accelerator program, each selected startup will be given a free working space in the Lab, a seed funding of US$100,000 from Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, US$10,000 worth of Alibaba Cloud service credits, as well as cloud computing and AI resources support. These resources include GPU-equipped computer resources from Alibaba Cloud, deep learning platforms from Alibaba Cloud and SenseTime, and advice from the Lab’s advisory board that consists of AI scientists, entrepreneurs, and professors.

At the end of the six-month period, participating startups have an opportunity to receive extended incubation support by applying to the HKSTP’s Incu-Tech program. “Our accelerator program is a co-incubation initiative with HKSTP. Participating startups in the HKAI Lab have an opportunity to get an extended support for extra two and a half years through the Incu-Tech program.”

Leung said a number of vertical industries in Hong Kong such as financial, retail, transportation, property management, and healthcare have started to inject resources into AI. The biggest challenges for AI development in Hong Kong are mainly in two areas—talent and practical applications.

“A platform with an all-round support is necessary to attract and nurture AI talents for creating innovative solutions,” said Leung. “AI is changing every industry. Enterprises have to be prepared on how to apply AI technologies into their business operations to reap the benefits brought by AI.”