Hong Kong’s innovation and technology sector is in for a HK$17 billion-plus boost, as part of spending initiatives announced by the financial secretary in his budget speech on Wednesday.

The highlights

include HK$8.2 billion in funding to promote smart manufacturing and research led by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation.

John Tsang Chun-wah put significant focus on financial technology, or fintech, which has been highlighted as a potential growth area for start-ups in the city.

He said the Steering Group on Financial Technologies, announced in last year’s budget, had recommended measures to develop the sector, including encouraging overseas talent to come to Hong Kong.

Fintech start-ups offer financial services including crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. As part of the support for the sector, Cyberport will dedicate 3,000 square metres of co-working office space to fintech firms and nurture 150 fintech start-ups over the next five years.

Tsang said the government would encourage the financial industry to explore blockchain technology, the transaction record behind the digital currency bitcoin, to reduce suspicious transactions.

The budget included plans for the corporation to examine a project to bring together advanced manufacturing industries, such as robotics, at the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate in a project estimated to cost HK$8.2 billion to be completed by 2021-22

To ensure consumer protection, the Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission will work with the industry on how to balance demand with investors’ understanding and tolerance of risk when developing new products and services, Tsang said.

But Michael Gazeley, founder of Hong Kong cybersecurity firm Network Box, said the budget’s emphasis on start-ups was good for innovation but failed to lay out sustainable plans to support these companies as they mature. “There’s no thought in the next step, there’s no thought in how to utilise the technology that gets developed,” he said.

Mukesh Bubna, founder of peer-to-peer lender Monexo, said dedicated regulations were being developed too slowly compared to competing cities such as Singapore.

“We’re an old economy and Hong Kong needs to move fast if it wants to reinvent itself,” Bubna said. “You’ve got to reinvent before these industries die and that’s not what I’m seeing in this budget.”