Chinese autonomous driving tech provider Westwell to invest HK$300 million to attract research talent for new Hong Kong headquarters

Chinese autonomous driving tech provider Westwell to invest HK$300 million to attract research talent for new Hong Kong headquarters

Chinese autonomous driving tech provider Westwell to invest HK$300 million to attract research talent for new Hong Kong headquarters

The Shanghai-based company designs and develops AI chips and autopilot control systems for autonomous vehicles and the broader logistics industry.

It launched its flagship product, the Q-Truck, an autonomous, battery-powered commercial vehicle, in 2018, two years after the company was formed.

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After five rounds of fundraising last year, the company has a valuation of 7 billion yuan (US$973 million), with investors including China-based Essence Securities and InnoStar Venture under Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun Group.

In 2020, Westwell made progress in the overseas market by collaborating with Hutchison Ports to introduce its autonomous trucks at Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port. The company also signed an agreement with the Port of Felixstowe, part of the Hutchison Ports network, to deploy 100 Q-Trucks at the UK’s largest container port. To date, 34 trucks have been delivered.

Westwell based its choice for its global HQ on Hong Kong’s position as a hub for international finance, trade and shipping, as well as the government’s support for innovation with fresh thinking and an industry-oriented approach, according to Tan.

Over the past year, Westwell’s Hong Kong subsidiary has promoted its local business and expanded its operations into countries such as Singapore, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands as a part of its global expansion.

Secretary for Innovation and Technology Sun Dong said the Hong Kong government had managed to attract Westwell to the city last year. Its overseas business grew rapidly via collaboration with local enterprises and thanks to Hong Kong’s unique advantages in terms of international standards, technological systems and logistics links.

“Hong Kong is helping Westwell to develop the Middle East market. The government will continue to bring in companies like Westwell, which are able to take root in Hong Kong and apply their products to local and overseas markets based on scientific research,” Sun said.

“By leveraging on Hong Kong’s unique advantage of being backed up by the motherland and connected to the world, these companies can radiate to overseas markets, especially in Southeast Asia and Belt and Road countries.”

Sun said the case of Westwell “fully reflects that Hong Kong’s technology industry is booming.”

Hong Kong unveiled an ambitious blueprint for innovation and technology development in 2022, with a plan to double the amount of talent, start-ups and unicorn enterprises in the city over the next decade, as well as push for a fourfold increase in the economic contribution of the manufacturing sector.

Tan said Hong Kong would provide the new R&D centre with a solid manpower base, with its world-class universities renowned for their scientific research and diverse talent pool.

“We look forward to extensive industry-academia co-operation with local research institutes and universities in Hong Kong, to promote the research and application of AI and autonomous vehicle technologies,” he said.

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