Exclusive | When Qatar was seeking a head for its science and technology park, it called on a Hongkonger. Here’s why

Exclusive | When Qatar was seeking a head for its science and technology park, it called on a Hongkonger. Here’s why

Exclusive | When Qatar was seeking a head for its science and technology park, it called on a Hongkonger. Here’s why

“As a Chinese and Asian, I want to connect with talented individuals who embody the spirit of entrepreneurship,” said Lau, who has more than 25 years of experience and a wealth of expertise spanning technology, academia and entrepreneurship, including a track record of leading sustainable ventures across various domains.

QSTP was envisioned as a driving force for technological innovation, translating research in Qatar into commercial products and contributing to Qatar’s aspirations of becoming a knowledge-based economy, Lau said in an interview during a trip to Hong Kong and mainland China late last month.

Despite Lau not being required to bring in Hong Kong or Chinese start-ups as part of his performance targets, at least five such companies have committed to establishing their research centres in the park, including some unicorns, he said.

“Many Chinese technology start-ups have overlooked these valuable opportunities,” Lau said. “If we set aside the cultural and social etiquette difference in Qatar, and focus solely on the country’s determination and resources, this becomes a valuable opportunity. I am on the ground to support them.”

His appointment comes as officials in Hong Kong and Beijing turn their focus to opportunities in the Middle East, amid economic diversification and technological development in the region and heightened geopolitical tensions in China’s relations with Western countries.

During his trip to China last week, Lau met several tech leaders including Wang Jiwu, chairman of Tus-Holdings, which previously operated Tsinghua University Science Park Development Centre. Lau was also invited to visit Davinci Motor, a Beijing-based developer of electric motorcycles.

Davinci DC100, an electric motorcycle on display at the International MotorXpo Hong Kong in December 2021. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lau studied electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California in Berkeley, and worked at Hewlett Packard and Schlumberger before continuing his postdoctoral research at Stanford.

He co-founded Perception Digital, an electronics design company focused on digital signal processors, and listed the firm on Hong Kong’s GEM board in late 2009. The company moved to the main board in 2011.

In July last year, Lau was appointed as a member of the listing committee at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing on a one-year tenure. He has decided not to extend his role to focus on his new journey in Qatar.

His open-ended contract is based on an ongoing relationship with the park, whose board members include Qatar University president Hassan Al-Derham, Qatar Development Bank CEO Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al-Khalifa, Qatar Electricity and Water General Manager Fahad bin Hamad Al-Mohannadi, and Qatar Petroleum Research and Technology Center Manager Dr. Nasser S. Al-Mohannadi.

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Lau anticipates more opportunities for start-ups to flourish under Qatar’s National Vision 2030, which calls for a diversified economy that reduces dependence on hydrocarbon industries, investments in higher education and research, and fostering the private sector economy.

QSTP currently is home to more than 40 multinational companies, including General Electric, Microsoft, Siemens, Shell, ExxonMobil, Maersk and Qatar Petroleum. It comprises nearly 500,000 sq ft of offices, laboratories, and business facilities on 120 hectares of designated land.

The park also nurtures a network of start-ups and emerging tech ventures. Its Tech Venture Fund provides support to global start-ups seeking to scale their operations in the region.

“I feel very excited and grateful for this opportunity,” Lau said. “I proposed to them a global vision and suggested opening the door internationally, and the board immediately empowered me to go ahead. We are planning to revisit the strategic plans for the park.”

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