hen English author
and satirist Jonathan
Swift coined the phrase:
“A penny for your
thoughts” in the 1700s, he probably had
no idea how relevant that statement
would become. These days, thoughts
and ideas are worth substantially more
than mere pennies. Indeed, creative,
innovative and inventive ideas are the
hard currency of modern business.
As a young entrepreneur in
the 1950s, Li Ka-shing read about
a revolutionary plastics injection-
moulding machine. At the time
the machine was unavailable in
Hong Kong, nor could he afford the
HK$20,000 (approximately US$2,564)
to buy one for manufacturing new
So, based on the limited inform-
ation available and using an air
compressor, plastic tubes and a dash of
creativity, Mr Li developed a “home-
made” moulding machine that worked
just as well, if not better, for a tenth of
the price.
Such ingenuity helped him emerge
as one of the world’s most successful
entrepreneurs – at the head of a business
empire (including HutchisonWhampoa
Limited) that spans the globe.
Mr Li has always placed a high value
on original ideas to give his businesses a
winning edge. Not only does he
actively encourage a culture of creativity
within the Li Ka-shing group of
companies, he also invests much of his
How did it begin? First, 20 outstanding
“cultural entrepreneurs” from both
Hong Kong and London were selected.
The project kicked off last October
in London with presentations by
“ambassadors” from nine fledgling
Hong Kong companies: Crazysmile,
CTCWM Advertising,
Design, GOD, Here, IdN, Kan and Lau
Design, People Mountain People,
Sea/Poo Records and Shya-la-la.
In November, Hong Kong recip-
rocated, hosting a conference entitled
“Mapping the Creative Economy” at
the University of Hong Kong where
Hong Kong attendees – including many
senior representatives from business and
government – learned about innovative
approaches to developing a creative
economy in London.
British Consul-General Sir James
Hodge set the tone by correcting a
common misconception about creat-
ivity. It is not the exclusive preserve of
the arts, he explained, but encompasses
every sector embracing original thought
and expertise.
He noted that British children’s
television show
The Teletubbies
, which
was created by two housewives,
now ranks among the top-five most
successful British exports, while the
long-running stage show
Phantom of the
has earned more than any movie.
Together, so-called “creative in-
dustries” contribute 8% to Britain’s
GDP, accounting for two million jobs
The Li Ka Shing Foundation sponsors a unique project forging links amongst creative talents
in Hong Kong, Shantou, Beijing and London.
By Tim Metcalfe
personal wealth in perpetuating the
creative process, primarily by spon-
soring education initiatives in Hong
Kong, Mainland China and abroad
through the Li Ka Shing Foundation.
To date, the Foundation has donated
more than HK$4.8 billion (approx-
imately US$620 million) towards edu-
cation, health and culture.
One of the Foundation’s latest
sponsored initiatives, entitled “Creative
Cities,” brought into focus the
symbiotic link between good ideas and
good business. Hong Kong and London
are uniquely linked by history. While
some observers expected ties to be
severed after the 1997 handover of
Hong Kong to China, the “Creative
Cities” initiative demonstrates that
connections at all levels – from business
and technology to the media and the
arts – remain inter-twined.
Organised by the Hong Kong
Institute of Contemporary Culture
(HKICC) and London’s Institute of
Contemporary Arts (ICA), “Creative
Cities” aims to forge new kinds of
sustained relationships that explore the
potential for long-term creative collab-
oration by providing a platform for
young cultural entrepreneurs to share
their expertise.
“There are major opportunities
to collaborate,” the organisers said.
“Creative industries have moved from
the fringes to the mainstream.”
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