Setting the Groundwork for Collaborative Innovation in the Greater Bay Area

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Selected initial members of the advisory panel for IBM Collaborative Innovation Program (left to right): Prof Tam Kar Yan, Dean School of Business Management, HKUST; Joe Yau, CEO, OpenRice; Burton Cheng, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief of IT and Operations, Shanghai Commercial Bank; David Chow, GM & Partner, IBM Global Business Services, Hong Kong; Michael Leung, Group CEO, BOA Financial Group; Francis Ngai, GM, IBM HK; Agnes Mak, Executive Director, iPrinciple Ltd; Angus Choi, CEO, JETCO; Mullar Wan, GM (IT), HK Electric; Horace Chu, Director & CIO, Gammon Construction Limited; and Dr CK Chan, Professor of Practice in Fintech, CUHK


Application programming interfaces (APIs) glue today’s modern IT infrastructure together. They allow organizations to interface with other systems and maximize on third-party platforms. APIs have driven the emergence of new economy companies in the likes of Airbnb, Grab, Uber.

While APIs are not new, it is only in recent years we see organizations maximizing these benefits externally using open API approaches, and implementing “anything as a service” in the form of APIs accessible by internal and external parties. They can access to useful data, create new services, and engineer new experiences quickly.

The Industry as a Platform

While consumerization gave rise to the API economy, the B2B market is catching on.

New industry platforms and marketplaces are sprouting across the region. APIs allow data to flow into these B2B platforms and cloud-based services. In turn, they create operational efficiency, industry wide innovation, and cost-effectiveness. Our work in Open Banking API,, and TradeLens highlight API’s B2B promises.

IBM sees an additional benefit with APIs: collaborative innovation. It’s challenging for organizations to come up with great innovation in silo, considering cost, time and skills factors. They would be missing the market. Successful innovation calls for a collaborative effort among ecosystem partners.

Collaborative innovation will be crucial for maximizing the advantages of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) initiative. The region wide initiative encourages innovation across various economies. APIs can help organizations to link multiple platforms and technologies to provide industry platforms.

Providing the Framework

API-led co-development can give GBA the growth spurt it needs. But very few companies are offering API-based industry platforms. The problem, as we see it, is a lack of a regionwide framework.

The IBM Collaborative Innovation Program announced today aims to be such a framework. It is a cross-industry initiative to speed up the use of open technologies for GBA platforms.

Three principles drive the Program. First, it aligns the business goals between the two organizations that are looking to collaborate. Often, they have different objectives and business backgrounds, and a common framework helps with long-term success. Second, access to industry domain experts can inspire creativity in business modeling, product development, and creating new channel services. Lastly, it can accelerate industry technology adoption using IBM’s delivery competence.

IBM’s methods, cross-industry experience, technology assets, and facilities back up these three principles. In methods, the Program puts IBM’s lessons honed over the years in the participants’ hands.

For example, they can use IBM Garage, which sees experts working alongside in-house developers, to build minimal viable products (MVPs). They can also tap into IBM Enterprise Design Thinking know-how and align their business goals. It will enable developers to co-create for cross-industry customer persona, drive rapid prototyping, and visualize innovation.

In addition, the panel of senior cross-industry advisors provides independent perspectives and advice based on the years of experience in their respective industries. They can assist in business case validation and guide organizations on the right steps forward. Business value assessment can further help to drive senior management sponsorship during the joint proposal preparation — critical for business agility and rapid success.

The Program provides access to a large pool of technology assets. IBM’s intimate knowledge in building Open Banking APIs, blockchains, and microservices can assist in industrywide platform development. Participants can also access IBM facilities across the globe, like the IBM Hong Kong Innovation Center,  China Research Labs, and our worldwide network of Center of Excellence labs, for the latest technologies.

The Future Lies in Collaboration 

GBA’s opportunities are vast. A robust regional network with free flow of trade and data will spur local economies.

The winners are everyone. Organizations will gain from tighter connectivity and industry collaborations. Residents will gain from better services, new job opportunities, improved livelihoods, and higher standards of living.

Technology holds the key to unlocking these promises. But it is not a race between individual organizations. Instead, a collaborative effort among industry players will cement GBA success.

It is the promise that underpins IBM Collaborative Innovation Program. It brings together the right technologies, research facilities, knowledge, experience, and platforms.

The Program’s inclusivity and openness will be valuable to growing the digital ecosystem across the region. It also provides organizations an essential framework as they chase after the US$1.5-trillion GBA opportunity.

General Manager and Partner, Global Business Services, IBM Hong Kong

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