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Hong Kong picked by Chinese AI logistics firm Westwell to host international headquarters, research centre

In Business
February 20, 2024

Chinese artificial intelligence (AI)-based logistics company Westwell inaugurates on Tuesday an international headquarters in Hong Kong as a springboard to global expansion.

The Shanghai-based company, which designs and develops AI chips and autopilot control systems for AI-powered autonomous vehicles for the logistics industry, will also set up a research centre in the city.

“Hong Kong’s strategic location, its well-established infrastructure and its status as an international finance centre enables innovation and technology companies to establish connections with the global markets,” said Kay Yang Ming, Westwell’s global strategic affairs vice-president. “And our major clients, such as Hutchison Port Holdings and China Merchants Ports, are also based in Hong Kong.”

At an opening ceremony scheduled for late Tuesday morning the new headquarters will be inaugurated by Westwell executives and government officials Professor Sun Dong, Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, and Lillian Cheong Man-lei, Under Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry.

A tanker docked at the Laem Chabang Port, in Chonburi Province, Thailand. Photo: Vijitra Duangdee

The Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises (Oases), which works to attract high-potential and strategic enterprises to Hong Kong from industries including fintech, artificial intelligence and data science, facilitated the move.

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

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.

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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 employs more than 700 staff, with 80 per cent focusing on research and development, Yang said. It intends to collaborate with Hong Kong universities and research institutes to accelerate the research and application of AI and autonomous driving technology, promoting smart and green technology, she added.

Discussions have taken place with the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, but no concrete plans have been finalised, Yang said.

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Westwell’s future plans include expanding into “semi-closed loop” environments, such as autonomous transport between airports and logistics parks. But specific details about potential partners have not been disclosed.

The company conducted extensive research into autonomous driving ecosystems worldwide during its global expansion planning, she said. Westwell believes being situated in Hong Kong will create business opportunities thanks to the Hong Kong government’s efforts to support research and development, accelerate digital transformation and leverage technology to upgrade industrial infrastructure.

Hong Kong has established a number of innovation centres and incubation programmes. The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, which operates the Science and Technology park, offers various tax incentives and other entrepreneurial support measures to attract innovative companies in various fields, Yang said.

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