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Fighting alone

The Macau Design Centre is fully occupied, however even with a second phase under planning, a shortage of labour and funding is challenging the project housing the MSAR’s young entrepreneurs

“The government granted us less than MOP3 million (US$373,800) last year,” revealed James Chu, member of the board of directors of the Macau Design Centre (MDC), a four-storey rent-controlled building located in the Areia Preta district, and home to many of the MSAR’s young entrepreneurs.
Despite being the first innovative multi-functional building designed to promote Macau’s cultural and creative industries, Chu said the support offered by the government to the project is very limited.
“Governments outside of Macau would build and wholly support design centres. It is only in Macau that a design centre is operated by private entrepreneurs,” said Chu, adding that the amount given by the government for the entire year would only be able to support a few employees working at the centre.
Being revitalised into a multi-functional design centre, MDC offers various forms of business co-operation together with design galleries, an exhibition hall, design studios, a bookstore, performance venue, café and rooftop garden.
Approaching its third year of operations, Chu disclosed that the demand for studios in the centre, which are being rented out to companies to operate their businesses from, is constant.
“Our studios have high demand and are constantly occupied,” Chu said. “Initially we offered 17 studios, but later expanded to 25, having 50 to 60 companies wanting to rent when the additional studios were introduced.”
The director said the centre had expressed to the government its desire to have a second location for a phase two, but lamented that: “the government thinks it is not the best time yet”.
However, even with a plan for phase two, Chu said a shortage of labour would be a great challenge for its expansion.
Regarding the condition of the industry, Chu opined that the creative industry in Macau is experiencing positive growth, but with a ceiling.
“In the past two years we can see that our quality [of skills and products] is high,” said Chu, noting that the limited support from the government reduces the opportunities for local companies to compete with neighbouring regions, or to expand their businesses.

Safeguarding the industry
The director of the centre said the establishment of the centre is to safeguard the industry and to create a healthy business environment.
“More often than not, clients would ask our companies to produce a design before paying, even the government always favours the provider who offers the lowest price, as well as the problem of intellectual property” indicated Chu. “We wish to create the environment that is healthy for the industry.”
Chu commented that services provided by the companies are professional, such as having photographers who are constantly working with integrated resorts, while remarking that most local small entrepreneurs are not aware of the high quality of services and products that are provided by these companies.