ASA Innovation & Technology
Our world is far from perfect, and occasionally rocked by man-made disasters, but thankfully we have innovators with the good intentions and creativity to produce products and services that can heal many of our problems and bring hope for the future.
ASA Innovation & Technology was co-founded by designer Mui Kinoshita and engineer Anthony Huen Chun Kit to come up with solutions that reflected their desire to help society. The light ornaments they designed and developed are a great example as they also work as air purifiers. Their products stood out in entrepreneurial competitions and startup support programmes well before the products were in the market.
Making pollutants harmless
ASA’s Airluna has the unique appeal of being both a luminary device and a safe, easy to use and highly effective air purifier. It has licensed Plasma Assisted Catalytic Oxidation (PACO) technology from the City University of Hong Kong (CityU), using nanotechnology to make filters that can absorb volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde and other pollutants and convert them into water, carbon dioxide and other harmless substances. The integrated air purifier has a life expectancy of 10 years. The products are also noted for their designer looks, masterminded by Mui and Anthony to add a stylish touch to homes and workplaces.
With smart looks, substance and clearly defined functional propositions, it is no wonder that the ASA product line is capturing the imagination of potential users.
A marriage of design and engineering nous
ASA is a HKSTP incubatee. Mui, who serves as CEO, got her surname from her Japanese spouse. Currently Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Designers Association, Mui is well known in the industry and has won various reputable industry awards including the Red Dot Award. Chief Technology Officer Anthony is a mechanical engineer who was involved in sales of designer items. Mui and Anthony have worked together on engineering projects in the past.
Motivated by wanting to help disaster struck district
A fire in a Ngau Tau Kok mini-storage facility in 2016 caused many casualties and wrapped the neighbourhood in a cloud of polluted air for a long period, putting residents under a lot of stress. Mui and Anthony were planning their startup at the time, and thought they could integrate an air purifier into interior decoration to benefit not only the residents affected by the fire, but also families and office workers who had suffered from pollution and deserved to have cleaner air around them.
Incidentally, Mui and Anthony found out that Dr. Oscar K.S. Hui, former lecturer of CityU’s Department of Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, had developed the PACO technology that would be perfect for their solution. After going through different connections, they connected with Dr Hui, who helped them win the licensing right from CityU to commercialise the technology.
ASA was thus born. It qualified for the HKSTP-PolyU Tech Incubation Fund, jointly set up by HKSTP and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and established its base at Science Park. Since then, ASA has gained recognition in several startup support schemes and won The Best JUMPSTARTER award and the Most Favourite JUMPSTARTER award in 2019. It was also admitted to the STARS Programme spearheaded by the Hong Kong Startup Council under the Federation of Hong Kong Industries.
Tried and tested products
Airluna is set for market trial at the end of 2019 and will be launched in the market in early 2020. Anthony says it has taken years to progress from the research and development stage to commercialisation because the team has high standards.
The team believes that Airluna needs to deliver high performance in air purification without any compromise to the form and luminary functions. To this end, they have worked long and hard reworking details such as the number of holes on the light, the method of changing filters and the impact of the lighting heat on the filters. Anthony reveals that the current prototype is almost version 40, but Mui, as the lead designer, thinks the product can still be fine-tuned.
Positioned as interior installations for high-end premises
Mui thinks that if ASA is to open up a blue sea in the red sea of home furnishing, electrical appliances and lighting installations, Airluna must be high-end and luxurious. Customers have to feel the product’s unique qualities in look and feel as well as functionality. ASA is not going to position the product in the air purifying space to compete with tens of thousands of regular purifiers in the market. It plans to leverage its understanding of the interior design needs of hotels, clubhouses and high-end office buildings to make Airluna a talking point, as a stylish, functional and exceptional design element to be integrated into a designer space.
Setting off from Hong Kong, ASA is breaking into mainland China and worldwide markets. Peninsula Hotels and New World Development are testing Airluna products in their premises and projects in different parts of the world. ASA is setting its sights on the B2B market before extending the product line to high-end consumers. The company will also look into using the air purifying technology to develop other furnishing items and integrating the technology into the central air conditioning systems of buildings. The team for sure will have a busy time ahead.
Mui believes that HKSTP has been instrumental in helping the company strengthen its operational and financial management. Through HKSTP’s recommendation, the company took part in startup fests such as SPRINTER and the HBCC HK$1 million Pitch Competition (HBCC48) to hone their funding pitching skills and grow networks with partners and potential customers.
At the same time, promotional activities have put the company in the limelight and boosted their confidence. ASA has joined HKSTP’s new iDM2 Hardware Accelerator programme that will augment the R&D, manufacturing and marketing of its hardware. Mui and Anthony are convinced that HKSTP has been a vital mentor and supporter in their startup journey.