• Pilot runs from 16 to 22 September
  • Forms part of an industry exercise led by HKMA to deep dive into use cases, designs and implementation relating to Hypothetical e-HKD
  • Highlights real-world use cases for CBDCs application in retail


The School of Business and Management of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST Business School) and HSBC today announced that they will commence on 16 September a one-week Hypothetical e-HKD pilot. This HKUST-HSBC collaboration represents the latest efforts of the academia and private sector in support of the exploration and experimentation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in Hong Kong under the purview of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

HSBC has for this pilot designed and configured a platform leveraging distributed ledger technology (DLT) to simulate the payments infrastructure necessary for programmable money and instant settlement in different retail settings.

Nearly 200 HKUST students and faculty members have enrolled to join this pilot. Each person will receive 100 hypothetical e-HKD tokens in a dedicated digital wallet for this pilot to spend at five on-campus merchants during the one-week period. Participating merchants include cafes and canteens.

In addition, smart contract functionality and programmability is integrated into the prototype digital token, allowing customers to automatically receive embedded reward for making eligible transactions.

A user experience study will be conducted jointly as part of the pilot. Insights gained from this pilot will serve as a foundation for future experimentation and research.

Prof. TAM Kar Yan, Dean of HKUST Business School, said: “As Hong Kong gets itself ready for the potential launch of e-HKD, we are delighted to work with HSBC on this e-HKD proof of concept research project. With our school’s fintech expertise, and our students and faculty members’ open mind towards trying out new tech, HKUST is an ideal site for CBDC experimentation and fertile ground for understanding its possibilities.”

Bojan OBRADOVIC, Chief Digital Officer Hong Kong at HSBC, said: “HSBC has been an active participant of CBDC projects in different markets. The experience, combined with our strong digital and transaction banking capabilities, has enabled us to design, build and operate the HKUST pilot in just four months. People have shown a keen interest to take part in the programme.”

Leveraging HKUST’s fintech research, the pilot aims to demonstrate potential benefits including:

  • More efficient payment rail: Hypothetical e-HKD can allow for instant settlement and a more efficient payment rail. This may also result in businesses paying lower fees compared with e-payment solutions available today, thus making it a preferred choice for accepting payments and a more cost-effective solution to smaller businesses.
  • Reduced risks: Hypothetical e-HKD can be programmable to be used under specific conditions, which can be applied to a variety of scenarios, including fraud reduction.
  • Enhanced customer experience: The programmable feature will allow merchants to offer targeted customer rewards efficiently.

Prof. Tam added, “This pilot is a foundational step for further research into e-HKD, which will help industry stakeholders gain a deeper understanding of its appeal and positioning in the existing payment service ecosystem.”

Bojan added, “The findings will help validate the effectiveness of a digital currency in retail, public-wide type scenarios, given the richness of the payment eco-system in HK. We look forward to working with industry partners to harness the potential of emerging technology to shape the future of money.”

This pilot builds on HSBC-HKUST collaborations to accelerate fintech development and provide insights into future CBDC developments. Sponsored by HSBC as part of this strategic partnership, HKUST Business School conducted a survey last year to gauge the general public’s perception of e-HKD.

e-HKD Transaction Journey (Consumer’s view)

  1. Pay by selecting ‘Pay’ button on digital wallet home page
  2. Scan merchant-generated unique QR code
  3. Review e-HKD amount, select ‘Pay’
  4. Payment confirmed
  5. Users can view all transactions, including e-HKD reward, if any


About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) ( is a world-class research intensive university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science. HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking. Over 80% of our research work were rated “Internationally excellent” or “world leading” in the Research Assessment Exercise 2020 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee. We were ranked 2nd in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2023, and our graduates were ranked 30th worldwide and among the best from universities from Asia in Global Employability University Ranking and Survey 2022. As of early 2023, HKUST members have founded 1,645 active start-ups, including 9 Unicorns and 11 exits (IPO or M&A), generating economic impact worth over HK$400billion. InvestHK cited QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 to demonstrate the performance of five world’s top 100 local universities in several innovation-centric areas, among which HKUST ranked top in four engineering and materials science subjects.

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