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Research Grants Council Collaborative Research Fund 2014/15 Call Circular

Applications for Allocations from the
Collaborative Research Fund for 2014/15

I am writing to invite submission of preliminary proposals for allocations from the Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) for 2014/15 and to provide details of the procedures to be followed.


In 2014/15, the Research Grants Council (RGC) will increase the budget of the CRF from $100 million in 2013/14 to $110 million in 2014/15 (all exclusive of on-costs). The entire $110 million budget will be reserved for funding "Group Research Grant" projects in the 2014/15 exercise. A separate budget of $60 million will be provided by the University Grants Committee for supporting "Equipment Grant" projects. This ad-hoc arrangement is applicable to the 2014/15 exercise only. In the 2015/16 exercise and beyond, the arrangement will be reverted to normal, i.e. the budget of CRF will be used to fund both "Group Research Grant" and "Equipment Grant" projects.

The RGC encourages creative and out-of-the-box cross-disciplinary projects. The project teams are expected to pursue interdisciplinary, collaborative goals which would not be possible by working on the project's individual components in isolation of each other. The amount of funding requested from the RGC should range from $2 million to $10 million per project.

Types of Grants

There are two types of grants under the CRF:

Equipment Grant

The main objectives of Equipment Grant are to:

  1. enable the acquisition of major research facilities or equipment, including major library acquisitions for research, which cannot otherwise be afforded by one institution and which can be used for collaborative research; and

  2. assist institutions in "leveraging" support from equipment suppliers with a view to stretching the value of the RGC's funds further than could normally be possible by making small allocations in connection with individual projects.

  3. The selection criteria to be adopted by the RGC for evaluation of Equipment Grant proposals are at Annex A.

    For the ad-hoc equipment grant exercise in 2014/15, the approved funding will be released to the coordinating institutions on a one-off basis around January 2015.

Group Research Grant

The main objective of Group Research Grant is to encourage research groups in UGC-funded institutions to engage in collaborative research across disciplines and across institutions with a view to enhancing the research output of institutions in terms of the level of attainment, quantity, dimensions and speed. It provides funding for staff, equipment and general expenses related to the supported projects. In assessing proposals, the RGC puts emphasis on capacity building and the potential of a proposal to develop into an area of strength. On approval, the project teams should not break the award down into individual components. They should pursue collaborative research.

The selection criteria to be adopted by the RGC for evaluation of Group Research proposals are at Annex B.

Project Coordinators (PC) of group research projects can apply for "renewal" funding. In the 2014/15 exercise, applications for "renewal" funding are invited from group research projects that were funded in 2010/11 and 2011/12. For the projects funded in 2011/12, since most of them will not be completed until June 2015 and depending on the progress of the research projects, the research teams may choose to defer their "renewal" applications to the next exercise.

To qualify for "renewal" funding, the research teams must demonstrate that remarkable results have been achieved in their current research and there is a good argument and prospect for further research work to continue in the relevant area. A "renewal" proposal should be an extension of the current project led by the same PC and should not constitute any major overlap with research work supported by other UGC / RGC grants. A "renewal" proposal should have its own goal and a new or extended research objective. A PC is only allowed to submit one single proposal in the 2014/15 exercise, irrespective of new or renewal application.

For any "renewal" proposal to be funded in the 2014/15 exercise, the "renewal" project must start upon the completion of the current one before the end of the academic year 2014/15 (i.e. 30 June 2015). Prior approval of the RGC for variation to the stipulated schedule must be sought in case a research team has difficulty in adhering to the schedule, though approval may only be given in very exceptional circumstances. All funded "renewal" proposals are subject to the same monitoring and accounting requirements as applicable to other newly funded projects under the scheme.

New Arrangements for 2014/15

I would like to draw your attention to the following new arrangements for the 2014/15 exercise:

  1. the institutional quota would be lifted. A two-stage application process will be adopted. Applicants are required to submit preliminary proposals in the application stage. The PCs of the shortlisted preliminary proposals will be invited to submit full proposals through their institutions around May 2014. The project teams of shortlisted full proposals will be invited to attend selection interviews to be held in December 2014. The funding decision will be announced by end December 2014 / early January 2015;

  2. to streamline the application process, all applications should be submitted electronically through the RGC Electronic System to the UGC Secretariat on https://cerg1.ugc.edu.hk/ by 14 March 2014; and

  3. for all equipment items, institutions are required to provide partnership/ matching funding in real money on a 50% (RGC) (excluding on-costs) / 50% (institutions) basis for the equipment cost (in Group Research Grant applications) / total project cost (for Equipment Grant applications). The Equipment Grant will not cover any recurrent expenditure (including maintenance) that may have to be borne by the institution in consequence.

  4. for Group Research Grant applications, applicants who contemplate applying for funding support from the Government's Innovation and Technology Fund at a later stage may provide a technology transfer plan in the preliminary proposal for advance information of the Innovation and Technology Commission. This plan will not be assessed by the RGC for the purpose of shortlisting proposals, i.e. the assessment criteria as set out at Annex B will not be affected.

Deadline of Submission

Preliminary proposals for Equipment Grant should be submitted on CRF(E)1P and those for Group Research Grant and Renewal Funding should be submitted on CRF(GR&R)1P through the RGC Electronic System to the UGC Secretariat by 14 March 2014. Applicants can use the electronic system to prepare their applications starting from 19 February 2014. The application forms in pdf format are also available on the RGC website (http://www.ugc.edu.hk/rgc) for downloading. In addition to electronic submission, institutions are required to provide two hard copies and one soft copy of the proposals. For the soft copy, please save all files in one CD, with the file names follow that of the project reference number.

For "renewal" funding, an up-to-date progress report on the current research project should be submitted together with the application form.

Code of Conduct and Enquiries

The RGC is fully committed to the principle of honesty, integrity and fair play in the conduct of its business. All applicants should comply with the RGC Code of Conduct, set out at Annex C. If your staff have any enquiries about the application procedures or other aspects of this circular, please call Mrs Alice Sham, Assistant Secretary-General (Research) 1 (Tel: 2844 9996 or email: asham@ugc.edu.hk) or Ms Daphne Chan, Senior Research Administrator (1) (Tel: 2844 9989 or email: dchan@ugc.edu.hk).


Annex A

Selection Criteria for Equipment Grant Proposals

The RGC takes into account the following factors in assessing the fundability of a proposal:

  1. the merit of the proposal, its contribution to academic / professional development and potential for application, and benefit to tertiary institutions in particular and Hong Kong in general;

  2. the scope for collaborative research / joint use, and the degree of such usage;

  3. feasibility in implementation;

  4. any institutional support, including that of the sponsoring / collaborating institutions;

  5. the prospect of external funding;

  6. maximum value for money; and

  7. the availability of similar facilities / library acquisitions elsewhere in Hong Kong.

    * * * * * * * *

Annex B

Selection Criteria for Group Research Grant Proposals

The RGC takes into account the following factors in assessing the fundability of a proposal:

  1. the academic merits and science content;

  2. the long term goal of the proposal and its potential to develop into an area of strength;

  3. the opportunities for effective synergism among the participating researchers, research groups and institutions; and

  4. the viability of the proposal, particularly in terms of its project management. The project team's ability to put in place an effective governance structure to monitor collaborating work and to ensure prudent deployment of resources would be important considerations.

  5. * * * * * * * *