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Research Grants Council Collaborative Research Fund 2017/18 Call Circular

Applications for Allocations from the
Collaborative Research Fund for 2017/18

I am writing to invite submission of preliminary proposals for allocations from the Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) for 2017/18 and to provide details of the procedures to be followed.


In 2017/18, the Research Grants Council (RGC) has reserved an amount of $110 million (exclusive of on-costs) for the CRF exercise. The budget 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 net amount of funding requested from the RGC (excluding matching funding from university and funds obtained from other sources) 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 university and which can be used for collaborative research; and

  2. assist universities 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.

Group Research Grant

The main objective of Group Research Grant is to encourage research groups in UGC-funded universities to engage in collaborative research across disciplines and across universities with a view to enhancing the research output of universities 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 2017/18 exercise, applications for "renewal" funding are invited from group research projects that were funded in 2013/14 and 2014/15. For the projects funded in 2014/15, since most of them will not be completed until June 2018 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 University Grants Committee / 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 2017/18 exercise, irrespective if it is a new or "renewal" application.

For any "renewal" proposal to be funded in the 2017/18 exercise, the "renewal" project must start upon the completion of the current one before the end of the academic year 2017/18 (i.e. 30 June 2018). 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.

Matching Funding and Disbursement Arrangement

For all equipment items, universities are required to provide partnership/ matching funding in real money on a 50% (RGC) (excluding on-costs) / 50% (universities) basis. This applies to both the equipment cost in Group Research Grant applications and the total project cost for Equipment Grant applications. Universities are also required to confirm that satisfactory arrangements will be worked out among the universities concerned for the ownership and management of the equipment / facilities, if funded, and for meeting the recurrent costs. The Equipment Grant will not cover any recurrent expenditure (including maintenance) that may have to be borne by the univerisity in consequence.

The funding approved under the CRF will be released to the coordinating universities in two instalments. For Group Research Grant projects, the second instalment will be released subject to satisfactory progress of previous work reported in the mid-term progress report or the related annual progress report depending on project duration. Please refer to the guidelines on "Disbursement, Accounting and Monitoring Arrangement for Funding Schemes Administered by the Research Grants Council" for details.

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 10 February 2017. The application forms in pdf format are also available on the RGC website (http://www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/rgc) for downloading. In addition to electronic submission, universities 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, which is available on the RGC website (http://www.ugc.edu.hk/doc/eng/rgc/code_of_conduct.pdf). 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 Mr N K Pang, Senior Research Administrator (1) (Tel: 2844 9959 or email: nkpang@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 university's support, including that of the sponsoring / collaborating universities / 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 universities / 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. * * * * * * * *