Home > Funding Opportunities > General Research Fund > Application > The call letter dated 14 September 2017 issued by the Secretary, RGC to the Heads of UGC-funded universities inviting applications for the General Research Fund (GRF) for 2018/19 and the Early Career Scheme (ECS) for 2018/19

The call letter dated 14 September 2017 issued by the Secretary, RGC to the Heads of UGC-funded universities inviting applications for the General Research Fund (GRF) for 2018/19 and the Early Career Scheme (ECS) for 2018/19

Applications for Allocations from
(I) the General Research Fund 2018/19 and
(II) the Early Career Scheme 2018/19

I am writing to invite applications for allocations from the General Research Fund (GRF) 2018/19 and the Early Career Scheme (ECS) 2018/19. The details of applying for the procedures of the two schemes are provided below.

Electronic Submission

The GRF Electronic System and the ECS Electronic System are available for submission of GRF and ECS applications respectively in respect of all five subject panels - Biology & Medicine Panel, Business Studies Panel, Engineering Panel, Humanities & Social Sciences Panel and Physical Sciences Panel. All applications must be submitted through the electronic systems. Applicants may use the electronic systems to make submissions starting from today.

Deadline for Submissions

Applications should reach the UGC Secretariat through the electronic systems by 17 November 2017. To avoid overloading the electronic systems during the peak period, applicants are encouraged to submit their applications well before the submission deadline.


The RGC does not impose any quota on applications under both schemes. It is however important that universities should satisfy themselves that the applications are of sufficient quality before they are submitted to the RGC for consideration.

New appointees within the first three years of his / her full time academic job as a substantiation track / tenure track Assistant Professor or career equivalent level are encouraged to apply under the ECS. They may choose to submit their applications under the GRF or the ECS but not both in each funding cycle. Universities should check and confirm that the applicants meet the eligibility requirements. Grantees and awardees of the ECS may only receive the grant once. Those who failed in previous ECS exercises may re-submit applications, which can be a new research topic or a research topic previously applied but not supported, within the eligible period.

Financial Thresholds on Applications

Under both the GRF and ECS, the lower thresholds for applications are $150,000 for projects in the fields of Biology & Medicine, Engineering and Physical Sciences, and $100,000 for projects in the fields of Business Studies and Humanities & Social Sciences.

Applicants are invited to make reference to the average and range of funded amounts under the respective Subject Panels at Annex before they apply. Applicants should provide strong justification for proposals seeking funding significantly higher than funded amounts as indicated in the Annex. The budgets of these proposals must be well supported and will be critically examined by the respective Subject Panels. Applications with large budget for equipment and requiring collaborative efforts should be submitted under other funding schemes like the Collaborative Research Fund instead of the GRF/ECS.

Explanatory Notes

Applicants should read the Explanatory Notes (GRF2 and ECS2) carefully before completing the application forms. A full set of the Explanatory Notes will be uploaded to the RGC website http://www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/rgc/funding_opport/funding_schemes.html.

Matters Requiring Attention

May I draw applicants' attention to the following:

  1. Research Conduct
    • In the last exercise, the Subject Panels noted that some applicants had failed to provide a complete disclosure of their submission / grant records, including the disclosure of similar / related proposals / projects, in their applications; and some applicants had not declared properly in their applications that their proposals were re-submissions. Applicants are reminded to read carefully the requirements stated in the application forms and the related guidance notes to ensure compliance. Failure to declare properly may result in disciplinary action.
  2. Funding Provided by the RGC
    • The RGC is gravely concerned about the decreasing return rate of the Research Endowment Fund, as the projected investment income cannot cover the budget of the various funding schemes on a sustainable basis. To tackle the issue, RGC decided that 90% of the approved budget for GRF and ECS projects will be funded by RGC from 2018/19. This is a budget saving measure and RGC will not assess the grant applications based on whether applicants can secure alternative sources of funding.
  3. Optional Technology Transfer Plans
    • To take forward the Director of Audit's recommendation that a closer link with the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) should be enhanced, applicants are invited to submit an optional technology transfer plan at the application stage. Any funded projects with technology transfer plans submitted will be passed to the Information and Technology Commission, who will keep in view these projects for possible ITF support in the future. The technology transfer plan will not be assessed by the RGC for the purpose of funding allocation.
  4. Budget of Proposals under the Biology and Medicine Panel
    • The Biology & Medicine (B&M) Panel noted in the last exercise that the size of grants requested varied considerably and some of the larger grant applications were poorly justified. The RGC therefore decided that the budget for proposals under the B&M Panel should normally be below $1.2 million. Strong justifications must be provided for proposals seeking more than $1.2 million. This arrangement is applicable to B&M Panel only.
  5. Surveys Conducted in or outside Hong Kong
    • As recommended by the Business Studies Panel, applicants whose projects involve the conduct of surveys should provide detailed justification of sample sizes and costs.
  6. Nomination of External Reviewers (ERs)
    • The section for Principal Investigators to nominate ERs in the application forms would be obsolete starting from this year in view of the availability of RGC's sizeable database of ERs and easily accessible resources on the internet, and to reduce the chance of researchers being involved in related disciplinary cases.

Update of Proposals

Applicants are requested to provide a brief update setting out any essential changes to the applications, i.e. the eligibility of the Principal Investigators, alternative funding obtained, declaration of similar / related proposals, investigator(s)'s CV, grant records, etc. through the electronic system by 15 April 2018. Such updates should be confined to the essential parts of the original proposals, and applicants should not use the opportunity to hand in a substantially changed proposal.

Hard Copies

Universities are required to assist the Secretariat with the printing of hard copies of each proposal which has been submitted through the electronic system for contingency purposes. The Secretariat will confirm the detailed requirements in April 2018. To help reduce the cost of processing, applicants are requested to keep the length of proposals and attachments to the minimum.


If your staff of the Research Office have any enquiries about the application procedures or other aspects of this letter, please contact Ms Connie Wong, Assistant Secretary-General (Research) 1 (Tel.: 2844 9996 or email: conniewong@ugc.edu.hk) or Mr N K Pang, Senior Research Administrator (2) (Tel.: 2844 9959 or email: nkpang@ugc.edu.hk).