Frequently Asked Questions in respect
Call for Preliminary Proposals
1. Who can be the Project Coordinator?
Those who are eligible to apply for research
funding from the Research Grants Council (RGC) could apply. Please
refer to the link on the RGC's website: <http://www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/ugc/faq/q302.htm>.
2. Can a Project Coordinator of an on-going major
project (i.e. project funded under the Theme-based Research
Scheme (TRS) or the Areas of Excellence Scheme) apply again as a
Project Coordinator/Co-Principal Investigator?
To ensure that the Project Coordinators
of major projects will spend reasonable
time on project management, a Project Coordinator
should hold no more than two on-going major
projects at the same time. Non-compliance
of the stipulated requirements may lead
to disqualification of applications. However,
there is no restriction on a Project Coordinator
of major projects to apply as Co-Principal
Investigator. Nevertheless the applicant
would have to convince the TRS Selection
Panel that he/she could deploy sufficient
attention to the projects under his/her
3. Is there any restriction on the Co-Principal
Investigators? Can they be overseas (including
Mainland) researchers or non-academics?
Though there is no restriction on the Co-Principal
Investigators, the RGC would like to see the
funding benefiting local research community.
Hence, the proposal should justify why local
researchers could not take up the respective
It should be noted that TRS project grant
should primarily be used in undertaking
research work in Hong Kong by the Project
Coordinators and their teams in order to
train and groom research talents in Hong
Kong. It would be legitimate for the Project
Coordinators to subcontract out a small
part of the research work (regardless of
geographic locations) only if specified
conditions are fulfilled. For subcontracting
services or research work to be conducted
outside Hong Kong, the RGC's approval is required.
The RGC would deal with the matter on a
case-by-case basis, having regard to the
merits and justification given by the Project
Coordinators and whether the specified conditions
have been fulfilled. The detailed guidelines
on outsourcing of research work are provided
in the "Disbursement, Accounting and
Monitoring Arrangements for Funding Schemes
Administered by the Research Grants Council".
Also, the grant provided by the RGC should
only be used to cover project expenditure
which would not otherwise be separately
incurred, and the funding policy adopted
by the RGC governing the remuneration of
research support staff and purchase of equipment
stipulated in "Disbursement, Accounting
and Monitoring Arrangements for Funding
Scheme Administered by the Research Grant
Council" should apply.
4. Can a Project Coordinator be involved
as Co-Principal Investigator in another
Yes, but again, he/she needs to justify
that he/she could deploy sufficient attention
to each of the proposals.
5. Can a Project Coordinator submit
more than one proposal?
No, each applicant could only submit one
application as Project Coordinator. He/She
could however be involved in other proposal(s)
as Co-Principal Investigator.
6. Can I submit a proposal with a single
Project Coordinator and no Co-Principal
Yes, but collaboration across universities
and discipline is encouraged. Besides, as
the scheme intends to tackle complex problems,
we expect that the problems would be better
solved by a pool of talents instead of a
single Project Coordinator.
7. As RGC is also calling for CRF and
GRF applications, can I apply for TRS grants
using the same proposal?
It is the responsibility of applicants
(all the Project Coordinator, Co-Principal
Investigators and Co-Investigators) to
ensure that no duplicate
funding from all sources will be sought
for the same/similar research project. Breach
of this rule or failure to declare similarity
of proposals may result in disqualification
of the application and debarring from applying
future UGC/RGC grants. Hence, once it is
known that he/she has been awarded funding
from other sources, the applicant, in the
capacity of Project Coordinator/Co-Principal
should decide whether he/she will decline funding from
other sources or withdraw his/her application
The Project Coordinator, Co-Principal
Investigators and Co-Investigators
will be asked to make declaration
on submission of same/similar research when
invited to submit the full proposals. It
is the RGC to decide whether two proposals/completed
projects are similar or related. The judgment
of the RGC is final.
8. Is matching funding required?
Yes. Starting from the TRS 2016/17 (Sixth
Round), universities are required to commit
at the application stage that they would
contribute 10% of the total approved budget,
in real money, for a funded project.
The ratio of 90% (RGC) : 10% (university)
applies to direct project cost, on-costs
and annual allowance of the Project Coordinator.
The detailed operational arrangements for
the preliminary proposal, assessment and
approval stages are set out in the call
for preliminary proposals.
9. Is there any ceiling or quota on
the number of proposals to be submitted
by or involving each university?
There is no ceiling or quota on the number
of proposals to be submitted by or involving
10. Can TRS funding be used for initiating
Funding may be awarded if the proposal
could justify itself that it is relevant
to the current call and merits award of
funding. Nonetheless, any proposal submitted
is expected to comprise the research project
11. Is there any upper or lower limit
of the amount of funding applied for each
The total approved budget for a funded
project comprises (i) direct project cost;
(ii) on-costs to be provided directly to
university's management to cover overhead
expenditure for the project; and (iii) annual
allowance of the Project Coordinator. The
ceiling of direct project cost per project
to be awarded by the RGC is $75 million
(or $15 million per year for up to five
years). Projects with exceptional reasons
and justification may be allowed to exceed
the $75 million direct project cost limit.
There is no funding floor for the projects.
Within the $75 million direct project cost
limit, projects of different scale are eligible
to apply. With reference to the past exercises,
the typical funding per project is expected
to be in the range of $10 million to $40
million, inclusive of on-costs and annual
allowance of the Project Coordinator.
The proposal should justify the proposed
amount and why the application was made
under TRS rather than other schemes.
12. Is there any relief arrangement
for the Project Coordinator?
Starting from the TRS 2012/13 (Second Round),
an annual allowance of up to a maximum of
two-month average salary of a Chair Professor
will be provided to each funded project
to release / partly release the Project
Coordinator from his/her normal teaching
and administration duties to focus his/her
efforts on the research project. There is
no need for the Project Coordinator to apply
and the allowance will be disbursed to the
respective coordinating university.
Starting from the TRS 2016/17 (Sixth Round),
universities are required to commit at the
application stage that the Project Coordinator
will spend sufficient time on the project
throughout the project period. The length
of time spent should be commensurate with
the annual allowance of the Project Coordinator
for a funded project.
13. Can I bid for Research Postgraduate places?
No, there is no provision of Research Postgraduate place
under the TRS.
14. Some researches may need a longer
duration (more than five years) to see the
desired result/impact. Can I still submit
The maximum duration of the projects under
the current call is five years. The project
team may submit a proposal towards the end
of the project with a view to continuing
the research initiative or bringing the
research efforts to a more advanced phase.
The proposal itself should justify the funding
applied for and will be peer-reviewed like
any other proposal.
15. Will the funding allocation to each
theme or each topic be the same?
There is no preset proportioning of the
funding. However, some research works are
by nature more costly, e.g. use of expensive
equipment and such proposals may need more
money. The RGC does not impose any disciplinary
priorities or preference on the proposals.
16. It seems that most topics under
the Theme "Promoting Good Health"
are on the 'treatment' rather than 'preventive'
side. Should the proposal follow the direction
of the theme or the topic?
The theme aims to promote health and prevent
disease of special importance in Hong Kong
and to the well-being of society at the
regional and global levels. To this end,
it will be necessary to understand the relevant
diseases from the treatment as well as preventive
side. Related aspects, including the social
perspectives, may also form part of the
17. We have the topics "Water Pollution
and Water Treatment" and "Air
Quality". Does "Air Quality"
cover air pollution and air treatment?
The proposals under the topic should focus
on the challenge to improve the air quality
of Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region.
If an applicant wishes to submit a proposal
related to air pollution and/or air treatment,
he/she should be able to use his/her expertise
to decide if the proposed work is relevant
to the topic/theme.
18. What are the assessment criteria?
The proposals are primarily assessed on
academic excellence and whether they fall
within the chosen themes. The general criteria
(as appearing on the invitation for preliminary
Qualification as world-leading by international
Impact to Hong Kong
Credentials of the project team
Existence of a clear strategy
Sound structure for an excellent research
Please refer to the respective call documents
for more details.
19. What is the start date of the project?
The project should start within six months
of the announcement of funding result.
20. Will there be interviews?
There will not be interviews in respect
of the preliminary proposals but in the
full proposal stage, project teams of
further shortlisted proposals may be invited
21. When and how will the themes / topic
The research themes are decided by the
Education Bureau (EDB) upon advice of its
Steering Committee for Research Themes.
In late 2014, the EDB conducted a review
on the themes and decided that on top of
the three existing themes, a new theme "Advancing
Emerging Research and Innovations Important
to Hong Kong" be introduced starting
from the 2016/17 exercise.
For the grand challenge topics, a round
of consultation with the academic community
was conducted in early 2015 to modify the
existing topics and identify the new topics
under all four themes. The RGC will review
the topics regularly and make modifications
as and when necessary. Input from the academic
community will be invited when there is
a need to change the existing topics or
add new topics.