Areas of Excellence Scheme - Tenth Round Layman Summaries of Projects Funded

Project Title: 6G: Wireless Access and Connectivity for an Intelligent and Sustainable World
Project Coordinator: Prof Ben Letaief Khaled (HKUST)


As the deployment of the 5th generation (5G) mobile communication accelerates worldwide, we are witnessing exciting global research and development activities driven by academia, industry, and governments to formulate and define the next-generation mobile technology, i.e., 6G, and pave the way for its standardization. Unlike previous generations, 6G will revolutionize wireless from “connected things” to “connected intelligence”, enabling interconnections between humans, things, and intelligence within a deeply intertwined and hyper-connected cyber-physical world, characterized by the integration of communications, intelligence, sensing, control, and computing. To achieve this, 6G research must overcome significant challenges, such as ubiquitous broadband space-air-ground-sea coverage, extremely low latency, massive and near-instantaneous connectivity, and an artificial intelligence network hierarchy with machine learning capability. In particular, 6G will profoundly impact major sectors and vertical industries, including the metaverse, autonomous and smart lifestyles, multisensory virtual experiences and extended reality, smart agriculture, intelligent transportation, brain-computer interfaces, smart healthcare, industry 5.0, and sustainable intelligent cities.

The proposed AoE project is a multidisciplinary endeavor, which consists of an integrated and focused program of research, technological development, and education. The expansive project will be led by scholars who are already recognized for their world-class research record and pioneering innovations, which have made profound impacts on the field of wireless communications. By harnessing our complementary expertise along with our proven track record of collaboration, we will develop 6G technologies by carrying out groundbreaking basic and applied research, which will lead to scientific breakthroughs while significantly contributing to global sustainability. Our focus, in contrast to other groups around the world, will be on the development of frontier technologies for wireless access and connectivity, such as energy-efficient transmission technologies, distributed communications and computing, intelligent and virtualized networking, ambient radio-frequency (RF) wave technology, and reconfigurable low-power architectures. Through this AoE project, we will position Hong Kong at the forefront of 6G development and secure the city as the regional leader in 6G research within the next 10 years with demonstrable international excellence in wireless access and connectivity for sustainable future 6G networks. We will also pave the way for achieving Hong Kong's drive for knowledge creation, entrepreneurship, human empowerment, innovation, and technology procurement. In particular, through strong collaborations with global industry leaders such as Huawei and Qualcomm, and international researchers from academia, we will produce pioneering and game-changing research, which will be designed with sustainable development as a key goal to tackle major societal grand challenges, such as climate change.

Project Title: Quantitative History of China: Historical Roots of Recent Success and Future Development
Project Coordinator: Prof Chen Zhiwu (HKU)


China's recent economic success and its development trajectory are among the most discussed stories of our time. To understand what drove these achievements, scholars have looked back at China's historical roots. Before the computer age, however, no scholar could handle hundreds of thousands, let alone millions, of historical documents/cases/observations. As a result, historians traditionally had to rely on selective case studies to construct qualitative narratives that are often important and insightful but difficult for systematic testing. Now, with numerous archives being digitised in China and beyond, scholars have no choice but to work with historical ‘big data', and the only feasible way to conduct big data-based historical inquiries is with quantitative methods.

Uniquely among nations, China has a wealth of historical and archaeological archives covering almost all aspects of society, from politics to business, law and regulation, crime and unrest, family and lineage, culture and customs, religion and social organisation and science. Many of these records have been recently digitised, offering quantitative historians an unprecedented opportunity to re-examine various aspects of China's past, which is extremely important to assess its future and guide policymaking in Hong Kong.

We propose to establish a new Centre for Quantitative History (CQH) at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) to serve as a focal institution for coordinating and conducting research on the ‘Quantitative History of China'. The CQH will make Hong Kong a global leader in quantitative history research for three reasons. First, Hong Kong is part of China and has a linguistic/cultural/human resources advantage. Second, Hong Kong enjoys more academic freedom than mainland universities. Third, and of equal importance, is that our research team, including the PC, Co-PIs and their collaborators, has published widely on the quantitative history of China and constructed key historical databases in recent years. In 2013, the PC, together with the Co-PIs, started an annual 9-day summer school and international symposium for quantitative history to promote the proposed research approach to approximately 200 young and middle-aged scholars from more than 40 universities each year. These on-going efforts have yielded positive results in greater China and had a significant influence in Hong Kong. This project will significantly advance knowledge on the mainland's and Hong Kong's historical development, enhance teaching and learning, aid policymaking and improve business practices.