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Research Grants Council Collaborative Research Fund 2019/20 Call Circular

Applications for Allocations from the
Collaborative Research Fund for 2019/20

This is to invite submission of preliminary proposals for allocations from the Collaborative Research Fund (CRF) for 2019/20 and to provide details of the procedures to be followed.


In 2019/20, the Research Grants Council (RGC) has reserved $121 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 should 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 the 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 the 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 genuine 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 may apply for "renewal" funding. In the 2019/20 exercise, applications for "renewal" funding are invited from group research projects that were funded in 2015/16 and 2016/17. For the projects funded in 2016/17, since most of them will not be completed until June 2020 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 should only submit one single proposal in the 2019/20 exercise, irrespective if it is a new or "renewal" application.

For any "renewal" proposal to be funded in the 2019/20 exercise, the "renewal" project must start upon the completion of the current one before the end of the academic year 2019/20 (i.e. 30 June 2020). 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.

Matters Requiring Attention

May I draw applicants' attention to the following matters:

  1. Revised declaration requirements

    1. Removal of declaration of terminated/withdrawn projects/ unsuccessful proposals in the past five years

    2. To streamline the declaration requirements, declaration of terminated/withdrawn projects/unsuccessful proposals are no longer required at the full proposal stage;

    3. Revision to similar/related projects/proposals

    4. In the past exercises, applicants needed to declare similar/related projects/proposals, at the full proposal stage, to ensure that no duplicate funding would be given to the same or substantially similar research project. We found that some applicants started data collection work well before proposal submission. They published papers soon after project commencement and reported them as project deliverables in the progress/completion report. However, a number of applicants failed to report such working papers/publications in their applications, resulting in disciplinary cases. In this regard, we have reviewed the related declaration requirements. The RGC has decided that, from 2019/20 onwards, applicants are required to declare any related research work that is being/has been conducted in relation to the proposal, including but not limited to data collection, preliminary research, working papers, publications (such as journal papers, conference papers and books, etc.), presentations, media interviews and other submitted proposals. Applicants are also required to provide details (such as the title of the projects and/or papers/publications, or a brief description of the preliminary research work, etc.) whether or not such work was part of a funded project; and provide clarifications that distinguish that related research work from the work requested to be funded through the proposal. We hope to reduce the number of disciplinary cases in this regard.

    5. Agreement of team members to participate in the research project

    6. To avoid any miscommunication between the applicant and his/her team members regarding their participation in a proposal, PCs are required to confirm that the Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) listed in the proposal have explicitly confirmed to serve in the project team and a copy of the proposal has been provided to each of the Co-PIs. The PCs should provide written proof on the collaboration upon the request of the RGC/Secretariat.

  2. Provision of Open Researcher Contributor ID identifiers (ORCID iDs)

  3. All local academics are required to submit a unique researcher ID, namely ORCID iD, in applications in all capacity under all research funding schemes administered by the RGC. Non-local academics in the capacities of Co-PIs are also encouraged to submit their ORCID iDs in the applications.

  4. Matching Funding and Funding Provided by the RGC

  5. As in previous rounds, for all equipment items, universities are required to provide partnership/matching funding in monetary terms 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.

  6. Broadened Definition of Equipment Grant

  7. Applicants may apply funding for group user fee (for users from RGC funded collaborative research projects) to access major user facilities under Equipment Grant. The requirement of 50% matching funding from participating universities still applies.

Disbursement Arrangement

Universities are 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 CRF will not cover any recurrent expenditure (including maintenance) that may have to be borne by the university 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 18 February 2019. 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 (https://www.ugc.edu.hk/doc/eng/rgc/guidelines/code/code_of_conduct.pdf). If your staff have any enquiries about the application procedures or other aspects of this circular, please call Ms Jenus Wong, Assistant Secretary-General (Research) 2 (Tel: 2844 9916 or email: jwong@ugc.edu.hk) or Ms Becky Yu, Senior Research Administrator (Research Assessment Exercise) 1 (Tel: 2844 9917 or email: byu@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. * * * * * * * *