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Research Grants Council Research Impact Fund 2020/21 Call Circular

Applications for Allocations from the
Research Impact Fund for 2020/21

This is to invite submission of preliminary proposals for allocations from the Research Impact Fund (RIF) for 2020/21 and to provide details of the procedures to be followed.


RIF has the following objectives:

  1. To encourage the local academics to consider and articulate the potential of research to deliver benefit for the wider community; and to encourage more impactful and translational research projects; and

  2. To encourage a greater volume of collaborative research beyond academia (e.g. organisations such as government departments, business sector, industry and research institutes).

    The basis for evaluation of the RIF proposals is at Annex.


In 2020/21, the Research Grants Council (RGC) has reserved $75 million (exclusive of on-costs) for the RIF exercise. Mandatory matching funds are required from University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded universities / organisational partner(s) for approved projects on a 70% (RGC) / 30% (university / organisational partner(s)) basis. The net amount of funding requested from the RGC should range from $3 million to $10 million per project.

Matters Requiring Attention

May I draw applicants' attention to the following matters:

  1. Provision of Open Researcher and Contributor ID Identifiers (ORCID iDs)
    With effect from the 2020/21 exercise, all local academics must provide valid ORCID iDs in applications in all capacity under all research funding schemes administered by the RGC. Grant applications submitted by applicants without valid ORCID iDs would not be considered. Non-local academics in the capacities of Co-Principal Investigators (Co-PIs) are also encouraged to submit their ORCID iDs in the applications.

  2. Requirement of non-academic organisational partner
    As one of the objectives of the scheme is to encourage a greater volume of collaborative research beyond academia, each application should be submitted with at least one non-academic organisational partner (e.g. organisations such as government departments, business sector, industry and research institutes, etc.). The organisational partner should be a potential user of the research who may be prepared to co-invest or engage in some way in collaborative activity with the Project Coordinator / Co-PI.

  3. Requirement on the Pathways to Impact statement
    As the RGC will invite lay persons to assess the potential research impact of the proposal based on the Pathways to Impact statement submitted, the statement should be written in a way that is comprehensible to a lay person and can be read as a separate document independent of the proposal.

  4. Academic staff member who is seconded to work at Innovation and Technology (I&T) clusters at the Hong Kong Science Park
    Two research clusters, namely the "[email protected]" on healthcare technologies and the "[email protected]" on artificial intelligence and robotics technologies, would be established at the Hong Kong Science Park in order to attract the world's top universities, research institutes and technology enterprises in the relevant fields to conduct more collaborative research. It is envisaged that if local universities set up laboratories in the clusters, they may second some of their teaching faculties to work full-time or part-time at the clusters. Considering that the seconded staff concerned will retain their full-time appointment and position with their parent universities and will still be on the payroll of the parent universities, these seconded staff will not lose the eligibility to apply for RGC project grant solely because of the secondment. The RGC has approved to relax the eligibility requirements for RGC project grant such that an academic staff member of a UGC-funded university who joins the two research clusters concerned can still apply for funding under the various research funding schemes of the RGC, with effect from the 2020/21 exercise onwards.

  5. Proposals with public policy element
    One of the initiatives of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (PICO) is to set up a linkage between research projects with a public policy element with the appropriate policy bureaux so that they could be considered for possible implementation. This initiative would help formulate innovative policy response that could effectively address societal challenges and is supported.

    To echo PICO's initiative, applicants may submit a statement regarding the public policy element in their research proposals in the full proposal stage. The statements of the funded projects would be forwarded to PICO for perusal after announcement of the funding results.

  6. Research integrity
    Applicants should declare in the applications, at full proposal stage, the complete grant records and they should update the RGC of the grant(s) awarded as required. Applicants are reminded to read carefully the requirements stated in the application forms and the related explanatory notes to ensure compliance. In particular, they should declare similar / related proposals / projects where appropriate. Failure to comply with the RGC guidelines on research integrity may result in disciplinary action.

Deadline of Submission

Preliminary proposals should be submitted through the RGC Electronic System to the UGC Secretariat by 12 March 2020. 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 should 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.

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 Mr K Y Cheng, Assistant Secretary-General (Research) (Tel: 3959 0429 or email: [email protected]) or Ms Phoebe Wan, Research Administrator (Tel: 3959 0402 or email: [email protected]).