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The first round of the Theme-based Research Scheme launched

The Research Grants Council (RGC) today (April 12) announced the launch of the first round of the Theme-based Research Scheme.

Of the HK$18 billion Research Endowment Fund established by the Government in 2009 to provide research funding to University Grant Committee-funded institutions, HK$4 billion (or around $200 million per year, assuming a 5% return on investment income) is set aside for Theme-based Research which will support projects on themes of a more long-term nature and strategically beneficial to the development of Hong Kong.

Following a consultation exercise, the Steering Committee for Research Themes, set up by the Government, has selected the following three themes for the first round of the Theme-based Research Scheme:

  1. Promoting good health;
  2. Developing a sustainable environment; and
  3. Enhancing Hong Kong's strategic position as a regional and international business centre.

Announcing the implemention of the first round of the Scheme, Professor Roland Chin, Chairman of RGC, said "The RGC has been tasked to launch the Theme-based Research Scheme. Initially, funding will be focused on these three themes which are beneficial to Hong Kong's strategic development and where the local academia have a competitive advantage. It is hoped that the initiative will galvanize our strength and interest to work on high impact cutting edge research projects, and at the same time create state-of-the-art teaching materials and educational programs, as well as provide quality training for our research students."

Professor Chin also pointed out the importance of pooling together the best minds and resources to come up with the most beneficial solutions, such as engaging people from different academic domains to work on issues with major impact on Hong Kong. For instance, research on improving Hong Kong's air quality can involve researchers from many academic areas including mathematics, chemistry, engineering, and medicine, as well as academics in social sciences, law and economics. He hopes that this new initiative will elevate the research impact of the Hong Kong academia.

On the implemention of the Scheme, the RGC will adopt a process that is distinct from the other existing University Grants Committee (UGC) and RGC funding schemes. The RGC has invited researchers from UGC-funded institutions to submit "white papers" for the suggestion of "grand challenge topics" under the three selected themes. Multi-disciplinary panels, formed mainly by external leading experts in the related fields, will be formed to evaluate the white papers. Local researchers will be invited to attend workshops in August / September to discuss, refine and recommend the selection of the final "grand challenge topics". The workshops will also facilitate the initial aggregation of academics among different institutions / academic units which could potentially form the project proposal teams. The RGC will then finalize the topics under each theme and issue the Call for Proposals in September / October. The deadline for submission of research proposals will be in January / February 2011. Successful research proposals will be awarded in mid 2011 after international peer review.

Ends/Monday, April 12, 2010