The Year at a Glance
Foreword from the Chairman
Research Grants Council Activities: 2002
The Research Funding Environment in Hong Kong
The Research Grants Council and its Organisation
How Council-Funded Projects are Monitored and Assessed
Members and guests at the RGC annual dinner held in June 2002

The mission of the Research Grants Council is to boost the quality of research undertaken by the Hong Kong academic community, and to support the development of fundamental and applied research to the benefit of the community.
Thanks to the continued support of the Government and the University Grants Committee (UGC), the Research Grants Council has been able to encourage a diverse range of research projects.
The pool of knowledge, created through these research projects, enables many industry collaborative projects to forge ahead. In doing so, Hong Kong is gaining an international reputation in the global research community.
A number of funding sources supporting research in Hong Kong are available but the main form of funding for academic research in the local higher education sector is the Earmarked Research Grant (ERG) allocated by the Council.
The ERG represents the main source of Government funding for competitive academic research projects. It complements block grants from the UGC, part of which provide institutions with funds for research infrastructure and outlays such as researchers’ salaries, laboratory costs and other overheads related to UGC or Council-funded research.
Each year, the Council’s main task is to consider applications and approve grants from the fund. Total funding available for the ERG 2002-2003 was HK$543.3 million.
The Council would again like to place on record its gratitude to the Government and the UGC for their continuing, generous support for academic research in Hong Kong, enabling the Council to fund more, though still not all, highly-rated research projects.

Allocation of the Earmarked Research Grant: 2002-2003
How projects are selected

The Council’s objective is to support as many worthwhile research projects as possible with the available funds. As in previous years, the Council continued to uphold a high quality threshold for applications, and to give larger and longer-term grants to quality research proposals.
The overall success rate was 41%, similar to those in previous years (compared with 43% in 2001-2002, and 39% in 2000-2001). The criteria for the selection of research projects is detailed in Appendix M.
Across the board, equal emphasis is given to both fundamental and applied research.
Additionally, the Council must be satisfied that the projects it funds have significant intellectual and innovative content and serve the purpose of academic development. The potential to apply the research is considered by the Council in the allocation of the ERG but it is not an overriding factor.
For applied research projects involving potential benefits to industry in the short to medium term, the Council expects to see some funding from the potential beneficiaries.

How the ERG was allocated
As in previous years, the Council decided that the bulk of ERG funding should be allocated in response to competitive bids received from the institutions.
Funding was initially earmarked in four broad categories as follows, although there were subsequently some slight variations in terms of the actual allocations:

HK$428 million in response to competitive bids received under the annual Competitive Earmarked Research Grant exercise.
HK$75.4 million as Direct Allocation for discretionary use by institutions to support projects each costing less than $200,000; for field trips and other travel requirements, and to provide initial funding support for junior faculty and newly recruited staff involved in research.
HK$25 million reserved for Central Allocation to strengthen the research base, and support group research proposals that promote collaboration among academic institutions and synergy between research teams.
HK$11.8 million reserved for joint research schemes established with other places.
HK$2.1 million committed for the Fulbright Hong Kong Scholar Programme to support Hong Kong scholars to undertake research and teaching work in the United States.

Competitive Earmarked Research Grant
Altogether, 1,698 proposals across a wide range of subject disciplines were received under the Competitive Earmarked Research Grant (CERG) exercise, seeking grants totalling HK$1,600.5 million. Initially the bids were examined by the relevant subject panels, with help from specialist academic assessors or referees mostly from overseas.
Following rigorous peer review via the Council’s international network of expert referees, the Council on advice from the subject panels, approved allocations totalling HK$428 million to support 691 projects with an average grant of HK$619,392.
This compared with 693 projects supported in 2001-2002 at a total cost of HK$402.9 million (average grant HK$581,385). Projects funded by the Council in 2002-2003 are listed by subject area in Appendix N.
The dollar value of grants awarded in 2002-2003 represented an increase of 6.2% over the value of grants awarded in 2001-2002. The number of projects rated “fundable, but unfunded” was 500. A summary of allocations from the 2002-2003 Competitive Earmarked Research Grant is shown in Appendix O.
Allocation of CERG for 2002-2003 by broad subject category is summarised in Chart 1.1 while Chart 1.2 summarises the allocation by institution..

Clinical Research Fellowship
As part of the CERG 2002-2003 exercise, the RGC awarded the first research fellowship to support young clinicians in undertaking clinical research. The scheme has been launched in close partnership with the two local institutions which offer medical training (ie, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong) and is part of the overall efforts to create more opportunities for promising clinicians to be exposed to and to engage in clinical research.
Under the scheme, a supported fellow would be granted an annual grant of HK$800,000 to be equally contributed by the RGC and the hosting institution, for up to three years to undertake and complete a clinical research project.
It is a pilot scheme and the RGC will refine the operational design in the light of response and actual experience.

Direct Allocation Funding
A portion of the ERG is directly allocated to the UGC-funded institutions as Direct Allocation to support small-scale research projects costing less than HK$200,000; for field trips and other travel requirements, and to provide initial funding support for junior faculty and newly-recruited staff in research.
In 2002-2003, the Council continued to maintain the proportion of Direct Allocation at about 14%-15% of the ERG as in the previous two years. The amount of Direct Allocation set aside was HK$75.4 million and funding was basically distributed according to the relative staff size of institutions. Distribution for Direct Allocation in 2002-2003 is shown in Chart 1.3.

Central Allocation Funding
Central allocation funding is provided in response to both group research bids and bids from institutions for major research facilities and / or equipment to support collaborative research involving two or more institutions and major library acquisitions.
In 2002-2003, the Council received six equipment bids and 23 group research applications.
After a peer review process and interviews of selected researchers by the Central Allocation Sub-Committee, 11 applications were eventually funded at a total amount of HK$31.8 million with some funding channelled from the uncommitted balance of other schemes. A list of the supported projects is in Appendix P.

Joint Research Schemes
Germany / Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme

In 1996-1997, in collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the RGC launched a joint research scheme to encourage collaborative research between scholars in Germany and Hong Kong.
The grants provide researchers with return air fares, accommodation and a subsistence allowance enabling them to visit their counterparts to discuss or conduct research. The scheme is operated on an annual basis.
In 2002-2003, altogether 40 applications were received covering a wide range of subjects; 32 of the applications were new, and eight were requests for extension funding.
A joint selection committee comprising members from Hong Kong and Germany selected 29 research proposals for funding support; 21 of the proposals were new and eight were second-year grants. A list of the supported projects is in Appendix I.

France / Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme
In 1998, the Council and the French Consulate in Hong Kong agreed to launch a joint research scheme to encourage and promote scientific collaboration between France and Hong Kong by providing grants for researchers to make exchange visits.
In 2002-2003, a total of 36 applications were received; 23 of the applications were new, 10 were second-year funding requests, and three were conference / workshop requests.
Of these, 24 applications including 13 new proposals, 10 second-year grants, and one conference / workshop grant were approved for funding support. A list of the supported projects is in Appendix J.

A meeting with NSFC in Hong Kong in October 2002

NSFC / RGC Joint Research Scheme
In November 1998, the RGC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) agreed to launch a joint research scheme. The annual total funding for the scheme is about HK$15 million, with the NSFC contributing RMB 5 million and the Council contributing HK$10 million.
The scheme aims to promote collaboration in research between researchers / research teams in Hong Kong and their counterparts in mainland China, in areas of common interest to complement each other’s strengths.
The scheme specifically aims to provide support for larger scale projects that have clearly defined deliverables in the following six priority areas:

Information Technology
Life Sciences
New Materials Science
Marine and Environmental Science
Chinese Medicine
Management Science

The scheme operates differently from other joint schemes in that it provides funding to support actual research expenses, instead of only travel and subsistence.
In 2002-2003, a total of 117 initial proposals were received. After shortlisting, and in consultation with the NSFC, 37 proposals were selected for formal application.
Following a peer review process and detailed discussions by the Joint Selection Committee comprising expertise from both the NSFC and RGC, 14 proposals were finally selected for funding support. A list of supported projects is in Appendix K.

Fulbright Hong Kong Scholar Programme
Starting from the 2002-2003 academic year, the RGC has, in collaboration with the US Consulate-General in Hong Kong, launched the Fulbright Hong Kong Scholar Programme to support Hong Kong scholars to undertake research work in the United States.
Selection of scholars is based on academic peer reviews conducted under the charge of the Fullbright Advisory Committee.
The programme aims to award four fellowships, each at a rate of HK$350,000 for up to 10 months in each year.
A supplementary grant of up to HK$150,000 per application may be provided to meet research expenses in justified cases.
In the pilot exercise in 2002-2003, the programme supported four local scholars for roughly HK$1.5 million. They would be attached to prestigous research institutions in the United States to complete their research projects. A list of supported scholars is in Appendix L.

Research Postgraduate Conferences funded by the RGC

Research Postgraduate Students Conference / Seminar Grants
The grant is provided to support and promote inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary exchanges among postgraduate students of the UGC-funded institutions, and to provide opportunities for postgraduate students of these institutions to meet and interact with eminent scholars from outside Hong Kong.
Specifically, the scheme aims to facilitate the organisation of locally held inter-institutional conferences / seminars targeted at postgraduate students.
The grant is given in the form of travel grants which include the travel and associated costs of invited visiting scholars to attend and speak at conferences / seminars in Hong Kong.
Applications are received all year round and granted subject to the availability of funds.
For 2002-2003, the Council approved five applications with a total funding of HK$172,713. Brief details of the proposal are in Appendix Q.

Earmarked Research Grant 2003-2004
For 2003-2004, a provision of HK$577.9 million has been made available for the ERG to be allocated via the Council, mainly in response to competitive bids. For the 2003-2004 CERG exercise, the Council has received a total of 1,878 project proposals, seeking some HK$1,813.7 million in project grants.
As usual, preliminary consideration of the CERG applications will be made by the four subject panels, to be assisted by international expert assessors. Recommendations of the panels will be considered by the Council at its meeting in June 2003.

RGC and panel members visit Hong Kong Baptist University in June 2002 as part of the Council’s annual visits to the eight UGC-funded institutions

Other Activities
The Council’s visiting programme: 2002
The Council has a programme of making annual visits to the eight UGC-funded institutions in Hong Kong. Generally, the Council plans to visit one or two institutions each year. Members of the Council and its subject panels visited Hong Kong Baptist University on 10 June 2002.
The programme included a wide range of presentations and discussions on projects. The visit provided a useful forum for informal discussions and collegial exchanges with academic staff and research students from a cross section of the university’s departments, research facilities and centres.
Members were pleased to observe that the research atmosphere of the university was active and healthy, and that both staff and students were well supported and motivated to engage in research. Overall, members were generally impressed by the significant progress which the university had made since the last RGC visit in 1996.
Similar visits will continue to be undertaken and the next visit will be to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Further information on the background to the CouncilŐs visiting programme is in Appendix H.

Co-operative Research Centres Scheme
The Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) Scheme operated between 1993 and 2000 to promote collaboration in applied research between UGC-funded institutions and industry. During the period, a total of 26 CRC projects were supported for funding of which 13 projects were still on-going as of December 2002. Progress of the funded projects has been reasonably satisfactory.
The RGC will continue to monitor progress of on-going projects up to their completion. As part of its monitoring efforts, the CRC sub-committee conducts regular on-site visits to on-going projects, and projects which have been recently completed.
From these projects, the Council expects to see research outputs that are highly research-relevant, and with strong potential for commercialisation.
The Council’s Major Tasks for 2003
The following remain to be the Council’s major tasks for 2003:

Examine ways and means to provide stronger support for research and to improve the quality of research in Hong Kong.
Keep a close watch on the development of the local research enterprise, and help the Government to examine research needs of the higher education sector in meeting new challenges.
Enhance international research co-operation, as such co-operation is important to the further upgrading and development of Hong Kong’s research profile. Essential is the development of closer relations with the Mainland and overseas countries.

How projects are selected
How the ERG was allocated
Competitive Earmarked Research Grant
Clinical Research Fellowship
Direct Allocation Funding
Central Allocation Funding
Joint Research Schemes
  Germany / Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme
  France / Hong kong Joint Research Scheme
  NSFC / RGC Joint Research Scheme
Fulbright Hong Kong Scholar Programme
Research Postgraduate Students Conference / Seminar Grants
Earmarked Research Grant 2003-2004
The Council’s visiting programme: 2002
Co-operative Research Centres Scheme
The Council’s Major Tasks for 2003