The mission of the Research Grants Council is to boost the quality of resear
ch 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 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 2000-2001, as originally approved by the Government and later supplemented by the RGC, was HK$468.3 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: 2000-2001

How projects are selected

How the ERG was allocated
Competitive Bid Funding
Direct Allocation Funding
Central Allocation Funding
Research Postgraduate Students Conference / Seminar Grant
Earmarked Research Grant 2001-2002
Other Activities

The Council's visiting programme: 2000
Co-operative Research Centres Scheme
Joint Research Schemes
The Council's Major Tasks for 2001
New Initiatives
Clinical Research Fellowship Scheme
CERG for Individual Research

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 remained at 39 per cent, the same as in 1999-2000.
The criteria for the selection of research projects, as endorsed by the Council in 1991, is detailed in Appendix L.
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 allocated in four broad categories:
HK$368.3 million (Note 1) in response to competitive bids received from the institutions.
HK$66 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$29 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$5 million was reserved for the pilot NSFC / RGC Joint Research Scheme in 2000-2001.
Note 1: An additional HK$0.3 million was met by the unspent balance from terminated projects

Competitive Bid Funding

Altogether, 1,652 proposals across a wide range of subject disciplines were received under the competitive bidding exercise, seeking grants totalling HK$1,567 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$368.6 million (Note 1) to support 642 projects with an average grant of HK$574,143. This compared with 578 projects supported in 1999-2000 at a total cost of $324.5 million (average grant HK$561,420). Projects funded by the Council in 2000-2001 are listed by subject area in Appendix M.
The dollar value of grants awarded in 2000-2001 represented an increase of 13.6 per cent over the value of grants awarded in 1999-2000. The number of projects rated "fundable, but unfunded" was 432. A summary of allocations from the 2000-2001 Earmarked Research Grant is shown in Appendix N.
Allocation of competitive bid funding for 2000-2001 by broad subject category is summarised in Chart 1.1 while Chart 1.2 summarises the competitive bid funding allocation by institution.

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 $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 2000-2001, the Council reaffirmed the decision not to increase the amount for Direct Allocation but rather to gradually reduce the proportion of Direct Allocation of the total ERG, so as to leave more allocation for the competitive and larger grants.
The amount of Direct Allocation was therefore reduced from HK$70 million in 1999-2000 to HK$66 million in 2000-2001. Distribution for Direct Allocation in 2000-2001 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 2000-2001, the Council received five equipment bids and 18 group research applications. After a peer review process and interviews of selected researchers by the Central Allocation Sub-Committee, eight applications were eventually funded. A list of the supported projects is in Appendix O.

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 inter-institutional conferences/seminars targeted at, and organised by or for, postgraduate students. The grant is given in the form of travel grants which include the travel and associated costs of invited eminent 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 2000-2001, the Council approved three applications with awarded grants totalling HK$147,600. Brief details of these proposals are in Appendix P.

Earmarked Research Grant 2001-2002
For 2001-2002, a provision of HK$510.8 million has been initially made available for the ERG to be allocated via the Council, mainly in response to competitive bids. For the 2001-2002 CERG exercise, the Council has received a total of 1,630 project proposals, seeking some HK$1,501 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 2001.

The Council's visiting programme: 2000
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 The Hong Kong Polytechnic University on 22 June 2000.
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 generally impressed with the range and standard of research being carried out at the university.
Members noted with appreciation the strong commitment among staff to applied and service oriented work which generally accorded with the university's mission in encouraging and supporting applied and strategic research relevant to the needs of Hong Kong.
Overall they were satisfied that the university had demonstrated real and substantive improvements on various fronts in research when compared to the time of the last RGC visit in 1995. Similar visits will continue to be undertaken with the Council planning to visit The Chinese University of Hong Kong in June 2001.
Further information on the background to the Council's visiting programme is in Appendix H.

Co-operative Research Centres Scheme
The objective of the Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) Scheme is to promote collaboration in applied research between UGC-funded institutions and industry. Since the inception of the scheme in 1993-1994, a total of 26 CRC projects have been supported for funding of which 20 projects were still on-going as of December 2000. Progress of the funded projects under the scheme has been reasonably satisfactory.
Taking into account the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), the RGC reviewed in December 2000 the operation of the scheme and decided to cease any new funding exercise under the Scheme. The Council concluded that the scheme had successfully encouraged and promoted stronger interaction between industry and universities in collaborative applied research.
Through seed funding of collaborative projects, the scheme played a key role in bridging industry and universities in applied research at a time when the research funding mechanism for applied work had yet to be established and developed in Hong Kong.
The review, at the same time, showed that the CRC scheme shared similarities with the ITF. As the ITF has been established to provide dedicated funding support for applied work, research proposals with strong industrial relevance and clear downstream application potential can be considered for funding support under the ITF.
The RGC will continue to monitor progress of on-going projects up to their completion. From these projects, the Council expects to see research outputs that are highly research-relevant, and with strong potential for commercialisation.

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 pilot 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 projects. The scheme has since been operated on an annual basis.
In 2000-2001, altogether 43 applications were received covering a wide range of subjects; 28 of the applications were new, and 15 were extension requests. A joint selection committee comprising members from Hong Kong and Germany selected 34 research proposals for funding support; 25 of the proposals were new and nine were extension cases. 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 pilot joint research scheme to encourage and promote scientific collaboration between France and Hong Kong by providing grants for researchers to make exchange visits.
In 2000-2001, a total of 37 applications were received; 32 of the applications were new and five were extension requests. Of these, 20 applications including 16 new proposals and four extension cases were approved for funding support. A list of the supported projects is in Appendix J.

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 initially for three years on a pilot basis. As agreed, 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 Science
New Materials Science
Marine and Environment 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 2000-2001, a total of 148 proposals were received. After shortlisting, and in consultation with the NSFC, 53 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, 16 proposals were finally selected for funding support. A list of supported projects is in Appendix K.

The Council has identified the following major tasks for 2001:
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.

Clinical Research Fellowship Scheme
Starting from CERG 2002-2003, the RGC will operate a clinical fellowship scheme jointly with the two universities operating medical schools (The University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong) to provide medical research training on a cost-sharing basis.
The objective of the new scheme is to promote opportunities for clinical research in Hong Kong. As a pilot scheme, it caters for two training fellowships each year for young clinicians to undertake clinical research. The scheme will be run as part of the annual CERG exercise with a preliminary review at the end of its third year of operation.

CERG for Individual Research

To encourage and provide better support for individual research, the RGC will role out in CERG 2002-2003 a slightly modified funding template for individual research, initially in the areas of humanities, social sciences and business studies.
All essential aspects of this modified template including assessment yardsticks are similar to those for other CERG proposals, except for a provision enabling investigators to take time off to conduct research in an individual and independent manner.