Research Grants Council entered its 10th year in 2000, having been established
as a semi-autonomous advisory body under the aegis of the University and
Polytechnic Grants Committee (UPGC) on 1 January 1991.
funds rise more than four-fold
first year, the RGC allocated research funds totalling a modest HK$100
million, a figure that climbed more than four-fold to HK$470 million for
In 10 years,
the RGC has funded more than 4,000 research projects across a diversity
of subjects, from engineering and the physical sciences to biology and
medicine, humanities, social sciences and business studies.
In that timespan,
the number of proposals attracted under the Competitive Earmarked Research
Grant (CERG) exercise has grown from 206 in 1991 to 1,600 in 2000-2001,
an eight-fold increase. And the number of projects awarded funds in the
annual CERG exercise, after meticulous international peer scrutiny, has
risen from 137 in 1991-1992 to more than 640 in 2000-2001. The organisation
of the RGC has seen equally impressive growth; from three subject panels
comprising 22 members in 1991, to today's four subject panels with 99
help research environment
support the ever-developing research environment in Hong Kong, many initiatives
have been introduced over the decade. In 1992, on an experimental basis,
funds in the context of the CERG exercise were provided for travel to
help Hong Kong researchers present their work internationally.
Research Centres Scheme was set up in 1993 to promote collaboration in
applied research with industry. Three initial centres, dedicated to textile
inspection, open systems technology, and wireless information technology,
were followed by another 23.
spearheaded links in applied research between universities and industry
and with the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Fund, the
Council reviewed the operation in 2000 and decided to consolidate its
efforts in monitoring the on-going funded projects. For this reason, new
funding exercises will not be launched under the scheme.
of joint research schemes with other countries and regions was another
initiative, strengthening links between higher education institutions
in Hong Kong and counterparts in other parts of the world. The first scheme,
between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, was set up in 1991, and was
added to with ventures involving Germany, France and, in 1998, with the
and the number of on-going research projects grew over the decade, the
RGC installed practices to provide greater transparency and accountability.
A move to
relay relevant comments of external assessors to unsuccessful grant applicants
began in 1992. The initiative proved to be useful in helping applicants
to improve their research proposals. From 1997, comments from all external
reviewers were fed back anonymously to applicants, whether or not their
applications were successful in securing RGC funding. In 1993, a more
formal method of project monitoring and assessment was adopted, with one
subject panel member assigned to each funded project to track progress
and report problems.
of completed research projects was reviewed in 1997, and a year later
the RGC dropped its 'Excellent' category, believing that the outcome of
quality research was more appropriate than any ratings given by the Council.
From then on, only 'Satisfactory' or 'Unsatisfactory' were used.
to UGC-funded institutions
RGC Council members, and subject panel members, started a programme of
visits to UGC-funded institutions. The second round of visits began in
1995, and the third round in 1998.
afforded the Council and its subject panels an invaluable opportunity
to appreciate the research culture and environment at the institutions.
reviews progress and looks ahead
achievements and consider future directions, RGC members held a retreat
in late 1997. Issues identified were further discussed in 1998 and, responding
to a request from the Secretary for Education and Manpower, the Council
agreed to review its role in advising government on research needs. The
move resulted in an important report to government in 2000 on the research
needs and priorities of Hong Kong's higher education sector, the first
report of its kind.