The millennium year 2000 was a milestone for the Research Grants Council (RGC); as well as allocating another year-on-year increase in research funds, the Council consolidated on its 10 years of operation.
Government funding for the year supporting research through the RGC was HK$468.3 million, a much welcomed 10.6 per cent increase over 1999, despite stringencies elsewhere in the higher education budget. For the whole higher education sector in Hong Kong, this was something to be welcomed.
Over 10 years, research funding channelled through the RGC has increased dramatically (from only HK$100 million in 1991-1992 to about HK$470 million in 2000-2001), commensurate with the community’s changing perception of research and its increasing importance to Hong Kong’s economy.
A decade ago, research and innovation were, at best, seen by most members of the community as shadowy blips on a far horizon; today the community is committed to Hong Kong becoming a knowledge economy, with research and innovation being essential intellectual nourishment for this goal. Having established itself as a key player in supporting academic research, the RGC’s role becomes ever more important in a modern society which increasingly relies on innovation.
Among other encouraging trends over the last decade has been the emerging realisation that government policy should be supported by quality research. Issues are not just ideological or political questions tempered with public opinion; the thinking today is that policy issues benefit from rigorous analysis.
In Hong Kong, we now have the expertise to deliver this kind of research, a happy state of self-sufficiency which the RGC has helped to foster. While welcoming increases in research funding, we should nevertheless be conscious that regional neighbours, often seen as rivals, are spending far more on research. In terms of total research and development funding as a percentage of gross domestic product, Hong Kong falls far behind Taiwan and Singapore.
However, Hong Kong’s research effort is visibly moving forward, if modestly by comparison. Aside from funding, the RGC’s joint research schemes with Germany, France and the Mainland are well established. During the year, a report was submitted to the Government on the research needs and priorities of Hong Kong’s higher education institutions.
The report was the RGC’s first major work undertaken in accordance with its terms of reference in advising government. And, as part of efforts to communicate Hong Kong’s research excellence, a twice-yearly newsletter, Research Frontiers, was launched. All who dedicate themselves to Hong Kong’s flourishing research environment should be proud of achievements over the 10 years.

Kenneth Young
June 2001

Prof Kenneth Young, Chairman of the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, China