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Announced by the Financial Secretary in the 2008-2009 Budget, an $18 billion Research Endowment Fund was established to provide a steady and continuous source of funding towards research projects selected by the Research Grants Council (RGC). Part of the fund will be channeled towards special research themes related to Hong Kong's long-term development and strategic direction. To this aim, a Steering Committee with the RGC's Chairman among its committee members, was set up by the Education Bureau (EDB) to identify the themes.

Professor Roland Chin, Chairman of the RGC, says that $4 billion of the $18 billion funding will be allocated to these special research themes. To optimize resources and create high impact, funding should be focused on a small number of themes most beneficial to Hong Kong's strategic development and where the local academia has a competitive advantage. If all goes smoothly, it is estimated that funding applications will be called early next year. After a rigorous international peer review process, grants will be allocated starting in late 2010.

In addition, the RGC will concentrate its resources to provide better support to the best research projects – giving full grants to the projects which have the highest quality. According to Professor Chin, the Council in the past received over 2,000 applications a year, of which 900 are funded, yielding a success rate of nearly 40%. Under the new practice of providing better support to the best projects, the success rate will be expected to drop to around 30% due to resource reallocation and limited budget. He further points out that this is an international best practice which will aise Hong Kong's research excellence to a higher level.

Professor Chin further emphasizes that in view of the current global environment, Hong Kong must step up its competitiveness in the world market to prepare for future challenges. That is why it is essential to attract the world's best research talents to Hong Kong serving the city and the Region.

Established this year by the RGC, the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme aims at attracting the best and brightest students in the world to pursue their PhD programs in the institutions funded by the University Grants Committee. Not only can this raise the quality of local research, but it also internationalizes our research environment by introducing different cultures to the local academic scene. It is estimated that 135 PhD fellowships will be awarded annually beginning in the 2010/2011 academic year, and local institutions will be actively involved in the student recruitment  efforts. The application deadline for the 2010/2011 academic year is
1 December 2009. The RGC has posted relevant information on its website: www.rgc.edu.hk/hkphd

To promote this new scheme as well as Hong Kong universities, Professor Chin plans to visit many universities in selected Asian countries with local institution representatives between September and December. His itinerary will cover India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and more.

The Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme will be publicized worldwide, explains Professor Chin. Local universities and universities in the Chinese Mainland, Europe and the U.S.  are already well-connected through research collaboration and various exchange programs for years which have become efficient channels to recruit research talents to Hong Kong. Besides, rising academic research standards in Asia in recent years point to the need to build and strengthen relations with other Asian universities, which is one important goal of this trip, he adds.

According to Professor Chin, academic research in Hong Kong has always strived for world-class standards. New initiatives like the Research Endowment Fund and the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme will invariably attract top-tier talents to conduct their research studies in Hong Kong . In addition to the training of research talents, Hong Kong's researchers have been producing excellent work and disseminating their research results world wide by publishing them in renowned academic journals and books. Some of the research work addresses important local social and economic issues which are also of great interest to the worldwide community. These publications are widely read all over the world, making great contributions to the betterment of human kind.

"Of course it would be ideal if Hong Kong could have its own world-acclaimed academic journals and publishing press. Building up the reputation of a journal usually takes years, and so it all relies on the continuous efforts of our local academia to make this a reality someday," says Professor Chin.

Professor Roland Chin
Chairman, Research Grants Council

The RGC Chairman, Prof Roland Chin had a meeting with Dr. Antonio Scarpa, Director of Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Hong Kong on 29 July 2009. They exchanged a lot of valuable information about the operation of research funding in the US and Hong Kong. NIH is keen on recruiting more external reviewers to review its research applications, and also welcomes research application outside the US. The RGC would like to appeal to local scholars to apply to NIH for research funding and offer to be its external reviewers. For details, please visit