Chapter 4: Research



Established in 1991 under the aegis of the UGC, the RGC plays a pre-eminent role in funding research projects in Hong Kong. The mission of the Council is to promote the quality of research undertaken by the Hong Kong academic community, and to support the development of basic and applied research to the benefit of the community. The Council allocates earmarked research funding through three main funding programmes :

    competitive award funding;

    direct allocation funding;

    central allocation

From its origin of administering HK$100 million in 1991, during the 1998-2001 triennium, the RGC administered an annual amount of more than HK$420 million through its earmarked research grant schemes (Figure 4.3).

  Figure 4.3 - Research Funding to UGC-funded Institutions 1998-2001  
  Figure 4.3 - Research Funding to UGC-funded Institutions 1998-2001  
The 2000-2001 academic year saw a substantial increase in the size of earmarked research grants. This was achieved through a one-off supplementary provision of HK$45 million from the UGC's Central Allocation Vote to cater for the demand for more research funding, mainly from competitive bids. Distribution of earmarked research grants through different funding programmes during the reporting triennium is set out in Figure 4.4.
  Figure 4.4 - Actual Distribution of Earmarked Research Grants 1998-2001  
  Figure 4.4 - Actual Distribution of Earmarked Research Grants 1998-2001  
* To support small-scale research projects costing less than HK$200,000.
# To support major research facilities and equipment used for research projects involving collaboration among institutions, and major library acquisitions, and to fund group research projects.
Competitive Earmarked Research Grants

As in previous triennia, the RGC allocated the bulk of earmarked research grant funding in response to competitive bids received from the institutions, covering a wide range of subject disciplines. The RGC's efforts to encourage performance have yielded substantial results, as evidenced by comments from external peer reviews and the steady increase in the number of research proposals received.
In view of the continually improving standards of research proposals, the Council applied a more stringent standard in the selection of applications for funding support during the reporting triennium. Projects eligible for funding support had to demonstrate significant intellectual and innovative content, and strong potential to contribute to academic development. The resultant average success rate at 39% was slightly lower than that in the 1995-1998 triennium (Figure 4.5).
  Figure 4.5 - Applications for Competitive Earmarked Research Grants 1998-2001  
  Figure 4.5 - Applications for Competitive Earmarked Research Grants 1998-2001  

Collaboration with Other Places

To promote and encourage collaborative research between Hong Kong and overseas scholars, the RGC administered a number of collaborative schemes with other organisations during the reporting triennium. A new joint research scheme was introduced in 1999 with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). This new scheme was part of the RGC's efforts to boost links with other places, particularly with Mainland China, in the field of research.

The annual total funding for the scheme was about HK$15 million, with the RGC contributing HK$10 million.

The NSFC scheme aims to give longer-term support for larger-scale projects, and runs initially for three years on a pilot basis. It provides funding to support research expenses, in addition to the travel and subsistence grants.

The RGC also undertook joint research schemes with Germany and France during the triennium, through collaboration with the German Academic Exchange Service and the French Consulate-General in Hong Kong respectively. A total of 184 proposals were supported under the three schemes during the triennium.

  Clinical Work  

Clinical Fellowship Scheme

To bring Hong Kong in line with the international medical research community, the RGC rolled out the Clinical Fellowship Scheme as a means to encourage and provide more opportunities for clinical research in Hong Kong.

The Clinical Fellowship Scheme forms an important part of the initiatives undertaken by the RGC and the UGC in their efforts to prepare Hong Kong for new challenges as the city makes its transition to a knowledge-based economy.

The RGC launched the programme in 2001, marking a small but significant step towards the further advancement of medical research.
RGC Report

The RGC embarked on a study of the institutions' priority research needs in 1999, drawing on institutions' experience and the international trend.

The report concluded that as a funding agency under the education umbrella, the RGC should consider education as a priority in funding research projects, and should continue to focus on basic and applied research of high academic value in higher education institutions.

The report also suggested that there should be a multiplicity of specialised funding sources to provide better support for a diverse spectrum of research in the institutions, akin to, for example, the Innovation and Technology Fund established by the Government in 1999.

Both the UGC and the RGC are conscious of the importance of providing the best support for academic research and will continue to facilitate changes which are required to enable Hong Kong to move forward.
Go to Top