$150m fund aims to have more impact – The Standard – Michelle Chan

Local universities are being encouraged to undertake more impactful research as Hong Kong tries to develop re- industrialization under a new HK$150 million fund.

Under the Research Impact Fund to be launched early next year, the University Grants Committee will allocate HK$50 million each year in the 2016-19 triennium for the pilot competitive funding scheme.

Each research could be funded to up to HK$10 million, according to preliminary plans.

In his swansong policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged universities to conduct “more impactful and translational research projects” to tie in with Hong Kong’s needs in promoting the development of industries and re-industrialization.

UGC chairman Carlson Tong Ka- shing said yesterday the fund aims to initiate a change in the local research culture by inviting local academics to articulate the potential benefits that research can deliver to the wider community.

“In the past, research funding relied much on whether it would get published in prestigious academic journals, whereas the Research Impact Fund focuses on the social and economical impacts, as well as researches that can be translated to products and services,” Tong said.

For example, researches with social and economic impact may include smart city, fintech innovation or robotics.

He said that the assessment criteria would expand to research impact and effectiveness of knowledge and technology transfer. Detailed operational framework including selection priorities will be confirmed in the latter half of this year.

Meanwhile, Tong also said committee has accepted the findings and recommendations of a task force reviewing the UGC Research Grants Council and its full report will be uploaded on the UGC website in the next few months.

The lack of research funding was a common complaint by researchers during the review.

Research funding only constituted 0.7 percent of GDP, much less than the average of 3-4 percent in other developed countries, Tong said.

Researchers currently depend solely on the Research Grants Council for funding, whose funding is derived from the annual return earned from a HK$23 billion research endowment fund set up in 2009.

However, the annual rate of return has dropped significantly over the past few years from more than 6 percent to some 3 percent.

Tong hoped that the government can top up the endowment fund so as to maintain sufficient annual funding in the future.