Cutting edge research and development (R&D) is concentrated in a just a handful of hubs across the world, including the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), San Francisco and London.
All have a number of factors in common – among them ample finance, a large and diverse talent pool and global connectivity – but one standout feature mentioned in any coverage of innovation hubs is the support provided by public and private bodies.
With Hong Kong and Mainland China neighbour Shenzhen forming the core of the GBA innovation hub, Hong Kong’s Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) has launched the 2022 Mainland-Hong Kong Joint Funding Scheme and is inviting proposals for applied R&D projects jointly conducted by institutions in Hong Kong and the mainland.
The grants cover three specific themes: biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI) and new materials.
Biotechnology projects of interest to the commission include biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines and antibody-based medicines, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for prevention and treatment of major clinical diseases, TCM-based new medicines, and synthetic-biology technology applications.
AI projects of interest include system security and privacy, smart transport, intelligent robots and related applied technologies for use in extreme weather-related natural disasters, brain-inspired intelligence, and smart healthcare devices such as medical robots.
For new materials, fields of interest include optoelectronic materials, third-generation semiconductor technologies, key materials for hydrogen fuel cells, materials for highly safe lithium-ion batteries, and biomedical materials.
The ITC said the scheme aims to support and encourage further R&D collaboration between Hong Kong and the mainland and applications must be submitted simultaneously by Hong Kong and mainland institutions to the ITC and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) respectively. The R&D work must be conducted in both places and involve cooperation between the two.
The ITC and MOST will respectively provide funding to Hong Kong and mainland applicant organisations and will monitor project progress according to their own requirements.
Platforms and collaboration
The ITC said its funding aims to support platform and collaborative projects for a maximum duration of 24 months. The mainland partner should be an R&D institute, higher education institute or enterprise registered in the mainland.
The ITC defines platform projects as applied R&D projects that are industry-oriented and can be commercialised. Such projects must be undertaken by R&D centres or designated local public research institutes. All platform projects require industry sponsorship to cover at least 10% of project-related costs within the project period. The intellectual property rights generated by the projects will be owned by the lead applicants.
Collaborative projects are undertaken by R&D centres or designated local public research institutes in collaboration with industry co-applicants. The industry co-applicant should contribute, in the form of industry sponsorship, at least 50% of the project cost if it wishes to own IP rights generated by the project.
Applications for the 2022 Mainland-Hong Kong Joint Funding Scheme will be accepted until 30 June.
The ITF’s Secretariat will conduct a preliminary screening of applications, and individual applications may be subject to external review. The Secretariat's assessment, together with the views of external reviewers (if any), will be submitted to the Innovation and Technology Fund Research Projects Assessment Panel for examination in accordance with the assessment framework.
ITC and MOST will vet applications separately in accordance with each side's own criteria. Only applications that are supported by both sides will be funded.