China and Hong Kong pool effort in high-tech projects

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China's desire to strengthen scientific links with its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has been confirmed by the announcement of 14 jointly funded research projects.

The Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (RGC) will finance the research over the next three years. The winning projects were selected from 229 applications by a panel consisting of six experts from the mainland and six from Hong Kong. The work will be funded under a joint research scheme established by the two research councils in November 1998.

Some RMB5 million (US$604,000) will come from NSFC and HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) from RGC each year. The projects are in six fields: new materials, marine and environmental science, life science, management science, information science, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Surprisingly, only one application from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's leading research organization, was approved, compared to 11 approved applications from Chinese universities, including the prestigious Beijing University and Tsinghua University.

The NSFC says it has been paying attention to funding scientific exchanges between mainland China and Hong Kong. About 300 such projects were supported by the foundation during 1991–98.

Before the establishment of the joint research scheme, cooperation between the two sides was sporadic and unorganized, without any security for intellectual property, according to Tang Xifang, an official in charge of the scheme at the NSFC.

“The central government asked mainland China to support the scientific research efforts of Hong Kong, so that Hong Kong can become a centre for high-technology development. The establishment of this grant programme is one step taken in response to the government's call,” says Tang.

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Xuewen, T. China and Hong Kong pool effort in high-tech projects. Nature 402, 710 (1999) doi:10.1038/45342

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