Hong Kong's first rock engineering research centre at the University of Hong Kong will help to strengthen international collaboration and academic exchange. Dr Tsui Yuet, a member of centre's management committee and senior lecturer at the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, said collaboration with local and international researchers would be the centre's top priority. 'Being the SAR's first research centre in rock engineering, it can become the focal point in the region for comprehensive studies on rocks and serve as a meeting place for researchers and practitioners from all over the world to exchange ideas,' he said. Research arrangements have been established with several leading Chinese organisations, including Guangdong Provincial Research Institute of Water- Conservancy and Hydro-power; Huazhong University of Science and Technology; Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and Shanghai Jiaotong University. The centre would provide first-class facilities for applied research to enhance design techniques of local geotechnical engineers and encourage young scholars to learn about and appreciate the impact of rock engineering science, Dr Tsui said. Under the Department of Civil Engineering, the centre was set up with $10 million from the Research Grants Council. This was awarded in 1994. The Rock Engineering Research Centre will facilitate research into all the aspects of rock engineering and provide a useful database for study on properties of Hong Kong rocks. Several research programmes on rockburst characteristics, creep behaviour of soft rock, microscopic study on cracks, acoustic emission, rock cracking and crack propagation and the effect of lateral strain control on the post-peak behaviour of rock specimens are already underway. Other joint research programmes with partner institutions include excavations, rockburst monitoring and a look at the long-term behaviour of rock. The Department of Civil Engineering is committed to providing sufficient technical support to assist in the operation of the centre together with an area on the lower ground floor in Haking Wong building to accommodate principal testing equipment and other support machinery. Rock testing and research includes the MTS Universal testing system, acoustic emission system, thin-section petrographic study set, rock specimen preparation set and microscopic study system. The centre also has more than 6,000 specimens representing a full range of rocks commonly found in Hong Kong. A number of specimens have also been made available for study from the mainland.