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Greater Bay Area

Ban on Hong Kong scientists securing funding from mainland China should end, local delegate tells national legislature

Leading scientist Professor Nancy Ip says she has submitted proposal to National People’s Congress, as Hong Kong University of Science and Technology eyes joint research centre with mainland institution

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 11:27am

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is planning to set up another joint research centre in the Greater Bay Area with a mainland institution to boost cross-border collaboration, according to one of its vice-presidents.

Professor Nancy Ip Yuk-yu, an internationally renowned scientist and one of the city’s 36 deputies to the National People’s Congress, said she had proposed to China’s top legislature lifting the ban on local scientists getting mainland funding for their research.

HKUST’s vice-president for research and graduate studies told the Post she saw great opportunities in building a stronger academic alliance in the Greater Bay Area – a national scheme linking Hong Kong and Macau with nine other cities in southern Guangdong province.

“Twenty years ago, there was more research funding in Hong Kong than on the mainland, but now it’s reversed.

“It would be very good for Hong Kong if we could tap into resources on the mainland,” Ip said in Beijing, where she is attending the ‘two sessions’ – annual meetings of the NPC and the central government’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

She hoped that local scientists could access the mainland’s well-equipped facilities.

In return, Hong Kong could export its research and talent, Ip added.

HKUST, which was third in Asia in the latest QS World University Rankings, set up a research base in Shenzhen in 1999 with Peking University and local municipal authorities. It built the Industry, Education and Research Building in the city in 2011.

A joint institute is practical
Professor Nancy Ip, HKUST

Ip said another academic centre for collaboration was likely to be established.

“We are conducting internal consultations on how to position and leverage opportunities in the Greater Bay Area … A joint institute is practical.”

She noted HKUST was reviewing potential partners, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other mainland institutions.

In the long run, Ip said, the university might establish a campus in the Greater Bay Area to provide training for more students.

The expert on Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, also revealed HKUST’s plan to make “ageing” a new strategic research area above its existing priorities, which include an autonomous system, robotics and data science.

Beijing pushing forward ‘Greater Bay Area’ plan, top political advisory body says

“The ageing population poses significant challenges to our society,” Ip explained. “With [faculties of] science, engineering, humanities and social sciences, we are well positioned to tackle the problem.”

She said cross-disciplinary teams would collaborate in biological research, demographic studies, and technology development, targeting service robotics and movement sensors to help elderly people.

Details of the project would be announced within this year, she added, with the next step being a search for funding.

Kimmy Chung is reporting from Beijing