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The Road to Research at HKMU

Dear Colleagues,

Research has been an integral part of my academic career for over 35 years.

When I was Director of the State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution, I was involved in organising and managing research, in addition to conducting research. From 2010 to 2020, I was responsible for distributing funds amounting to about HK$15 million each year.

In my experience, at least three questions were often asked in making funding decisions in Hong Kong and the mainland:

  1. Does the project address a grand challenge?
  2. Can the outcomes/findings of the project be applied to help solve real-world problems?
  3. (More recently) Is the project of strategic importance and does it respond to major or pressing needs of Hong Kong and the nation?

At HKMU, should we adopt the same philosophy in our approach to promoting research?

During the Launch Ceremony of Hong Kong Metropolitan University, I mentioned three key strategies to get our research work up and running.

Our research activities must be highly focused on areas of special local and regional relevance, for maximum impact. Our research themes must involve using and sharing our existing resources whenever possible. And we must be able to “recycle” some of our research back into our teaching to create a virtuous circle of teaching and research work.

I would like to share with you what type of research that I would like to promote at HKMU, with one example.

Recently, the research team in the School of Arts and Social Sciences was awarded a grant, titled “Virtual Reality-based Driving Training System”, from the Smart Traffic Fund. The amount of HK$3,820,680 (HK$4,580,000 in total with other funds) was not the largest in the history of our University, and the award may not have been the most competitive or prestigious among the grants awarded to our HKMU colleagues, but the project has possibly all the important elements that make this grant special.

First, the grant proposal originated from a final-year project, supervised by faculty members of the BA (Hons) in Computing and Interactive Entertainment. Like most of the exhibits, the project drew the attention of many external guests attending the Creative Arts Graduation Show, among them, visitors from a driving school. The company saw the value of the street-view animations and wanted to explore the possibility of developing and commercialising the virtual-reality product for driving instruction.

Subsequent discussions and negotiations lasted almost a year. The driving school and the university agreed to provide matching funds to support an application to the Smart Traffic Fund. The team worked tirelessly to answer many rounds of questions from the funding body and clarify outstanding issues, and finally received notification of a successful outcome in February 2023.

The beauty of the project is manifold. First, it is a joint effort among undergraduate students, academic faculty and industry partners. Second, the external partner and the university showed its “confidence” in the project by providing matching funds (worth about 20% of the grant awarded). Third, the outcome of the project is likely to have practical and commercial value.

Monetary rewards aside, the project will help boost the confidence of our students and encourage them to be innovative and entrepreneurial after their studies at HKMU.

If we all work towards this goal, we will see more and greater success from our faculty and students.

Paul LAM Kwan-sing