Research Initiatives:
Putting Knowledge to Work

In the lead-up to its change of name in September 2021, the University has been placing more focus than ever before on defining and supporting a flourishing research culture. Backed by increasing amounts of external funding, research being undertaken at the University is strongly oriented towards the practical needs of Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. Some of the most significant of its current applied research achievements are showcased in this chapter.

Increased funding to drive quality research

As the University has begun to increase its research activities and outputs, so the level of funding and support it has gained from various external bodies has continued to grow. In the latest round of the Research Grants Council (RGC)'s Competitive Research Funding Schemes for the Local Self-financing Degree Sector, the University secured over HK$15 million for 17 projects submitted — the highest amount of all competing institutions. Four of its research proposals gained individual grants of over HK$1 million. But the RGC was not the only source of the University's research funding. Dr Law Lok-yin of the School of Arts and Social Sciences secured generous funding for his Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) research work from the ICH Office, while Dr Terence Shum Chun-tat gained funding from the Public Policy Research (PPR) Scheme for his project on the quality of life among South Asian elderly in Hong Kong. Another researcher, Dr Grand Cheng Hak-land, also won significant funding from the PPR Scheme to pursue research into the phenomenon of 'Political Participation in Late Adulthood'. In the School of Science and Technology, Dr Panda Chan Ping-lung and Dr Michael Lo Hoi-shing each won grants from the Environment and Conservation Fund for research into the effect of antibiotics and microplastics respectively on the local environment. Dr Jessie Wong Ming-sin of the School of Education and Languages gained important funding from the Equal Opportunities Commission's Funding Programme of Research Projects to study the treatment of ethnic minority students in local kindergartens and to launch an award scheme.       

Targeted research funding is also being supplied from internal resources. In December 2020, the University established a University Research Committee to advise management on its research development and to assess research fund applications, and in August 2021 a new Research Impact Fund was set up to support the development of strategic research areas, for instance by acquiring essential equipment and organizing research activities for staff and students. The fund was loaded with HK$5 million for each of the first three years, taken from the University's Quality Enhancement Measures funding. At the same time, the funding ceiling for the existing Small Project Fund was raised by 50%, in a move to encourage early-career academics to embark on research projects.


Bringing together international scholars

Despite the restrictions of the global pandemic, the University utilized technology to run multiple major conferences and seminars through the year that brought together experts from around the world. One highlight was its first ever International Conference on Gerontechnology, hosted by the School of Nursing and Health Studies, which explored the use of technology in caring for the elderly. In fact, the conference was also the first of its kind to be held in Hong Kong. Another new event was the inaugural International Conference on Housing and Ageing Policies: Global and China Perspectives, the first large-scale international event organized by the recently-formed Public and Social Policy Research Centre. Meanwhile, the Department of Creative Arts launched its first International Conference on Chinese Creative Writing and Cross-Media Practices, in collaboration with the Tin Ka Ping Centre of Chinese Culture. In the field of electronic engineering and computing, the University also held an International Conference on Quantum Computing and Applications, with support from the Croucher Foundation.

One event that reinforced the University's links with industry was the 4th Academia–Industry Exchange run by the Institute of International Business and Governance (IIBG). The IIBG also continued with its research seminar series across the year, with a series of talks under the general theme of 'Beyond COVID-19: Rethinking the Future of Business'. Another popular and informative seminar series was that run by the Institute for Research in Open and Innovative Education (IROPINE) in response to the pandemic, titled 'Innovative Hybrid and Flexible Teaching', which explored the effectiveness of new teaching modes against conventional classroom teaching. Covering similar themes was the University's 2021 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education, the eighth year that this signature event has been held. Meanwhile, LiPACE began a series of 30th anniversary seminars entitled the LiPACE Academic Forum series, addressing developments in higher and continuing education.

University research highlights

As part of its mission to contribute fully to the social and economic development of Hong Kong, the University is involved in some major research projects that are delivering practical benefits in the areas of housing policy, wetland preservation, and language teaching. At the end of 2020, the Public and Social Policy Research Centre (PSPRC) produced an HOS Price Index, the outcome of intensive work to understand and track prices of subsidized Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) flats. The HOS Price Index is an important initiative given the Government's recent decision to adjust Hong Kong's public/private housing split from 60:40 to 70:30, as it provides an indicative reference for the price trends of HOS flats on the secondary market. In another contribution to housing issues, the PSPRC together with the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service published the first phase of a study based on interviews with residents of sub-divided units on their hopes and expectations regarding the Government's planned transitional housing. The study also made valuable suggestions on the design and construction of transitional homes for the future.

During the year, the School of Science and Technology acquired a number of important pieces of research equipment for use at its newly established University Research Facilities (URF) for studying and preserving coastal wetland environments in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. These specialized instruments, funded by the RGC, are equipping the URF with what it needs to engage in basic and applied scientific studies and analysis of wetland conditions and changes. Going forward, the URF will serve as a regional platform to rally and inform scientists, government officials, and NGO workers with evidence-based information on the formulation of coastal wetland conservation policies, as part of the goal of protecting and conserving the region's coastal wetlands under the Greater Bay Area development plan.

The Chinese and English Learner Language (CELL) Corpus is a recently completed research project by the Research Institute for Bilingual Learning and Teaching (RIBiLT), funded by the RGC and released in January 2021. The CELL Corpus collects together an English language second-language corpus of over 4 million words, a Chinese corpus of over 18 million characters, together with a spoken data archive. The fully searchable corpus, which includes part-of-speech tags, is a valuable resource for anyone investigating Hong Kong university students' habits and patterns of language use, as revealed in both Chinese and English academic essays.