Following is a question by Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 27):
The Public Sector Trial Scheme (Trial Scheme) under the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) of the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) provides funding support to eligible completed ITF projects for producing prototypes/samples, and conducting trials in public sector (including government departments, public bodies and trade associations, etc.), so as to facilitate and promote the realisation and commercialisation of the research and development (R&D) results of ITF projects. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of applications received and approved by ITC since the Trial Scheme was launched in 2011, and the following information of each approved application:
– Company / organisation which submitted the application; Nature of the company / organisation; Through which programme under ITF the company / organisation becomes eligible for the Trial Scheme; R&D areas of the project; Amount of funding support; Percentage of the amount of funding support in the original R&D project cost; and Public sector in which trials of the R&D results were / is being / will be conducted.
(b) whether there were applications rejected; if so, of the number of rejected applications, and the following information of each application:
– Company / organisation which submitted the application; Nature of the company / organisation; Through which programme under ITF the company / organisation becomes eligible for the Trial Scheme; R&D areas of the project; and Reasons for rejecting the application.
(c) whether it has plans to relax the eligibility criteria for the Trial Scheme (e.g. allowing local R&D projects not subsidised by ITF to apply for the Scheme); if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(d) whether it has plans to allow trials of R&D results to be conducted in more organisations (e.g. private organisations); if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In late 2010, we put forth to the Legislative Council Panel on Commerce and Industry (LegCo C&I Panel) a refined strategy to promote innovation and technology development, proposing to actively encourage and promote real world application of research and development (R&D) results funded by the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) by observing their performance through actual practice, identifying areas of enhancement and having them implemented so that the R&D outcomes can become products meeting the needs of ultimate clients. This will also provide a good reference for the products as they compete for business in the open market. The proposal was supported by Panel members and attracted very positive feedbacks from the community immediately after its launch.
Having assessed the situation after the proposal was implemented, including gauging the views of the R&D Centres, universities, public bodies which have participated in the application of the R&D results and private companies which have received funding support from the ITF for their R&D work, we enhanced the means and details of ITF’s funding support for realisation and commercialisation of R&D results and formally launched the Public Sector Trial Scheme (PSTS) in March 2011. The PSTS provides additional funding support to completed R&D projects funded by the ITF for the production of tools/prototypes/samples and the conduct of trial schemes in the public sector. The public sector includes government departments, public bodies and trade associations, etc. The funding ceiling for this additional work is capped at 30% of the original R&D project cost, but the Commissioner for Innovation and Technology may exercise discretion for additional funding support under exceptional circumstances (e.g. the product developed would bring great benefits to the community).
The above measures can effectively foster collaboration among the Government, industry, academia and research sectors, and are beneficial to various parties:
(1) For the public sector such as government departments, they can conduct trial use of new technologies at no cost to improve their operations. They also have the benefit of sharing the knowledge and experience of the research experts;
(2) For technology developers, they can witness real world application of their R&D outcomes;
(3) For companies that have funded the R&D projects, they can collect user feedback in the process of product design and fine-tune research outcomes so that their products can better meet market needs. They can also obtain references for their products from the public sector through the trials, and the references will be useful for future marketing efforts; and
(4) For the general public, they can benefit from the enhanced service quality and efficiency of the public sector following the adoption of innovative technologies.
When the PSTS was first introduced, it was confined to R&D projects undertaken by the five R&D Centres set up under the ITF. In the light of the good response, the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) extended the PSTS in July 2012 to all R&D projects funded under the ITF, including projects completed under the Innovation and Technology Support Programme, University-Industry Collaboration Programme and Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme.
Meanwhile, as the larger the degree of Mainland/international exposure/ collaboration, the greater the chance of realisation and commercialisation of the R&D results, starting from July 2012, the trial schemes are allowed to be applied in the public sector outside Hong Kong and in the Mainland. This must be within reasonable limits and in general should not exceed half of the funding provision allowed for trials in a particular project (as up to 30% of the original R&D project cost can be used to conduct such trials, this would mean not exceeding 15%).
We have been encouraging the R&D Centres to work closely with different Government departments, public bodies and trade associations to explore collaboration opportunities, and have received positive response from relevant parties. So far over 40 public sector trial projects have commenced, including projects conducted under the PSTS (i.e. projects commenced after the launch of the PSTS in March 2011).
My reply to the four parts of Hon Charles Mok’s question is as follows:
(a) and (b) Since the launch of the PSTS in March 2011, the ITC has received 28 applications, of which 23 have been approved (six projects have been completed), four are under processing and one was withdrawn by the applicant. No applications were rejected. Details of the approved project applications are set out at Annex 1.
(c) and (d) The PSTS has received very positive response since its launch and some R&D results have been successfully realised and commercialised through the Scheme. Some examples are set out at Annex 2. We will continue to promote the PSTS and review its effectiveness, including the eligibility criteria and organisations in which the trial of R&D results are allowed to be conducted, with a view to further enhancing the Scheme so that the community can quickly benefit from home-grown R&D results. We will consult the LegCo C&I Panel thoroughly in the process.