Call for Proposals – Research Grants Council Areas of Excellence Scheme 2022/23 (Tenth Round) & Theme-based Research Scheme 2022/23 (Twelfth Round) (Preliminary Proposals Submission)

RGC is now inviting preliminary proposals for the Areas of Excellence (AoE) Scheme and the Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS). Starting from the 2022/23 exercise, the AoE Scheme is repositioned to primarily support collaborative research outside the four themes and grand challenge topics of the TRS, including but not limited to inter-disciplinary projects involving collaboration with / among humanities and social sciences disciplines. Repositioning of the AoE Scheme will not change the objectives and the selection criteria of both schemes.



The AoE Scheme aims to support both basic and applied research of high academic merit. The scope of a proposal should be broad and long term, and at the same time sufficiently focused. Research collaboration is one of the core requirements. Both inter-institutional collaboration projects and inter-disciplinary projects within the same university are encouraged. There are no pre-determined themes or topics.



The TRS aims to focus academic research efforts of the UGC-funded universities on themes of strategic importance to the long-term development of Hong Kong. Proposal should be sought to address one of the listed topics under the four themes provided by the RGC. Collaboration amongst different universities and multiple disciplines is encouraged. The four research themes are:


  1. Promoting Good Health;
  2. Developing a Sustainable Environment;
  3. Enhancing Hong Kong’s Strategic Position as a Regional and International Business Centre; and
  4. Advancing Emerging Research and Innovations Important to Hong Kong.


Transfer of Proposals Between AoE and TRS Schemes

Starting from the 2022/23 exercise, if the RGC finds that a TRS preliminary proposal does not fall under the themes and grand challenge topics of the TRS, the RGC will transfer the proposal directly to the AoE Scheme exercise. Similarly, an AoE proposal will be transferred to the TRS exercise directly if it falls under the themes and grand challenge topics of the TRS. The decision of the RGC will be final. There is no need for the applicant to fill in another application form in case of transfer.


Because of such transfer mechanism, an applicant is only allowed to submit one application in the capacity of Project Coordinator (PC) under either the AoE Scheme or the TRS in the same exercise. A single application form will be used for the two schemes. The applicant should explain in the application why the proposal fits the scheme chosen and consent to the transfer arrangement.


The parameters of the AoE Scheme, including the maximum direct project cost, project duration and project monitoring mechanism have been synchronised with the TRS.


Project Duration

Up to 5 years


Funding Amount

Not exceed $75 million (or $15 million per year for up to 5 years), excluding on-costs and PC allowance. [With reference to the past exercises, the typical funding per project is in the range of $10 million to $50 million, inclusive of on-costs and PC allowance.]


New Arrangement / Points to Note

  1. Exploratory Option
    The “Exploratory Option” will be implemented under the two schemes. The objective of the “Exploratory Option” is to allow the RGC to invest into high-risk (i.e. not fulfilling all assessment criteria especially on readiness of preliminary data and the team’s credentials) yet potentially ground-breaking and highly-original research. The exploratory projects will be given one-year budget on pro rata basis and a duration of one year to yield preliminary results. There is no need for the applicants to specify the exploratory nature of their proposals.
  2. Declaration of Time Commitments by PCs
    Each PC is required to provide the numbers of both on-going individual research projects (e.g. GRF, ECS) and on-going collaborative research projects (e.g. AoE, TRS, CRF and RIF) being held by him / her in all capacity (e.g. PC, PI, Co-PI,  Co-I, Collaborator, etc.), including those funded from sources other than UGC / RGC.  If the PC holds more than three on-going individual research projects or more than two on-going collaborative research projects, s/he will need to provide the overall amount of time spent on research in percentage terms, and justifications on how s/he would be able to take up this additional research project if funded while maintaining the research quality.
  3. Trail arrangement of “right of reply”
    The RGC is reviewing such arrangement.  Project teams shortlisted for submission of full proposals will be informed of the RGC’s decision in late December 2021.
  4. Re-submission of a Proposal not Supported Previously
    The PC should provide details in case the proposal is a re-submission or is largely similar to proposal(s) that has / have been submitted to the UGC / RGC or other funding bodies.

General information and guidelines to applicants for preparing and submitting preliminary proposals are set out in the Guidance Documents attached to the RGC’s Call Circular.

Application Procedure

  • Interested applicants should submit the Indication of Intention [HKUST will not have internal shortlisting] and the Preliminary Proposal to RO (a template can be found HERE).



  • 13 Aug 2021 (Indication of Intention of applying with project title by email to RO)
  • 13 Sep 2021 (Submission of Preliminary Proposal)


Miss Mickey Pat (Email:, Tel: 3469 2822)

Research Office 代表 the Research Grants Council