Hong Kong researchers will not lose academic freedom even if they receive funding from the Chinese government, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung says.
In a radio program yesterday, Yang said local universities would have complete academic freedom after applying for mainland funding and that concerns over autonomy are unnecessary.
He also said the new funding scheme will not mean more mainland scientists arriving in Hong Kong, so local academics need not worry about increased competition.
Yang said too that the idea of mainland funding for projects in Hong Kong was raised by innovation-minded people in the SAR with counterparts across the border before his bureau was set up.
With new funding measures in place, Yang added, Hong Kong universities can bid for national projects such as moon landings and the express rail developments without having to partner with mainland institutions.
In fact, SAR institutions could initiate independent projects or even compete to conduct mainland-funded projects.
Yang also said President Xi Jinping backs the transformation of Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology hub - an indication the SAR will play a vital role in national development.
"We'll look into ways to cooperate with the mainland and tap its capital and advantages in its industries," Yang said. He also noted Hong Kong is already an international city and research advances here could be shared to gain greater recognition.
On specific sectors Yang said mainland organizations are interested in research in the medical sector and projects that can help meet the challenges of an ageing population.
On another radio program, Joseph Lee Hun-wei, chair professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the president has made clear his interest in seeing advances in the SAR's innovation and technology development.
Xi has helped remove barriers to facilitate cash flows and to allow Hong Kong universities to participate in top-tier Chinese projects, Lee said in predicting: "Hong Kong will become a major innovation and technology hub for the country - not just within the Greater Bay Area."