Speeches and Presentations



LCQ10: Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine

The following is a question by the Hon Ir Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (May 11):

Question:

The SAR Government set up the Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine (HKJCICM) in 2001 as a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute Company Limited. The purpose is to promote, co-ordinate and strengthen scientific research in Chinese medicines in Hong Kong and facilitate the commercialisation of research results in Chinese medicines, with a view to enhancing the competitiveness of the Chinese medicine industry in the market. HKJCICM obtained a donation of $500 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust for funding its research projects and activities. The Government conducted a comprehensive review of HKJCICM in 2010. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether HKJCICM has received other donations or funding support apart from the aforesaid donation of $500 million; and

(b) of the number of research projects funded by HKJCICM since its inception and the total amount of funding involved; whether such number and amount have met the expected level; if not, of the relevant details and the reasons for their falling short of the expected level?

Reply:

President,

(a) The Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine (HKJCICM) is a limited company of the Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Limited (HKJCCL). Its research and development (R&D) project cost is funded by the $500 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust while its recurrent expenditure is funded by ASTRI. The recurrent expenditure of HKJCICM in the last three financial years was about $8 million a year. In the 2011-12 financial year, ASTRI has reserved $10 million for the recurrent budget of HKJCICM.

(b) Since its inception in May 2001, HKJCICM has supported 18 R&D projects with a total funding of about $108 million. These projects involved the development of new Chinese medicinal drugs, setting up of a Chinese Medicines (CM) laboratory, research on and provision of quality control analytical methodologies and CM chemical markers, publication of the Encyclopedia on Contemporary Medicinal Plants, etc. As HKJCICM has only utilised about one-fifth of HKJCCL's pledged $500 million funding support, the result is not satisfactory. Meanwhile, there have been considerable new developments and changes in the CM sector in the past decade (including the establishment of the Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification in 2009 with CM designated as one of its four selected trades, the research capabilities and infrastructures of local universities in CM area having been enhanced after years of development, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation actively developing a biotechnology (including CM and Western pharmaceuticals) cluster in recent years, etc.) As such, Government considered that a comprehensive review of the strategy of promoting CM was appropriate and suggested the Board of HKJCICM to engage consultants to conduct this. The scope of the review included the current situation and needs of the CM sector, the most effective way to integrate the efforts of Government, industry, academic and research sectors to cope with future development needs, and the role and cost-effectiveness of HKJCICM after a decade of operation.

The review report pointed out that while HKJCICM had made some contribution in the past 10 years, its overall cost effectiveness was not satisfactory. Apart from having only utilised about one-fifth of HKJCCL's pledged funding, the recurrent expenditure of HKJCICM (including staff salaries, office expenditure, publicity and promotion expenses, etc.) was on the high side. The report also explored the reasons for the less promising results. These included changes of HKJCICM's strategic direction over the years, though supported by justifications at the time, were not conducive to sustainability and long-term development. In addition, its small establishment (with only some 20 employees) had not been able to create a critical mass. Besides, some stakeholders had been discouraged from submitting R&D proposals to HKJCICM because of different views over some funding conditions imposed by HKJCICM, e.g. the authorship arrangement of funded organisations' publications arising from supported projects. Since mid-2010, a number of incidents have also revealed internal problems of HKJCICM, e.g. about half of the Institute's staff departed between June and December 2010. These have inevitably further affected the operation of the Institute.

After gauging the views of various stakeholders, the Innovation and Technology Commission supports the recommendations of the report, i.e. setting up of a new committee under Government to co-ordinate promotion of CM development in Hong Kong and to disband HKJCICM. Nevertheless, the ultimate arrangements will be subject to the decision of the Boards of HKJCICM's two shareholders - HKJCCL and ASTRI.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011