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British Council Hong Kong unveils BRICKS

The British Council Hong Kong has launched a project to find solutions to social challenges through academic collaboration between British and Hong Kong universities, NGOs and social enterprises.

"Small grants will be available to research projects that demonstrate the principles of co-design and innovative collaboration"

The Building Research Innovation for Community Knowledge and Sustainability project will see the British Council bring together a consortium of local and global leaders with expertise in social innovation, social entrepreneurship, cultural relations, trust-building and academic research excellence.

“Research must not happen in a vacuum”

Alex Nicholls of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford will guide the project.

“Academics must innovate to develop radical new collaborations that engage [with] and empower citizens in addressing the critical challenges we all face, both in the UK and Hong Kong,” he said.

“BRICKS provides an opportunity for Hong Kong and the UK to learn from each other and share together, for the benefit of both our societies.”

Critical social issues the project aims to address include inequality, ageing societies, lack of affordable housing, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The Good Lab, which offers work space to companies focusing on social change, social innovation network, the Social Innovation Exchange, and eight publicly-funded universities and other HEIs  are also involved in the project.

The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund has contributed HK$3.5 million in funds.

At least 100 researchers, practitioners and beneficiaries are expected to join the initial BRICKS community.

Small grants will be available to research projects that demonstrate the principles of co-design and innovative collaboration to link research to practice, while scalable initiatives will be supported to bid for funding opportunities.

Speaking on behalf of the SIE Fund, Patricia Lau, deputy commissioner for efficiency at HKSAR Government, said the project brings strong partnerships with the world’s leading social innovation scholars and experts.

“This project is a welcomed and long-awaited initiative that injects new fuel to the research locomotive,” Lau said.

“Locally, it is also a brand new model for international and local academics, social innovators, NGOs, government and business sectors to work together.”

According to Wei Shyy, president-designate at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, collaboration between institutions, enterprise and academics and people working on the ground is key to unlocking the potential of social innovation.

“Research must not happen in a vacuum,” Shyy argued.

The project is seeking to assist the territory’s future leaders, according to Tristan Ace, project director, BRICKS and Global Social Enterprise Development Lead, at the British Council in Hong Kong.

“At the British Council, we believe that new approaches to teaching and research in higher education and cross-collaborations between academic institutions, social innovators and entrepreneurs, social service providers and NGOs, forged through BRICKS, can empower the future leaders of Hong Kong to build a society in which nobody is left behind,” he said.

A Social Innovation and Education Forum will be held in early 2019 to disseminate the program’s findings.

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