Friday 03 May 2019

The British Council launches new social innovation fund towards tackling some of Hong Kong’s most critical social issues

Academics and social innovators to collaborate during two-day event 10-11 May

Supported by the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund), the British Council has launched a new social innovation seed fund to kickstart pioneering research that aims to tackle some of Hong Kong’s most critical social issues. To bid for the fund, up to 100 leading academics, social changemakers and community representatives from across Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area and the UK will get together in Hong Kong on 10-11 May 2019, to co-design collaborative research proposals as a key step towards finding solutions to some of the city’s most pressing challenges.

Potential topics for proposals could include inequality, ageing populations, lack of affordable housing, ethnic minorities, pathways out of poverty, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The eight most original ideas to come out of the 2-day incubator event, facilitated by the British Council and prominent Hong Kong and UK social innovation experts, will be announced in July and awarded a total of HK$700,000 seed funding to start them off. Successful projects will also have the opportunity to pitch for additional funding from the SIE Fund in order to scale their impact.

This latest initiative is part of the British Council’s BRICKS (Building Research Innovation for Community Knowledge and Sustainability) programme, a social innovation project that was launched in August last year. BRICKS aims to help find solutions to social problems in Hong Kong by fostering collaboration between higher education institutes, NGOs, social enterprises and other organisations that deliver public services. Funded by the SIE Fund, BRICKS is led by the British Council in a consortium with all eight of Hong Kong’s publicly-funded universities, the Good Lab and the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), with strategic support provided by Professor Alex Nicholls of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.  

The British Council is also undertaking a landscape study involving around 50 academics from Hong Kong universities and higher education institutes examining social innovation in Hong Kong, the results of which will be made public with a set of recommendations at the BRICKS conference in August. Winning social innovation proposals generated by the upcoming May event will also be showcased at this conference, which will mark the end of the BRICKS project’s pilot year.

Tristan Ace, Project Director, BRICKS and Global Social Enterprise Development Lead, British Council in Hong Kong, said:

‘Social innovation has the potential to bring about real, lasting change to communities and we believe that by encouraging research collaboration, the British Council can drive this powerful approach to tackling social issues in Hong Kong. Although the initial seed funding is small, it has the potential to spawn big ideas with real impact. This type of collaborative initiative is unprecedented in the Hong Kong SAR, and we are excited to see the brand-new plans that will be hatched over the course of the two-day event.’

Ada Wong, Convenor and Director, Good Lab, said: 

‘Social innovation organisations can benefit from collaboration with universities to enable more evidence-based approaches to tackling the critical social challenges faced by Hong Kong. I look forward to seeing new practitioner-academic collaborations emerge through the BRICKS programme that can draw on the diversity of skills and knowledge required to address the increasingly complex problems that cities such as Hong Kong face.’ 

Professor Yanto Chandra, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said: 

‘With social innovation, we have the potential to build a society in which nobody is left behind. To make this happen, collaboration – between NGOs, businesses and universities – is vital. This project not only cultivates that collaboration, but provides a unique opportunity for social changemakers in Hong Kong to turn their ideas into reality.’

The workshop will take place on 10-11 May 2019 at Stan Group – Innovation Hub in Kowloon. 

Keep up to date in this project by following the British Council in Hong Kong’s social media channels:

Facebook: BritishCouncilHongKong

Instagram: @britishcouncilhk

Twitter: @hkBritish

Hashtag: #BRICKSHongKong

Notes to Editor

Social Innovation

A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable or fair than present solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole, rather than to private individuals. 

For examples of social innovation research in other contexts please visit: and

About the SIE Fund

The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund), as a catalyst for social innovation in Hong Kong, connects our community with different sectors, including businesses, NGOs, academics and philanthropies to create social impact through innovative solutions that address poverty and social exclusion. Mostly through intermediaries, the Fund provides visionary individuals and organisations with diverse resources in support of research, capacity building and the entire life cycle of innovative ventures, from idea incubation and seed funding to implementation and eventual scale-up. The ultimate goal is to foster an ecosystem where social entrepreneurs can thrive and innovative ideas, products and services can benefit society by meeting underserved needs, unleashing underutilised talents, promoting social inclusion, as well as enhancing the well-being and cohesion of the society. 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year it reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. It makes a positive contribution to the countries it works with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934, it is a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. It receives 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government and has been working with Hong Kong since 1948. Its work in society helps citizens and institutions contribute to a more inclusive, open and prosperous world and connects local issues to global themes, ranging from social action to diversity and youth issues. It runs programmes in partnership with local and international organisations who provide exertise in areas such as youth and social entrepreneurship, equal opportunity and diversity, migration, social inclusion and engagement and active citizenship.