Wednesday 22 August 2018

The British Council unveils BRICKS, a groundbreaking new project to build up social innovation in Hong Kong in collaboration with universities, enterprises and NGOs

BRICKS, a trailblazing new project that aims to find innovative solutions to social challenges in Hong Kong by fostering enhanced collaboration between higher education institutes (HEIs), NGOs, social enterprises and other organisations working at the frontline of public service delivery, was unveiled today by the British Council. 

Backed by the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund) with HK$3.5 million in funding, BRICKS – which stands for Building Research Innovation for Community Knowledge and Sustainability – brings together a consortium of local and global leaders with expertise in social innovation, social entrepreneurship, cultural relations, trust-building and academic research excellence. 

Through BRICKS, the British Council and Hong Kong and UK-based consortium partners - the Good Lab and the Social Innovation Exchange (SIX) - seek to collaborate with all eight publicly-funded universities and other HEIs to drive fresh approaches to research and teaching, to share best practice on social innovation and to cement relationships between academics and community practitioners to tackle social challenges in Hong Kong. The project is guided by Professor Alex Nicholls of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, a world-renowned expert in social innovation and social entrepreneurship, working alongside a steering group comprising leading Hong Kong academics working in these emerging fields.

By developing the leadership skills of students and graduates, BRICKS plans to cultivate a higher education system in Hong Kong that can cater to the demands of the ‘future economy’, addressing critical social issues faced in Hong Kong such as inequality, ageing societies, lack of affordable housing, artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

This pioneering initiative is based on three components designed to support new and innovative academic research and build bridges between academics and those at the forefront of social service delivery. It will start with a landscape study to capture existing social innovation activities in research, teaching and knowledge-transfer in Hong Kong, as well as identifying gaps in this area. 

BRICKS will then build the capacity of the social innovation research community by enhancing the skills of 100 researchers, practitioners and beneficiaries, introducing concepts of open innovation, design thinking and developing leadership skills. This will catalyse academics to work collaboratively to develop radical research initiatives and embed a social innovation culture and mindset in Hong Kong’s universities. To link this research to practice, a series of small grants will be made available to research projects that demonstrate the principles of co-design and innovative collaboration. Initiatives that have the potential to scale will be supported to bid for other funding opportunities such as social investment. 

Finally, social innovation insights drawn from the findings of the project will be shared through a series of publications and events, with the ambition of informing the thinking of government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. A Social Innovation and Education Forum will be held in early 2019 to disseminate the programme’s findings and bring the academic community in Hong Kong closer to both practitioners on the ground and the global social innovation community.

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

 ‘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. We are grateful for the support of the SIE Fund and our partners to help make this happen.’

Patricia Lau, Deputy Commissioner for Efficiency, HKSAR Government, representing the SIE Fund, said: 

‘Thanks to the British Council, the project brings strong partnerships with the world’s leading scholars and experts in social innovation. This project is a welcomed and long-awaited initiative that injects new fuel to the research locomotive. Locally, it is also a brand new model for international and local academics, social innovators, NGOs, government and business sectors to work together.’

Professor Wei Shyy, President-Designate, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), said:

‘Collaboration is key to unlocking the potential of social innovation. Collaboration amongst universities and with other academic institutions; collaboration between academics and enterprise; collaboration between academics and people working on the ground. Research must not happen in a vacuum. We are excited by this project that aims to develop social innovation as a field not just of research, but of action.’

Professor Alex Nicholls, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, said:

‘Universities are crucial to the success of BRICKS. They are trusted places of neutrality and independence; they bring robustness and transparency and have the ability to galvanise multiple networks to work together. But social innovation is challenging the traditional role of the university in society. Academics must innovate to develop radical new collaborations that engage and empower citizens in addressing the critical challenges we all face, both in the UK and Hong Kong. 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.’

The British Council’s history of projects in the field of society work include global schemes such as the Newton Fund and the Global Social Enterprise Programme. In Hong Kong specifically, its work has built capacity for aspiring and existing social innovators and entrepreneurs through schemes such as the Active Citizens programme, which saw the organisation pilot a leadership initiative alongside the University of Hong Kong. 


Notes to Editor

BRICKS was launched at the Eaton Hotel, part of Eaton Workshop, a new global brand merging hospitality with progressive social change.

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.

Biographies and photos of key partners may be downloaded from this dropbox link

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 as well as foster the well-being and cohesion of the society. 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 programmes, from idea incubation and seed funding to implementation and eventual scale-up. The ultimate goal is to cultivate an ecosystem where social entrepreneurs can thrive and innovative ideas, products and services can benefit society by meeting underserved needs, unleashing underutilised talents and more. SIE Fund has been set up with a HK$500 million allocation from the Lotteries Fund. Its operation is overseen by the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund Task Force under the Commission on Poverty with the Efficiency Office providing secretariat support.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.

The British Council has been working with Hong Kong since 1948. In 2018, we are marking our 70th anniversary, celebrating 70 years of cultural relations and exchange between the UK and Hong Kong.