Published: 03:31, September 26, 2020 | Updated: 16:08, June 5, 2023
Three HK scientists awarded top tech prizes
By Eleanor Huang in Hong Kong

Three promising young Hong Kong scientists were bestowed Xplorer Prizes on Friday — in the first year the high-profile Chinese science award was open to Hong Kong and Macao residents.

The local winners are He Xuhua from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Yan He from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Wang Zuankai from the City University of Hong Kong. Their proposals were in mathematics and physics, energy and environmental protection, and advanced manufacturing respectively.

The judges said that He won his award for his study of Deligne-Lusztig theory varieties. Yan received the award for his research in high-performance organic solar cell technology, while Wang got the accolade for his research in fluid transport in the field of biomimetics.

The three winners were selected from 59 entries from Hong Kong and Macao this year. The scientists’ submissions went through a four-stage review process — pre-screening, a preliminary review, a review, and a final face-to-face presentation and evaluation.

Launched in 2018 by Tencent Chairman and CEO Pony Ma Huateng, Professor Rao Yi of Peking University, and over a dozen leading members of the scientific community, the annual, independent, merit-based, public-interest award recognizes inspirational early-career scientists younger than 45 who are working full-time on the Chinese mainland or in Hong Kong or Macao. Fifty Xplorer Prizes are awarded a year.

We hope the awardees can become some of the world’s greatest scientists, and help China’s science and technology make greater leaps and contribute to the development of China and world science.

  Pony Ma Huateng, Tencent Chairman and CEO 

The award, which received 1,200 entries from scientists across the country this year, aims to reward and celebrate the discoveries in the field of basic science and frontier technology because they have profoundly promoted human evolution, a Tencent spokesperson said.

“We hope the awardees can become some of the world’s greatest scientists, and help China’s science and technology make greater leaps and contribute to the development of China and world science,” Ma said after the result was announced.

Ma said the Tencent Foundation is looking forward to the Xplorer Prize providing long-term support to a whole regiment of extraordinary young scientists who want to dedicate themselves to science exploration.

Unlike many scientific awards that go to scientists who have already made great achievements, the Xplorer Awards could serve as an “investment” in extraordinarily talented young scientists’ potential at the forefront of scientific discovery, and encourage the budding talent sorely needed in the research community, Tencent said in a statement.

The list of winners of the 2020 Xplorer Prize showcase a diverse talent pool: Not only were five female scientists recipients of awards, but the average age of the recipients was less than 40, while the youngest recipient is only 30. All winners will get 3 million yuan ($440,000) over the course of five years.

Thirteen Nobel laureates and winners of the A.M. Turing Award and Fields Medal nominated their candidates. Over 800 academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering participated in the nomination, recommendation and review process for the Xplorer Prize this year.

According to the official website of the Xplorer Prize, after the scientists win the award, they are required to submit an annual progress report of their project to the prize’s Review Committee and are expected to adhere to academic principles, uphold the scientific spirit, and ensure the integrity of their research.

They are also expected to support the advocacy of science among the public.

Each year, the Xplorer Prize will also hold academic workshops and seminars on major topics while building an academic platform for young scientists.

“We hope that the award will also promote greater collaboration among young scientists from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao, and contribute to the area’s development into an international science and innovation center,” the Tencent statement said.