The Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) needs to speed up its funding application process, says the government's Audit Commission in a recent report.

The ITC took an average of 158 to 222 days in the past two years to complete a Tier 1 funding application. Processing Tier 2 and Tier 3 applications took even longer--257 days and 162 days respectively, according to the Audit Commission.

The ITC has adopted a three-tier funding model for the Innovation and Technology Support Program (ITSP) since 2005. Tier 1 provides project funding for R & D centers under different technology areas. Tier 2 involves the funding of R & D projects under selected focus themes while Tier 3 involves the funding of more forward-looking and innovative R & D projects, says the ITC on its Website.

"The innovation and technology sectors face intensifying competition," the report says. "The ITC must expedite its slow application process so that R&D pros have more time to develop and commercialize their products."

The Audit Commission also suggests the ITC to set a passing mark and major criteria for funding approval.

ITC didn't ensure the return of funds from project owners

In addition, the ITC failed to follow up on the collection HK$23 million from 72 projects that didn't meet their stage-two objectives within a designated period of time, the report notes.

While 259 project owners who had successfully commercialized their projects must return the funds, the ITC failed to collect the money from 145 project owners and collected only 10% of funds from 61 project owners, the report says.