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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Money to make research work
pipe cleaner
Innovation in action: Pipe cleaner from Durham
UK labs and universities are being invited to bid for a second round of funding to turn their inventions into commercial ventures.

There is 15m for projects in the early stage of development and another 15m to build up links between businesses and universities, building on the existing 12 science enterprise centres.

There is also 10m to support the commercial exploitation of research at public sector laboratories. Bids have to be in by July.

The Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers, said: "This is about ensuring that British ideas help create British jobs.

"The UK has a history of producing interesting, and often visionary ideas, but then failing to take commercial advantage of them."

Thanks, but...

The chief executive of Universities UK, Diana Warwick, said the new competitions would produce strong bids from universities, and would boost knowledge exploitation and the development of scientific entrepreneurialism.

"However, I regret the proliferation of separate schemes and bidding competitions," she said.

"They cost universities time and money and are an inefficient method of funding. I look forward to a time when such activities are supported within broader funding for universities."

And she pointed out that the arts and humanities were often overlooked in these schemes.

"I regret this, as there is great potential for knowledge exploitation in these disciplines too," she added.

Previous projects

Projects which have already been supported by the University Challenge and Science Enterprise Challenge include a sewer robot - resembling a giant, jointed brush - developed by Durham Pipeline Technology, set up by Durham University.

It uses the principles of a bottlebrush to inspect difficult sections of pipe. One machine has been sold already to British Nuclear Fuels.

Another company created by Cambridge University Engineering Department and supported by Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre is working on a hi-tech replacement for rear-view mirrors on vehicles.

The problem with mirrors is that they have to stick out - causing drag which adds to noise and fuel costs - and suffer from safety problems due to glare and blind spots.

There have been other attempts at a camera-based solution, but the new Cambridge company - InView Systems - says the solution it is developing with Jaguar Cars involves creating a virtual image in front of the driver, like a military "head up display".

The advantage is that the panoramic image appears to be a long way away so the driver does not have to re-focus on it.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Education
University research 'underfunded'
15 Sep 99 | Education
Turning research into business
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