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Tuesday, September 14, 1999 Published at 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK


Turning research into business

Aim is to make the UK a global leader (University of Glasgow photo)

Eight UK universities have been awarded "centres of enterprise" at a cost of almost £25m, to help them exploit scientific research in the private sector.

The announcement was made by Science Minister Stephen Byers at the British Association Festival of Science at Sheffield University.

Festival of Science
The association President, Sir Richard Sykes, has been critical of the government for not doing enough to bring together British innovation and business.

The enterprise centres are being set up at the universities with other institutions as partners:

Where the money is going

University of Bristol: £2.6m
University of Cambridge: £2.9m
University of Glasgow with University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, University of Strathclyde: £4m
Imperial College of Science Technology & Medicine: £2m
London Business School with University College London: £4.6m
UMIST with University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, Salford University: £3.2m
University of Nottingham Business School: £2.5m
University of Sheffield with University of Leeds, University of York : £2.9m

[ image: Lead partner: University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology]
Lead partner: University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
The institutions involved were successful bidders for money from the University Challenge Fund announced in June 1998.

Mr Byers said the centres would help to give the United Kingdom a global lead.

"The UK is good at science and engineering, and we have a long tradition of innovative thinking," Mr Byers said.

'Much to learn'

"However if we really are to turn science into prosperity we need businesses to learn how to exploit this potential, and scientists to learn how to turn their ideas into commercial reality.

"These centres will help by acting as a regional focus for greater co-operation between business and the scientific community - both have much to learn from each other."

A further £4.8m from the Department of Trade and Industry and £4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will be used to set up four new Faraday partnerships, another scheme aimed at forging closer links between the science and business communities.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, said the new enterprise centres would have an important role in breaking down the divide between research and its application.

"We need to make better use of the expertise which is in our universities, and for this they need both enterprise skills and a better understanding of how business works," he said.

'Rival to Silicon Valley'

Cambridge University is to have one of the new enterprise centres. It says this will operate as part of the Judge Institute of Management Studies, the business school at the University, in partnership with the science and technology faculties.

"The eastern region around Cambridge in particular is recognised as one of the most active regions for technology-based entrepreneurship in the European Union," it said in a statement.

"To maintain this position the Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre will develop people who will create and manage the next generation of start-up companies in an area already seen as rivalling Route 128 and Silicon Valley in the USA for entrepreneurial activity."

Future generations

The Judge Institute, founded in 1990, has over 200 students and an international faculty of over 50 teaching and research staff. Its Director, Professor Sandra Dawson, said this new addition presented "the most exciting opportunity".

"We're seeing here the fruits of our own entrepreneurship," she said.

"The Judge Institute, with the Engineering and Science Faculties and with enormous support from the local hi-tech business community and the Cambridge Programme for Industry, has already started teaching, training and advising people so that we can build future generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

"Every day we get more inquiries from people who want to come on our programmes. With this very welcome injection of government investment we can quickly scale up our operations to meet this demand and to develop exciting outreach activities which will contribute to regional and national economic growth and productivity."

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