Education chiefs are launching a search for sponsors for three planned new-style school academies.
Durham County Council is advertising nationally for organisations and individuals keen to be involved in the new-look secondary schools.
Academies are independent, state-funded schools established in areas where existing schools need to be improved.
Councillors want to build the state-of-the-art academies in Consett, Stanley and Durham City.
Their running costs would be met directly by the Government rather than through the County Council.
Sponsors can come from the business world, education or voluntary sector, either individually or in partnership with local government.
Councillor Claire Vasey, Durham County Council's cabinet member for children and young people's services, said the authority was keen to explore the possibility of joint sponsorship, with the council offering up to half the necessary finance.
She said: "This would allow the council and sponsors to develop jointly a clear and purposeful partnership form the beginning, with each side bringing specific expertise and drive to the project.
"We are looking for sponsors with a passion for educational improvement and who are committed to working in long term partnership."
Sponsors would be expected to provide up to £2m per academy.