Universities in the South West are launching a joint bid to attract 145 young researchers to disciplines that will boost local industry.
The £14 million project, called Great Western Research, will fund early career appointments in areas ranging from nanotechnology and cognitive neuroscience to the creative arts.
It is being led by Exeter University, but Bristol and Bath universities will be key players. The other ten higher education institutions in the region will be able to bid to host some of the appointments if they have a top-rated department in the chosen disciplines.
Steve Smith, Exeter vice-chancellor, said the collaboration would enable the region to compete seriously with big-name institutions in the so-called golden triangle of the South East.
He said: "There is already very strong research in the South West, but it is split between a number of institutions. This is a way of allowing us to compete on a national scale."
The money will be spent on hiring 15 postdoctoral research fellows and 130 postgraduate re-search students - to be advertised in The Times Higher in spring 2006.
Funding is being supplied by businesses, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the universities themselves.
Professor Smith explained: "Other regions have had similar collaborations - the White Rose Consortium (in Yorkshire) is the obvious one. But this is new as we have levered out money from all these different sources."
He added: "The really important collaborations happen from the ground up and not from vice-chancellors talking to each other on the phone."
The research disciplines have been picked according to their potential usefulness for local business. A materials research consortium will feed into the aerospace industry, while applied mathematics and earth systems analysis programmes will aid the Exeter-based Met Office. A creative arts programme will boost the creative industries in an area noted for its tourism.
Other research appointments will be made in cognitive neuroscience and economic psychology research, and sustainable energy, development and transport.
Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University, said: "This radical strengthening of regional alliances will broaden and deepen the academic experience for staff and students across a range of key disciplines."