Strathclyde University is aiming for the cutting edge of research with an appeal for industrial partners to develop ways of testing stab-proof vests.
The department of mechanical engineering, which has already tested material for Strathclyde Police, may also enlist police volunteers to act out attacks.
Although manufacturers have strived to produce a material tough enough to withstand knife attacks, yet flexible and light enough to be worn under uniform, development is being held up by a lack of equipment that realistically simulates an attack.
Strathclyde at present uses a police-developed method which involves firing a knife at various speeds at the vest. But university engineers want trials that establish the mechanics of real knife attacks, measuring the velocity and trajectories of different types of attack. A test rig could then be designed which would enable manufacturers to go into scale production of stab-proof vests.
Tom Gray, professor of mechanical engineering, said there could be a Pounds 30 million market in vests in this country alone.
"Even if stabbing attacks remain at today's level, more and more authorities and companies will see that there is a need for this protection."