Engineering giant BAE Systems is to terminate a multimillion-pound joint academic-industry research programme because it is not meeting the "near-term requirements" of its businesses, Times Higher Education has learnt.
The project is the £8.4 million Network Enabled Capability through Innovative Systems Engineering programme, linking ten universities in researching how to enhance military effectiveness through the better management of information systems.
Launched in November 2005, the project was scheduled to end in April 2011, but sponsor BAE Systems has decided not to exercise a continuation option and thus to bring it to a close two years early.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which provides a third of the funding, said in a joint statement with BAE Systems that the project will end in April even though a recommendation from an independent mid-term review had praised the programme and said it should continue.
Approximately 20 research staff employed on the programme are expected to lose their jobs, despite having fixed-term contracts with their respective universities that run beyond that date.
The company said: "Outputs did not meet the near-term requirements of BAE Systems' businesses."
The story emerged as the company announced a pre-tax profit of £2.37 billion in 2008, almost double its 2007 figure.
BAE Systems said the decision was taken after an internal review and was consistent with a wider review of all its university partnerships to ensure that the research it funded was in line with its strategic objectives. "Our obligation is to our customers, employees and shareholders to make sure our resources are allocated in a way that meets their requirements," it said.
Loughborough University, which led the project, said it was "disappointed" by the outcome and was engaged in discussions with both BAE Systems and the EPSRC about how to move forward.
It is understood that there had been no prior indication of the company's intention to close the programme.