The Department of Trade and Industry has pulled out of funding a multimillion pound initiative aimed at improving links between industry and universities. But the scheme will still be launched on a limited scale.
The initiative, Faraday Partnerships, was first mooted early last year by the DTI and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It was to be jointly funded, with the council pumping in Pounds 3.5 million over three years and the DTI providing matching funds.
The EPSRC is expected today to announce that it intends to fund the scheme on its own. Issuing a call for outline proposals for four pilot partnerships, the council will announce Pounds 4 million in funding over four years for the initiative. David Schildt, head of the cross-programmes group at the EPSRC, says around 95 per cent of the money will be spent within universities with 5 per cent going to an intermediate organisation charged with managing the programme.
The partnerships will focus on developing networks between industry and university researchers, and supporting research and training. The emphasis will be on meeting the scientific and technological needs of small and medium firms. Researchers will be able to bid for Government research funds, including from research councils.
The DTI suffered an Pounds 80 million budget cut for 1997/98 in the recent Public Expenditure Survey round. A DTI spokesperson said the decision not to fund the scheme was "because of the timing of the PES round and discussions over allocation of funds to the research councils. That does not mean however that we are not fully supportive of the scheme - it could access funds through other initiatives we have been running."
Considerable interest in the initiative has been shown by a group of small firms belonging to the Association of Independent Research and Technology Organisation. Its spokesman Richard Brook welcomed the EPSRC's decision to continue with the scheme but said: "We are extremely disappointed that the DTI has been forced to withdraw because of budget cuts. This will make it much harder to implement the concept in full."