A select list of universities has been invited to bid for grants from a multimillion-pound pilot fund designed to save "problem" science subjects.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council science and innovation awards, which were announced this week, will allow universities to bring additional research staff into strategically important areas of science and engineering that have a poor researcher head count.
Twenty-five universities have been asked to submit expressions of interest, chosen either because they already do a lot of work with the EPSRC or because they have a strong reputation in an important but threatened discipline.
John O'Reilly, EPSRC chief executive, told The Times Higher this week: "We are not looking for other universities to apply. We don't want to gear up a huge number of applications for what will necessarily be a limited number of grants."
A typical grant will be between £3 million and £5 million over five years. Professor O'Reilly said the council had £10 million for the pilot phase.
The council wishes to focus on problem areas such as statistics, the interface between chemistry and chemical engineering, energy research (nuclear science and engineering) and physical organic chemistry.
Universities will be expected to use the funding to bring in new people rather than to subsidise established posts. The council aims to fund "significant" teams consisting of three academic staff, three postdoctorate researchers and three PhD students.