The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has revealed details of a Pounds 20 million plan to strengthen research ties between industry and academia.
The idea is to create four "Faraday Partnerships" to aid exchanges of research results, advanced technology, and skilled scientists, engineers and technologists.
The council will call for bids from univerisities and industry in mid-October following a consultation phase. Chief executive Richard Brook said that potential partnership hosts must be able to demonstrate strong existing relationships, particularly involving small and medium-sized firms. The closing date for submission is December 1 and the announcement of successful bids will be made in February 1997.
Industry-based bidders could include independent research and technology organisations, such as scientific instrumentation specialist Sira, the hydraulics research company BHR and a clutch of broad-based research consultancies, including EA Technology and PIRA.
David Clark, EPSRC director of science and engineering, said the partnerships will be expected to focus research in line with the Foresight exercise's priorities. These include sensor systems, information technology, virtual reality, simulation and modelling.
But novel high-quality proposals that are outside Foresight themes will also be considered. "I'll be very disappointed if we do not receive at least 20 high-quality partnership proposals," he said.
Funding will be provided for up to three years for the development of projects, which includes education and trainingfor graduates in employment. The partnerships will also be expected to engage in licensing activities to support exploitation of new and improved products and processes.
The EPSRC and the Department of Trade and Industry aim to contribute around Pounds 1.5 million each per annum with a matching fund of Pounds 3 million to be met by industry.
Dr Clark said that after the initial three years' support, the partnerships will be expected to continue by accessing government-backed funding schemes through normal routes. Schemes could include the Teaching Company Scheme, the Cooperative Awards in Science and Engineering and the LINK scheme.