The Office of Science and Technology has invited 63 research groups out of more than 500 applicants to prepare full-scale bids for funding under the Foresight Challenge Competition.
The competition is part of the Technology Foresight exercise, which identified market and technology priorities in 16 sectors. Of the 63 project outlines that impressed that OST, 13 are in health and life sciences; seven in manufacturing, production and business processes; six in information technology and six in agriculture, natural resources and environment. Bids were assessed by a group chaired by the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Robert May.
The OST says the group is currently considering how consortia bids that have not made it through to the short list might be redirected to other sources of funding, particularly in the private sector.
Research bids short-listed include one from the Biocomposites Centre at the University of Wales Bangor aimed at making the United Kingdom a world leader in innovative plant-fibre processing. The consortium, led by the Centre's James Bolton, includes Imperial College, UMIST, and the Building Research Establishment.
Another project bid from a consortium, led by physicist Alastair Smith of Leeds University, aims to set up an interdisciplinary research centre for sensor technology involving eight higher education institutions.
Materials scientist Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University is also in the running with his consortium's proposal to develop a "revolutionary" computer modelling approach, one that would design advanced materials for applications ranging from power plants to artificial hips.
Science minister Ian Taylor said the 63 bids potentially involve collaboration on the projects between hundreds of firms, 170 higher education institutions and nearly 60 public sector organisations.
The OST says that the average size of the short-listed projects is about Pounds 4 million, although they range from Pounds 500,000 to more than Pounds 15 million.
The consortia - which have until 15 March to submit their full bids - are competing for up to Pounds 30 million of funding over four years in this first round of the Challenge Competition.