Jim Wallace, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has unveiled a £900,000 scheme to help Scottish universities access funding from the European Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
Researchers across the UK have complained about the complexity of applying to the programme. They claim its new approach makes it more difficult for universities to lead major projects that will receive the bulk of its €17.5 million (£12.3 million) funding.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Executive launched a fund to help small companies, including university spin-offs, bid for funds, but universities have successfully called for their own fund to help with upfront costs.
The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council will run the scheme, which will give universities half the initial costs of mounting a bid, up to £15,000. Institutions can also claim 75 per cent of the costs of preparing consortium agreements, up to £52,500.
Mr Wallace said it was important for Scottish universities to be involved in international cooperation if they were to maintain their world-class reputation. "In previous Framework programmes, Scotland's universities have more than held their own, but we recognise that the approach under the current programme is different."