A radical multimillion pound scheme to boost academic research into industrial technologies is on the Government launch pad.
The Government is planning to establish research centres in organisations providing research and development services to industry. These centres, called Faraday Partnerships, will act as a bridge between industry, universities and Government and will concentrate on applying academic research to industrial problems.
The initiative is aimed at helping small and medium-sized firms and will cover collaborative research, postgraduate training and secondment of researchers from academe and industry.
The scheme is backed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Trade and Industry. The EPSRC's funding of Pounds 1.5 million per annum for the initiative will be matched by the DTI. Together with funds from industry, the scheme is expected to attract investment of more than Pounds 20 million over four years. After this pump-priming period, the four pilot partnerships are expected to win funding through conventional routes.
It is understood that bidding for hosting such partnerships will take place in the next few months. The council and the DTI expect "intermediate" institutions, such as independent research firms, to be interested but do not rule out the involvement of ex-Government research establishments such as the National Physical Laboratory, the Defence Evaluation Research Agency and AEA Technology.
Successful partnerships will focus on work that is closely in line with priorities identified by Government, academia and industry in the Technology Foresight programme.
EPSRC funds will be provided through host institutions which will solicit relevant research. The DTI meanwhile will open routes into the scheme for small firms through existing industry-university schem- es such as the Teaching Company Scheme and LINK.
Faraday centres were proposed as a bridge between academia and small and medium-sized firms by the Centre for the Exploitation of Science and Technology in 1992 and inspired by Germany's network of Fraunhofer Institutes.
Bob Whelan, Cest's chief executive, says that the partnerships "will be very good at defining industrial challenges and undertaking research into how strategic science and technology can be used to meet them".