YORK University archaeologists are seeking to persuade businesses to re-use thousands of derelict mills, warehouses, factories, naval dockyards and power stations dotted around the country.
Their project has won heritage Lottery funding and is collecting data on successful conversion projects such as Salt's Mill in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, which has become a thriving arts centre.
Project researcher Sue Taylor said that former industrial buildings are an important historic and cultural legacy but they also offer investment opportunities for housing, leisure, business or community use, while creating employment.
"We are hoping to show what can be done," she said. "Industrial buildings cannot be kept in cotton wool but if they are not being used, inevitably they will start to become unsafe and will not survive."