A 30-year-old consortium specialising in buying and selling information offers the blueprint for a national network, according to a Southampton study.
The consortium, called Hatrics, provides technical and commercial information to 370 local companies and institutions through public and university libraries.
This information can cover specialist books, journal articles, conference proceedings, health and safety regulations and information on European directives.
The study, by consortium member Southampton University library, suggests that industry could save millions of pounds if it secured its information through similar networks. Bernard Naylor, head librarian and author of the study, said that university libraries can also make money from the scheme.
Southampton's involvement in Hatrics was linked to wealth creation in the region. "All universities want to be located in a dynamic, economically successful area," he said. Other higher education members include Southampton Institute and the universities of Reading, Bournemouth and Portsmouth.
Mr Naylor said there was scope to replicate the Hatrics network, which covers Hampshire, Dorset and West Sussex, in other regions. The consortium, however, is keen to explore opportunities to expand nationally, liaising with the new regional development agencies.