The Northwest is the first English region to launch its own science strategy dedicated to regenerating and encouraging science.
"England's Northwest - a strategy towards 2020", launched by the regional science council, says: "Our ambition is to see the excellence in all of our universities being actively networked and supported across the region, and to have a university that holds a leading world ranking in science and technology in England's Northwest." The strategy identifies five priorities for regional clusters: biotechnology, nuclear energy, environmental technology, chemicals and aerospace.
The science council is headed by Sir Tom McKillop, chief executive of AstraZeneca. Other members include the vice-chancellors of Salford University and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, board members of the North West Development Agency and representatives from industry and public science organisations.
John Garside, vice-chancellor of Umist, said the private-sector membership demonstrated the commitment of industry to stay in the region. He added:
"Universities are looking to the strategy to be complementary to traditional sources of funding."
AstraZeneca, Unilever and BNFL account for half the region's business expenditure on research and development.
Although the council has no official budget, researchers will be able to apply to the NWDA. The NWDA is to put £30 million into the merger of Umist and Manchester University.
An Office of Science and Technology spokesman said: "If a region wants to improve its chances to win research funding, that's a good thing."
Scotland launched its science strategy in 2001.