Science minister Lord Sainsbury launched the government's new Pounds 25 million Science Enterprise Challenge this week.
Universities have until April 14 to submit outline business plans for establishing one of up to eight new enterprise centres - first announced in last November's pre-budget statement - to teach entrepreneurship and science commercialisation to scientists and engineers at all stages of their careers.
Launching the initiative at a Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals conference on technology transfer, Lord Sainsbury said the new centres should be integrated into universities and self-sufficient within five years.
John Taylor, director general of the research councils, will chair the committee that judges entries. This should bring together teams with track records in the exploitation of science and engineering and the formation of start-up companies.
"They will expect to see innovative ideas in terms of content and process in the teaching and training of enterprise techniques," said Lord Sainsbury, adding that collaborative bids would be welcomed.
Lord Sainsbury also announced the next round of the Joint Research Equipment Initiative, which is being funded to the tune of Pounds million.
The conference also heard that university technology transfer in the US benefits the wider community rather than the university.
"No evidence (was found) to support the view that more active technology transfer in UK universities would lead to a lowering of requirement for public funding," said a report to the conference.
Even the most active of universities generates just 1 to 3 per cent of its overall research income through technology transfer, the report found.