Universities in Yorkshire and Humberside are to be given £11 million to set up a chain of showrooms from which to sell their research.
Six Centres of Industrial Collaboration (CICs) will be based in top-rated research departments. Each will be headed by an academic working with a commercial manager who will market the research and development expertise of the member universities.
Ceri Williams, science exploitation manager for Yorkshire Forward (YF), which, with the European Regional Development Fund, put up the money for the project, said the primary aims would be to raise the international profile of the region's science base and to improve its poor record in innovation and commercial investment in research and development.
Businesses will pay full price for the universities' services, but Dr Williams hopes they will quickly see the fruits of the investment on their profit sheets.
The funding will be spent on hiring commercial and research staff and buying academics' time.
The futures of these centres will depend on winning business proposals, which would see them becoming self-funding within three years.
James Clark, director of the £750,000 Green Chemistry CIC, established by York and Leeds universities, said the funding would enable them to take on more short-term research contracts and feasibility studies, which would be especially useful in building relationships with smaller companies.
"The commercial manager will spend time contacting companies we haven't spoken to before. At the moment, we tend to be responsive rather than proactive," he said.
The first six centres are targeted at YF priority areas and began operating last week. Other centres will be biomaterials and tissue engineering (Leeds, Sheffield and York universities); stem-cell biology (Sheffield); polymers (Bradford University); particle-and-colloid engineering (Leeds and Sheffield) and materials analysis and research (Sheffield Hallam University).