Ulster University will next month launch a £1.5 million initiative to make Northern Ireland a global player in software development.
The university will adopt a "capability maturity model", developed by the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which can assess the strengths and weaknesses of software companies.
George Wilkie, director of UU's new Centre for Software Process Technologies (CSPT), said this enabled local firms to undergo a health check, with UU then working with them to improve software development processes.
"We did a survey, and there are quite a lot of companies that know they could improve, but in many cases they're not really sure where the problems are," Dr Wilkie said.
Half of the cost of the three-year project is coming from the province's government agency, the Industrial Research and Technology Unit. The university is contributing the other half, with 12 faculty of informatics staff joining the CSPT. It plans to recruit three full-time researchers for the project.
Dr Wilkie said the CSPT aimed not only to help Northern Ireland's 120 software companies, but also to boost UU's research in software engineering and computer science.
"Trends in the software industry change at an alarming rate, and constant research is the only way to ensure a competitive edge in the medium to long term," he said.