A sharper focus on technology transfer and innovation is expected in the government's forthcoming Competitiveness white paper, according to Training and Enterprise Council chiefs.
The government is likely to propose new funding incentives to encourage greater collaboration between higher education and industry, TEC leaders believe.
Ministers and civil servants are concerned that previous attempts to boost technology transfer have had only a limited impact.
They have realised that simply helping set up science parks next to universities is not enough to make the hoped-for progress. Universities need to overcome the inability of many small and medium-sized enterprises to cope with new technology.
Lindsey Simpson, director of economic development and enterprise for the TEC national council, which has been holding talks with government officials on issues to be dealt with by the white paper, said: "There is a feeling that we need to be working simultaneously on both making universities more business-friendly, but also building up the capacity of SMEs to take on new technology."
TECs are expected to be asked to help coordinate initiatives at a local and subregional level with regional development agencies directing efforts regionally.
Although the government has not decided the future of TECs and their funding, the TEC council had had "positive feedback" from the Department for Education and Employment on their future role, Ms Simpson added.