'Third-stream' cash to nurture business links

March 19, 2004

Universities will be given a permanent "third stream" of funding, alongside teaching and research cash, to foster collaboration with business, the government confirmed this week in its preliminary response to the Lambert review of university-business links, writes Phil Baty.

The response, contained in the Treasury's ten-year plan for investment in science and innovation, confirms government plans to develop the existing Higher Education Innovation Fund as a permanent third stream "to further build the capacity in the university sector for knowledge transfer". The HEIF is worth £187 million over 2004-06.

In his report in December, Richard Lambert, former Financial Times editor, recommended that the HEIF funding should be worth at least £150 million a year.

But he also recommended additional funding worth between "£100 million and £200 million" a year because the dual-support research funding system focuses too much cash on a small elite of traditional research departments.

He told The Times Higher this week: "I said this money should be available to support departments doing work of value to the economy but that were not getting cash through the research assessment exercise or the funding councils."

Mr Lambert was encouraged by the government's confirmation that it wanted to involve regional development agencies. These, he said, should administer the new fund in fostering business links.

The Treasury said it would work with universities and business to develop a set of model research-collaboration contracts and an intellectual property protocol to cut bureaucracy and prevent disputes between partners.

Gordon Brown, the chancellor, claimed many large research and development companies had signalled that they would collaborate on science with the government.

The news came as two major university-business deals were unveiled.

GlaxoSmithKline has committed £44 million to a £76 million collaboration with Imperial College London on a new clinical imaging centre at Hammersmith Hospital.

AstraZeneca announced £74 million for a centre for advanced lead discovery in Cheshire and a drug discovery facility in Leicestershire.

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