The zones will house clusters of high-tech start-up companies that can access the expertise of the local university.
As part of this, the zones will offer affordable business space for students to start businesses after graduation.
The scheme is designed to combat the shortage of private sector funding for office, laboratory and workshop space for innovative firms.
It will also encourage universities to foster innovation and growth locally, and get more involved with businesses and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Prime Minister David Cameron said that he saw the zones creating the next Yahoo or Microsoft and helping Britain succeed in “the global race”.
“I want to see higher education and enterprise work hand in glove to boost growth and create even more jobs,” he said.
“Our world-leading universities have historically been at the heart of innovation but we need to give them the tools to be even better at cultivating the seeds of growth as well as knowledge.”
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) expects universities to work with their local authorities and LEPs and play a “leading role” in the zones.
UK Trade and Investment will also get on board to help attract investment into the zones from overseas.
David Willets, minister for universities and science, said: “The expert knowledge we have combined with new business ideas will make the University Enterprise Zones powerful tools for local success.”
BIS will launch a competition to choose the pilot areas in January. The scheme may be rolled out further in the future if these initial projects are successful.
The success of the pilot zones will depend on an increase in the number of innovative small businesses located near to and engaging with universities.
There are already 24 LEPs across England, which offer discounted business rates and high-speed broadband.