The Welsh Development Agency has unveiled plans to create a £50 million network of up to 20 incubator complexes linking academic research to business operations throughout Wales.
The first six complexes, known as techniums, are expected to be built next year, under proposals outlined in a WDA report, Expanding Innovation Horizons . They will develop a pilot concept in which an incubator facility linked to the University of Wales, Swansea, has been oversubscribed and has attracted investors such as Agilent Technologies, a Hewlett-Packard spin-off.
The pilot has paved the way for a national roll-out and the creation of Technium II in Swansea. Companies involved in the pilot have been able to use a broadband fibre-optic link to the university and have had access to research, business support and assistance in marketing and intellectual property rights.
The technium network will include a new Technium Venture Capital Fund and technium scholarships to promote innovation by undergraduates. The network will aim to strengthen Wales as a location for businesses in growing key sectors such as biotechnology.
Technium partners include the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the WDA, Swansea University, Swansea Institute and Swansea City Council, with backing from European Union Objective One structural funds and Welsh electronics billionaire Sir Terry Matthews.
Sir David Rowe-Beddoe, WDA chairman, said: "If Wales is to forge ahead in a globally competitive marketplace, it must build on and enhance the process of innovation. Technium is possibly the single most important initiative in realising this."
Robin Williams, vice-chancellor of Swansea University, said: "The technium concept is a perfect foil for the university's mission to contribute to the community as well as being a centre of excellence for teaching and research."