LONDON - The government is making moves to maintain the UK's lead in European biotechnology with a #6.45 million (US$10.33 million) scheme to enable academic institutions to collaborate in the commercialization of publicly funded research.

Grants of up to #250,000 will be available to audit, manage and match intellectual property portfolios with potential industrial markets.

This is a follow-on from a #2.34 million pilot scheme that concluded in 1998. Some 30 academic and charity research groups pooled their research in eight coherent and substantial intellectual property portfolios.

David Sainsbury, the science minister, said, "The UK is the leader in Europe in the commercial development of biotechnology and I want to ensure that we keep this leading position. This substantial further investment by the government will enable the rest of the bioscience base to build the same kind of partnerships, and help them market their intellectual property more effectively."

Sainsbury also asked for further proposals for the Biotechnology Mentoring and Incubation program, which exists to develop specialist business skills and provide laboratory and office space for start-ups. Up to #5 million in grants is available under this plan.

Last week the government also released a report on the success factors in the key U.S. and UK biotechnology clusters. The report sets out a 10-point action plan to help UK biotechnology "become a global force." Sainsbury said the findings will be applied to create a supportive environment for start-ups.