HUDDERSFIELD University has joined a new initiative to provide specialist scientific training courses for business.
Huddersfield is one of eight universities across northern England to join forces in the project to benefit the advanced science, engineering and technology industries.
The initiative is being led by The Northern Way, a group comprising the three regional development agencies covering Yorkshire, the north-east and the north-west.
A spokesman for The Northern Way said: "Some new and emerging areas of science, engineering and technology are thought not to be adequately supported by existing programmes.
"This is holding back the contribution to the economy that these sectors can make."
He said the aim was to help professionals working in industry build on their skills to serve their customers and employers better.
The eight universities have formed an online Centre for Professional Excellence for Advanced Science, Engineering and Technology.
This will look at gaps in the market and establish whether niche sectors could benefit from professional development services.
The centre, funded with £500,000 from The Northern Way, will run several pilot schemes between now and 2008.
The centre will work with employers across the north to provide training for key staff in areas such as biomedical sciences, nanotechnology, engineering design, product design, manufacturing and investigative sciences.
Other areas could include environmental engineering and medical technology.
Eleven pilot projects have already been designed and are expected to be up and running shortly.
Each will establish exactly which areas of science, engineering and technology need additional services and test how much demand there is for them.
The centre will aim to plug gaps in provision by setting up flexible courses to meet demand.
The centre aims to develop 20 new courses and enlist 200 new learners by March, 2008 - with the aim of being self-sustaining beyond that date.
Prof Brian Hobbs, dean of the school of science at Teesside University, said: "This centre is an exciting new concept which harnesses the expertise of eight universities across a broad geographical area covering the whole of the North of England.
"Knowledge-based businesses and public sector organisations using state of the art science, technology and engineering have a key part to play in the economic development of the north."