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Government bankrolls hi-tech link-up

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The government is to spend £70 million over the next five years on a link-up between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) and Cambridge University. The two techie powerhouses will form a joint institute aimed at encouraging UK entrepreneurs. The joint venture will also develop higher education courses and attempt to turn Britain's academic knowledge into technology-based businesses (rather than letting everyone else do it). Most of the funding will come from the DTI -- £14 million a year, for five years -- with £16 million to be raised by the universities from the UK public sector. The size of the investment caused New Labour to bring out the big guns. Gordon Brown said: "This is a path breaking innovation. By choosing the UK as its European partner, MiT has recognised our country's strengths." David Blunkett, education secretary joined in: "The institute will help place the UK at the cutting edge of the globalisation of higher education." Stephen Byers, trade secretary, got stuck in too: "Securing this is a major achievement." The government does have cause to be pleased with itself. Although the UK has the advantage of having English as a first language (and has been in bed with the US ever since Maggie and Ronnie got together), nabbing MiT's European partnership can only be a good thing. Such is the kudos of the US institute that you only need the three initials on your CV to be inundated by VC money. Tony Blair et al have been making all the right noises about technology recently but it is reassuring to see them put their money where their mouth is. With some careful handling the UK may even follow in the footsteps of MiT success stories and produce its own Hewlett Packard, Digital, Texas Instruments or Intel. ®

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