An initiative launched last week by Trade and Technology Minister Ian Taylor in Durham will soon spread to the rest of the country to the benefit of colleges, universities and small businesses.
The Teaching Company Scheme Centre for Small Firms (TCS Centre), based at Durham University, aims to increase the exchange of people between industry and academia as part of the Government's commitment to improving business competitiveness as outlined in its White Paper, "Competitiveness: helping businesses to win".
The Government-funded scheme already operates in 11 universities around the country, with another five joining soon. There are plans eventually to expand the scheme to colleges.
The idea is to help firms tap into the know-how of specialists in science, technology and humanities by employing a recent graduate, called a teaching company associate, on a heavily subsidised basis for two years.
The firm pays around 30 per cent of the market rate for the job. The graduate is supported by a senior academic and the institution benefits as those on its research programmes gain business experience.
The TCS scheme is well established for large companies, but now firms employing up to 50 people can take advantage of the programme.
An electronics firm in Peterlee has just completed a scheme with the university's business school. It employed a teaching company associate, fluent in three languages, who worked closely with academics at the school who were researching ways that small companies could reach the international market.
Exports rapidly increased and the firm decided to re-employ the associate as their European marketing executive. They intend to hire another person through the scheme.