§ Gillian Merron
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made on the launch of the Reach-Out fund to enhance university interaction with business. 
§ Mr. Battle
Following the Competitiveness White Paper announcement that the DTI and the DfEE would jointly create the Reach-Out fund in partnership with the HEFCE to enhance university-business interaction, the HEFCE recently led a consultation with the academic and business communities on the proposed aims and objectives of the fund. There was strong support for the creation of the fund and detailed responses have enabled us to finalise its design.
I am therefore pleased to announce that I and my noble Friend Baroness Blackstone, the Minister for Education, are today jointly launching the Higher Education Reach-Out to Business and the Community Fund at a Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals conference on regional competitiveness.
The Reach-Out fund, rising to around £20 million per year, is intended to initiate an important third stream of funding for universities, alongside research and teaching funds to help recognise the importance of working with 109W business and develop the capability in universities to respond to business needs. This in turn will help to stimulate more informed demand from business for greater innovation and competitiveness. The fund will be open to all universities in England and Northern Ireland (in partnership with the DENI), complementing measures in Scotland and Wales.
There will initially be two calls for applications—the first of which is issued today and invites applications by 15 September for the first allocations to be made early in November 1999. The second call will be announced by January 2000 and will follow a similar timetable, allowing three months for response, with allocations announced around two months from the closing date.
Copies of the Applications Guidelines have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.