§ Mr. Stephen O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the impediments to the formation of spin-off firms from larger firms and universities; and what steps are being taken to tackle such impediments. 
§ Ms Hewitt
The number of spin offs from UK universities has increased significantly, rising from 28 in 1995–96 to almost 250 in 2000–01. The latest Higher Education Business Interactions Survey indicates that in the academic year 2000–01 248 companies were spun out from UK universities, employing 10,710 people (an increase of 84 per cent. on the previous year) and a turnover of £195 million (an increase of 46 per cent. on 1999–2000). The Government have supported the increased levels of spin-offs by addressing the funding gap between basic university research and private sector investment, which was identified in our "Investing in Innovation" Strategy. This funding gap has been addressed through the University Challenge fund which provides seed funding for Universities to support spin-offs and has now been assimilated into Higher Education Innovation Fund round 2, which was launched in December 2003, with a deadline for bids of 25 February.