Research projects secure £290m to 'drive innovation'
The "most flexible factory in the world" is among five projects to secure £290m of public and private investment.
Cambridge, Manchester, Sheffield and Strathclyde universities and University College London are to get money from the government and companies including Rolls Royce and GlaxoSmithKline.
Chancellor George Osborne said the university and business partnerships would drive innovation and growth.
The projects range from cancer research to testing advanced materials.
Mr Osborne said: "By bringing together our Nobel Prize winning scientists, our world-class companies and our entrepreneurial start-ups, we can drive innovation and create the economic dynamism Britain needs to win in the global race.
"We are making difficult decisions on things like welfare so that we can invest in areas like science."
The funding from the latest round of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund represents £72m of government grants and £219m of private investment secured by the universities.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills said the projects, which would "tackle global challenges", were:
- A £33m partnership between UCL and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust to develop new treatments for diseases including cancer, diabetes and HIV
- Manchester University's £117m partnership with companies including Rolls Royce, Sellafield and EDF will research and develop advanced materials to operate under harsh conditions
- Cambridge University will build the £63m Maxwell Centre focusing on industrial partnership in physical sciences
- The "world's most flexible factory" will be built by Sheffield University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in a £43m partnership with companies including Boeing
- A £34m partnership between the University of Strathclyde, GlaxoSmithKline, Cancer Research UK and others will establish new supply chains for medicines
'Beyond the boundaries'
Professor Keith Ridway from Sheffield's AMRC said the Factory 2050 would be operational by 2014.
"The aim is to be able to manufacture any component as a one-off, and instantaneously switch between components," he said.
Cambridge University said construction on the "world-class" Maxwell Centre would begin shortly.
Prof Sir Richard Friend said: "This will not be conventional research or 'business as usual', but a major effort to go beyond the boundaries of traditional physical science concepts."