AN ambitious "incubator" scheme for hi-tech business ideas is due to get under way next month. The i-zone at Bolton Institute is a £1.5 million bid to boost the economy by developing high technology companies with high growth potential.

The Institute expects to incubate ideas from its own researchers, individual members of the public and companies with a potential new product outside core activities.

The concept, which has worked well in America and with companies associated with universities in Manchester, is coming to Bolton for the first time.

It is part of the North West Development Agency's strategy for the economic development of the region and is backed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The i-zone is being managed by a joint venture company set up by Bolton Institute and Campus Ventures, a specialist technology transfer business based in Manchester and operating throughout the North-west.

There are 12 office spaces of different sizes and complete support packages from the earliest stages of pre-business planning through to forming a company, developing and launching products and then consolidation and growth of the business.

Advantages include access to funding, mentors, experts and investors.

Mollie Temple, Principal of Bolton Institute, said today: "We want to hear from any company, individual, research team or inventor with a new product idea which they think they can turn into a sustainable business."

Mr Mark Allanson, the Institute's Director of Enterprise, said the incubator units were alongside another major development in the Eagle complex off College Way -- the Centre for Advanced Materials which will be in operation by the end of the year. The Institute, which has long held a world-wide reputation for textile research, is now making an international name for itself in the field of technical textiles -- high performance products used in sectors such as aerospace, automotives, medicine and construction.

Mr Allanson believes up to 70 per cent of the incubator users could be involved in this field.

The Institute plans to host a series of events for North-west professionals. "We need people with technology-based ideas to pick up the phone and call us," Mr Allanson said.

He can be contacted on 01204 903078 or by e-mail on

Campus Ventures Ltd are available on 0870 241 6926.