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Private firms begin to fund growth of British science parks

Banks and other private corporations in Britain have started to back a concept that has emerged in this country over the past few years - science parks.

These are industrial estates that house companies with strong links with universities and other technological institutions.

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Until recently, local governments and government-supported universities funded the growth of science parks in Britain. The rise in private funding will please the Thatcher administration, which is keen to see private concerns take over roles previously played by government bodies.

The science park at Warwick University exemplifies this trend. The park, located next to the university's campus on the outskirts of Coventry in the economically depressed region of west Midlands, opened its doors earlier this year and so far boasts about 12 tenants. They are a mixture of big and small companies that rent small units in what is called an ''incubator building'' from a ''science-park company.''

A group of local authorities and the university itself are the shareholders of the science-park company. They put up nearly (STR)2 million ($2.7 million) to start the development.

But they also persuaded Barclays Bank, one of Britain's biggest financial institutions, to put up (STR)1 million to finance the incubator building.

David Rowe, the director of the science park, says that obtaining private-sector development money ''lent credibility'' to the park as a place where companies can grow with the help of the university's technical expertise.

A company called Science Parks is trying to win permission to build an industrial estate in Oxford. People at the company feel that many scientific developments from the university never become commercial products because of a lack of support for small technological companies.

The science park would rent out small units for this kind of enterprise.

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Funding for the Oxford park would be entirely private. Trafalgar House Developments, a property company, will put up the (STR)35 million investment required if the plan goes ahead.

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