Microsoft is throwing its weight behind a Cambridge-based centre that aims to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK.
The software giant has already pledged an undisclosed financial sum to the Cambridge Entrepreneurship Centre (CEC). But the main bulk of its support will come in the form of training, guidance and mentoring of future entrepreneurs to help develop and commercialise business ideas.
Peter Bell, .Net business manager at Microsoft, described the CEC as an important and long overdue resource. "This is a long term investment on our part to share learning about creating a business based on intellectual property."
The centre has been running since October 1999 and has already spawned several business and technology concepts, from a mouse mat-style charger for a phone or PDA, to computer chip fabrication.
Although Bell says Microsoft's involvement is driven by a desire to "share experiences and be a good corporate citizen" its motivation is not purely altruistic.
"We won't be using this as a trawling mechanism to acquire new technologies. But I hope that in the long term, given a choice between us and our competitors, individuals will choose our technologies," he said.
Microsoft is one of eight founder members to sponsor CEC. The others include Barclays Bank, KPMG and law firm Eversheds, which will offer support and advice to upcoming leaders.
And while more needs to be done to encourage entrepreneurs in this country, Bell warned that not everyone was of the right temperament to succeed.
"The US culture has been more entrepreneurial and successes and failures are more well received. We are starting to move in the right direction, we just have much catching up to do."
Microsoft is no stranger to Cambridge University. In 1997, Roger Needham, former head of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, became managing director of Microsoft's European research lab based at the university.
It is one of four global R&D facilities set up to explore advanced technologies to help extend the reach of personal computing technology.
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