Five-year grants totalling 20m will be given to Bath, Imperial, London School of Economics, Edinburgh, Exeter, Heriot-Watt, Lancaster, Manchester and Strathclyde Universities as a result of the EPSRC 2008 Science and Innovation Awards.
Manchester University in partnership with Lancaster University have received a 5m grant to research applications of graphene - a new form of 'super carbon', discovered in the UK in 2004 - in areas of material science, chemistry and engineering.
Exeter University and the University of Bath have jointly received grants totalling around 5m to look at the applications of graphene in the areas of nano-electronics, photonics and bio-sciences.
The other two EPSRC Science and Innovation Awards for 2008 have been shared between Imperial College London and the London School of Economics (LSE) for research into synthetic biology and a consortium of Scottish universities University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde University - looking at high performance computing, including complex software algorithms and numerical analysis.
Lesley Thompson, EPSRC Director of Research, said: "These awards are part of our continuing work to ensure Britain has the necessary leadership and resources in breakthrough areas of scientific research. These new centres will have the critical mass to make major research progress, stimulate research in the UK and international community and, where appropriate, to encourage innovation in UK business and industry."
Professor Simon Gaskell, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Manchester University, said: "The EPSRC Science & Innovation Award will result in a long-lasting impact by creating a globally-recognized multidisciplinary centre of excellence focused on graphene research."
The EPSRC is funding the four programmes with supporting finance from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
David Sweeney, Director of Research,
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Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council