THREE universities in the region have been given more than £2.8m to turn bright ideas into commercial products.

Newcastle University was the biggest winner with an allocation of £1.4m while Durham University scientists received £800,000 and York University got £630,000.

The allocations were part of a total investment of £60m announced by the Business Secretary Vince Cable to help turn promising science ideas into successful business projects.

Designed to help bridge the gap between a research idea and commercial success, the money will be used to create new companies, grow industrial collaboration and foster more entrepreneurship.

The grant is part of the Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA) - a new £60m investment project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

One of the projects where previous funding has already been successfully used is a low cost baby scanner created by Newcastle University's Jeff Neasham.

The hand-held device is similar to the technology used in hospitals but can be manufactured for as little as £30 - a thousand times cheaper than the standard ultrasound technology.

Mr Cable said the investment will help make the UK "one of the most attractive places in the world to do science-based business".

One examples from Durham of a project which received ESPRC funding and led to a viable product is Fscan Limited.

Professor David Parker developed a simple, three-minute test for prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the UK.

The Fscan test uses luminescent complexes to measure the level of citrate in fluid samples from the prostate gland. The test is significantly more accurate than the current standard test.

FScan is under clinical assessment in conjunction with University College London Hospitals.

The £630,000 allocated to York University will help its pioneering scientists and engineers create successful businesses from their research.