The Department of Trade and Industry's E-commerce minister, Douglas Alexander, today announced funding for a £40m research initiative into new technologies.

The virtual Interdisciplinary Research Centre (vIRC), sponsored by many of the industry's main players and the DTI itself, will bring together high-tech firms and university researchers to discover how the latest technologies can benefit consumers.

"Only a few years ago, these kind of technologies and devices were only seen in the movies. The vIRC will help to make these innovations a reality," said Douglas Alexander.

But other schemes similar to this already exist. HP's CoolTown acts as a platform for pervasive technologies, allowing businesses to learn about the benefits of new technologies.

"It is essential that people are educated about the real possibilities of upcoming technologies," said Paul Burwood, Operation Director at CoolTown. "That is the real point of these projects."

"This is the first time so many groups and businesses have been given the opportunity to share research and discuss future projects on this scale," said a DTI spokesman.

Around 60 companies, including BT, HP Labs and Microsoft Research, and several universities will be swapping ideas and discussing the commercial viability of future technologies.

"These technologies will be tested on people to determine the positives and the negatives. It is in everyone's interest that technology manufacturers focus on what people want," said a spokesman at the DTI.

Some of the technologies include domestic appliances, such as internet and DVD-enabled fridges, TVs on watches, in addition to the privacy and security issues surrounding these technologies.

Each project idea will be put before a panel of eight senior academics who will then refer the best ideas to the DTI for funding.