LONDON—Cambridge and Oxford are the academic foci for new research programs that the British hope will make them more competitive in the expanding field of high-temperature superconductivity.

The Cambridge group will be Britain’s first University Research Center. Bolstered by $10 million in government funds over the next six years, it is expected to attract private support and generate marketable products within 10 years. The URC will be a new university laboratory within the Cavendish laboratory of physics and will also involve the chemistry, materials science and metallurgy, engineering and earth sciences departments.

The selection process, in which Cambridge was chosen from a list of three sites, was watched closely by the government. Chief scientific adviser John Fairclough has made it clear that he regards superconductivity as a good test of the readiness of universities to pursue interdisciplinary work with industry, and has talked of the government’s eventually supporting up to...

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