A new marketing support initiative was launched at the Durham Mountjoy Research Centre on Monday by an organisation called the Northern Software Federation. Among the 50 companies who expressed a definite interest in becoming members were Sagesoft Ltd and Mari Advanced Microelectronics Ltd. The organisation, which aims to attract small northern-based businesses in the software industry, describes itself as the natural progression of a project set up at Birmingham Business School two years ago. It was designed to monitor the performance and identify the needs and problems of small software firms in the North. Membership of the federation will cost UKP100 as opposed to the UKP2,000 asked by the already established Computer Services Association. Members will be offered seminars, newsletters and the opportunity to participate in joint marketing initiatives and exhibitions. Paul Sampson, the federation secretary, believes that the organisation will provide an inexpensive and regionally specialised alternative to the other existing support bodies. Although originally conceived as an exclusively north-eastern organisation, Sampson explained that membership boundaries would probably have to expand to include interested companies in North Yorkshire and Berwick-upon-Tweed. The federation has yet to decide whether southern businesses will be entitled to join, although northern branches of London firms will certainly be encouraged to become members. The Manpower Services Commission, which provided 25% of the funding for the Birmingham project, has contributed over UKP30,000 to the federation. Sampson was, however, unable to estimate the overall cost of establishing the federation, as a great deal of expertise had been offered on a voluntary basis. The federation has been granted with a free base at the Mountjoy Centre and is receiving support in the form of a special insert in a directory compiled by the Northern Development Company.