Extra government investment of £70m will 'keep Britain at the forefront of the high-tech revolution', Patricia Hewitt, minister for small business and e-commerce, announced yesterday.

"This level of investment clearly indicates the government's commitment to Britain's high-tech community," said a Department of Trade and Industry spokesperson.

The four-year scheme will see £20m invested in the creation of a centre for developing 'new wave' products, such as washing machines that recognise intelligent clothes labels and internet fridges which order their own groceries.

Hewitt estimated the global market for these 'thinking machines' could be worth more than £700bn by 2005.

A further £20m will be spent on the creation of high-speed national computing networks and a centre where researchers, manufacturers and 'marketing gurus' can collaborate.

"Communication between IT sectors is essential," said a spokesperson at chip manufacturer, Intel. "This is a great step forward."

The final £30m, over the next three years, will fund the expansion of UK online businesses.