Microsoft will assist UK startups in using its software technology under a programme launched on Monday by CEO Steve Ballmer.

The Startup Accelerator Program will include technologies such as Silverlight, Microsoft's multimedia browser plug-in, and Live Services, a group of web-based applications. Microsoft will also offer assistance in business development, marketing and sales.

Microsoft stands to gain momentum if startup companies are successful in building applications based on its technology. The programme could also put Microsoft closer to key startups with technology that Microsoft would rather buy than develop itself.

At least five companies have joined the programme so far: Ether Digital, which has a platform for video content over IP; Zebtab, which has a desktop video application; Corebridge, which is involved in customer relationship management and communication software; ViaPost, which focuses on electronic document delivery; and Miomi, which has a website that lets people mesh their own content with interactive timelines.

Microsoft already has the UK Emerging Business Team, which works with startup companies and venture capital organisations.