Scientists at Unilever are on the lookout for a fabric that will never need to be cleaned - and are being helped in their efforts with a £1 million government package.

The team at Port Sunlight is one of five businesses in the north west region to benefit from an £18m scheme helping industries with technological developments.

The scientists will be using the nanotechnology grant to analyse microfibres. Nanotechnology works on particles measuring a thousand-millionth of a metre, allowing the manipulation of things one atom at a time.

Unilever is embarking upon the project in conjunction with the University of Sheffield, the National Physical Laboratory, and ICI.

The grants will cover up to 50 per cent of the project's total value, and further funds for similar projects will be produced over the next few years.