The National Autistic Society is to launch a separate research wing early next year.
Vernon Beauchamp, chief executive at the charity, said the research body will commission its first project before Christmas and be formally launch in spring 2003.
The division will have its own director of research with interviews for the post starting next month. The "associated" charity will also have a board of trustees. Dr Lorna Wing, an expert in the field, has already agreed to join.
Until now, the Autistic Society has primarily focused on providing care services for people with autism and Asperger Syndrome.
The research body hopes to receive sponsorship from a major university with additional funding coming from corporate donations. "We are confident that we have identified some trustees from business who should be able to lever in the money," said Beauchamp.
The body's first research project will focus on education and practical issues surrounding autism.