Leading companies have already poured Pounds 1 million in to a scholarship scheme launched this week by Surrey University.
The Surrey Scholars' scheme was launched as part of Science, Engineering and Technology week. Patrick Dowling, vice chancellor of Surrey University, said it was a "cost effective way for industry and commerce to develop their own areas of interest and advance scientific understanding in the public arena". Scholarship winners will be announced in the next few months.
The first group of Surrey scholars will advance research in six fields over three years. The British Gas scholar, based at the university's centre for environmental strategy, will carry out environmental research, focusing on remediation and management of contaminated land sites.
The British Steel scholar will examine the energy efficiency of buildings that rely heavily on steel as well as developing novel construction systems and structures.
Surrey's Polymer Research Centre, meanwhile, will host a researcher allied to the plastics giant Fina. A scholar sponsored by Philips Electronics UK will develop new materials and devices for use in liquid crystal displays.