FEW scientists have achieved so much in the irrepressible quest for the ultimate pint of beer than the late, great brewer Cyril Rainbow. Today, Rainbow's quest - along with his very name - lives on in the Open University-validated Rainbow Scholarship, sponsored by Burton-on-Trent's Bass Brewers.
A hard act to follow, Rainbow was one of the exclusive set to attain the Institute of Brewing's highest accolade, the Harris Brown Medal for an "outstanding contribution to brewing science and technology".
Now Bass's faith is vested in employee Nick Jarrett, who hopes his PhD research in this hallowed field will be similarly significant to the future of beer. Bass, of course, will be hoping it will help create a commercial advantage. "The research certainly allows us to learn quite a bit," says Chris Boulton of Bass's technical centre. "It's hard to pin down one specific piece of research, but the scholarship work has certainly led us to improved brewing."
Rainbow died in the late 1970s, and the OU Validation Service research doctorate that bears his, and his sponsor's, name has been running for a single PhD student every three years since OUVS inherited it from the Council for National Academic Awards in 1993.
"It's generally in the area of pure science, with a biochemical bent," says Dr Boulton. "It would have to be in an area of relevance to us, probably concerning beer flavour, fermentation control and general beer quality. A previous Rainbow scholar, for example, improved our understanding of how yeast links with beer flavour."
The scheme works both ways. "The company gets the research it wants done thoroughly," says the OUVS's research degree manager Stuart Clarke. "And the employee/student is able to get something extra out of his work."
In its Dearing submission, the Association of Business Schools warned of the "outside threat" posed by "corporate universities", where companies award their own, in-house degrees.
The OUVS sees higher education on the Bass model as a major source of growth in the future of higher education.
"We do not have many degree sponsors from industry so far," says Mr Clarke. "But one would expect it to be a major growth area. We are thinking of increasing our efforts to get more industry involved."