Successful students will receive training to develop careers in business
A programme to provide more than 400 PhD and masters university places in Wales is being officially launched.
The £34m Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (Kess) programme is being led by Bangor University.
Each graduate accepted onto the EU-supported scheme will receive an annual bursary of up to £13,300 as well as research and business training.
The programme will focus on research in key sectors in the Welsh economy including health and bioscience.
It is partly backed by EU funds and will develop skills through collaborative research projects with companies in Wales.
Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones and Education Minister Jane Hutt will unveil the scheme at Bangor University, which is linking up with other universities in Wales.
Some £21m of the funding is coming from the EU with the remainder coming from higher education institutions and the private sector.
Jenny Brierley, 22, was recently awarded a first class honours BSc in sport, health and physical education at Bangor and is one of the first masters students on Kess. She will be leading a year-long research project with Blizzard Protection Systems, an award-winning SME in Bethesda, Gwynedd
"The company is involved in making survival products for extreme environments. My research work will be to make things like a tog meter to measure the thermal ability of the product.
"We hope that the research will be published in journals that look at wilderness and medicine and space travel.
"I've had a summer job but without the bursary it would have been difficult. This definitely helped."
Mr Jones said: "Kess will not only create hundreds of opportunities for individuals to gain high-level skills, qualifications and practical experience, but will directly benefit the research capabilities of companies within key sectors of the Welsh economy."
He added it was a "clear demonstration" of the support for research and development as a post-recession economic policy was shaped.
To qualify for a bursary, students must be resident at the time of application in the convergence funding area of Wales, which is mainly west Wales and the Valleys.
Successful students will receive training to develop careers in business, with a focus on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in areas like innovation and design and sustainable development.
A training network and a graduate residential course will also be part of the programme.
Studentships will be targeted towards areas seen as critical to Wales' economic future.
For example, the studentship with Calon Wen organic milk co-operative is looking at ways to increase the viability of on-farm anaerobic digestion.
Academic supervisor for the project Dr Prysor Williams said: "The input of Calon Wen is vital in ensuring that the new knowledge created by the research and the skills developed by the student are of real relevance to the rural economy."
Professor Merfyn Jones, vice-chancellor of Bangor University and chair of the recent review of higher education in Wales, said Kess was an "outstanding opportunity" for academics to partner with regional companies of all sizes to create new knowledge through collaborative research.
Last month, it was announced £34m is being invested in a work-based learning programme to help thousands of workers across Wales.