The government has announced £45m for research into lighter and more efficient aircraft engines following the opening of a new Rolls-Royce factory.
The engine manufacturer is to lead three projects into the use of composite materials, more efficient engine designs and reduced manufacturing times, following similar research into production techniques that will be used at the new facility in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
The £100m factory, which was officially opened yesterday, will make more than 2,500 fan and turbine discs a year, including for what Rolls-Royce says is the world’s most efficient aircraft engine, the Trent XWB.
The new research will be carried out through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the body set up to coordinate UK research in the sector, in partnership with several universities and R&D centres.
‘These new technologies are vital to reducing emissions and underline the aerospace industry’s commitment to improving the environment,’ said ATI CEO Gary Elliott.
‘These are exactly the types of projects the aerospace industrial strategy and the Aerospace Technology Institute were set up to deliver.’
This kind of research is seen as a vital way of improving the productivity of UK factories in order to allow them to compete with lower labour costs in other countries – and prevent the aerospace industry from moving offshore.
Similar research by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield has already fed into the technology that will be used and produced at the new Washington factory.
The ATI is overseeing a £2bn joint government and industry investment in the aerospace sector designed to produce innovations that will not only improve manufacturing techniques but also lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions of more than 100 million tonnes each year from next generation aircraft.
The new research will be carried out by a number of partners from across the UK including the AMRC, the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Glasgow, the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, and the universities of Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.