Factory investment

Rolls-Royce plans to invest more than £300m in four new factories and two advanced research programmes in the UK, with £45m of support from the government.

Rolls-Royce plans to invest more than £300m in four new factories and two advanced research programmes in the UK. The company will receive £45m of support from the government as part of the Building Britain’s Future programme.

One factory will be a casting facility for single-crystal (SX) turbine blades for the company’s most modern, high-thrust engines. Here, Rolls-Royce engineers will develop manufacturing processes before taking them into production.

Another will be used to make discs, the rotating parts used in fans, compressors and turbines. Here, the company intends to roll out a suite of manufacturing processes developed in its advanced manufacturing research centres, which will then also be introduced into production.

An extension of the Rolls-Royce facility in Barnoldswick will produce military wide chord fan blades (WCFBs), which are central to the performance of both military and commercial aero engines. The company is already providing hollow blisked fans for the LiftSystem on the vertical/short take-off and landing (VSTOL) version of the Lightning Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and for the F136 engine.

Additional capability for the manufacture of civil WCFBs will be located in a new factory in Singapore, which will complement the WCFB facility at Barnoldswick.

Rolls-Royce will also build a factory to manufacture, assemble and test components for new civil nuclear power stations. These include pressure vessels, heat exchangers and other large and complex reactor parts. The facility will have links with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre announced by the government in July, in which Rolls-Royce will be the leading industrial partner.

The company and its partners are also investing in a £90m research programme to develop low-carbon aircraft engine technologies. The government will provide £45m through its Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to support the research.

In another research programme, Rolls-Royce engineers will focus on productivity and environmental improvements, including efficient advanced manufacturing processes and lower engine fuel consumption. The programme, valued at up to £90m over four years, is receiving £28.5m from the TSB and £11.5m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Today’s announcement from Rolls-Royce follows the government’s decision to introduce what it describes as a significant package of measures to help UK manufacturers exploit opportunities provided by emerging technologies.

Launched by business secretary Lord Mandelson, a total of £151.5m has been made available to facilitate advanced manufacturing in the UK.

‘This practical package of measures will help equip British manufacturers, of all sizes and sectors, to take advantage of the advanced technologies and new market opportunities now shaping our low-carbon industrial future,’ he said. ‘It’s about giving them the support they need to create jobs in Britain and export the best of British manufacturing design, technology, skills and innovation around the world.’

New measures included in the package include a £12m expansion of the Printable Electronics Centre in Sedgefield, which focuses on display technology, and a £4m expansion of the Manufacturing Advisory Service to help a wider range of businesses improve efficiency and increase orders.

Similarly, the TSB will invest in collaborative research-and-development projects as part of its High Value Manufacturing competition.

‘It is good the government is recognising the value of advanced manufacturing and we hope this package of measures will spur the development of the UK’s hi-tech base,’ said Tim Bradshaw, the CBI’s head of enterprise and innovation. ‘Investing in these technologies now will give the UK a competitive edge and create an important market for high-value exports in the future.’

The EEF, however, sounded a note of caution to today’s announcement, claiming it lacks lack long-term strategic direction.

Steve Radley, EEF director of policy, said: ‘The government has realised the need to take a lead in rebalancing the economy by placing greater importance on high value sectors and directing new resources towards manufacturing. However the overall package of measures exposes flaws in its approach to achieving this.

‘Rather than concentrating scare resources in areas that can make a real difference, today’s announcement continues the trait of smaller short term measures with little strategic targeting. If the government is to put its activist ambitions into practice it will need to replace the current scattergun approach with a clearer long term framework.’