Rolls-Royce / EPSRC Strategic Partnership - collaboration for long term economic impact

Rolls-Royce / EPSRC Strategic Partnership - collaboration for long term economic impact

Rolls-Intro-SoRRolls-Royce enables its research and technology development programmes by accessing the very best expertise available in academia. Underpinning this policy is a 31-strong global network of University Technology Centres (UTCs) that Rolls-Royce has worked with for more than two decades.

This proven model is reinforced by the support for projects, programmes and people at UK universities provided by bodies such as EPSRC, Innovate UK and ATI.

The value of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) support is particularly apparent in its focus on world class science addressing challenges of national importance, whether in longstanding or emerging technologies, with many initiatives benefiting from the clear route to industrial take-up embedded in the UTCs and Catapult centres.

Cambridge, Swansea and Birmingham UTCs have played a pivotal role in the development of a novel sustainable research platform. The technology challenges within gas turbine materials are many and technically complex, and as a result these UTCs joined to become a University Technology Partnership (UTP) working together to develop innovative material solutions. Rolls-Royce together with the UTP then worked with EPSRC to create a unique University/Business/Public funding model to develop the underpinning science needed to support novel engineering solutions.

The £50 million Rolls-Royce/EPSRC Strategic Partnership Flagship Programme in Structural Metallic Systems for Gas Turbine Applications was launched in 2009 and recently secured full funding to 2019. This jointly-funded initiative has the UTP at its core along with 4 other universities and several other industrial partners. A unique feature is the inclusion of a parallel training programme delivered by a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) developing the next generation of UK scientists and engineers and protecting against skills shortages. It has a clear aim to provide the foundation for next-generation aero-engines that, by operating hotter or faster than current designs, will deliver significant improvements in engine efficiency and environmental impact.

This Strategic Partnership is already generating impressive results. New high-strength steels for engine shafts, new nickel and cobalt-based superalloys for turbine disks, new highly heat-resistant refractory metal alloys for turbine blades – these are just three outcomes of the radical thinking applied by the team. But hand-in-hand with such innovations go fresh insights into the complex structure and behaviour of existing superalloys typically containing ten or more different chemical elements.

“Working with our Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems is making a significant contribution to the continued success of the aerospace sector and the UK supply chain. Support from EPSRC has enabled us to provide a unique, stable funding research platform over a 10 year timeframe allowing the academic teams to concentrate on fundamental research that will have economic and scientific impact over many years. Not only does this work provide data and expertise that feeds into other national programmes such as those supported by Innovate UK and the ATI, accelerating knowledge transfer, it is also producing a talent pool of highly qualified engineers for the benefit of academia and supply chain alike.” Neil Glover, Chief of Materials, Rolls-Royce plc.

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