Funding support for the next generation of aerospace projects, including X-Ray imaging technology for engine assembly and maintenance, have been announced by Business Secretary Greg Clark. Each project, jointly funded by Rolls-Royce and government, brings together academia and businesses from across the UK to work together on world-leading research for aero-engine technologies.

At the ground-breaking event for Rolls-Royce’s new engine test bed facility in Derby, the Business Secretary announced the award of £24 million government funding towards four Rolls-Royce-led collaborative R&D projects. The four projects, worth £58.3 million in total, are supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute and will be delivered through Innovate UK.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

Our modern Industrial Strategy is backed by the biggest increase in R&D investment this country has ever seen. We have committed, along with industry, to spend £3.9 billion to build on our reputation for aerospace excellence.

These pioneering projects Rolls-Royce are spearheading will help us deliver this ambition, with joint government-industry funding going to projects that bring the best minds from Rolls-Royce, SMEs and academia to unlock breakthroughs in technology that is fundamental to the aerospace sector.

The projects set to receive funding are:

  • PACE (Proving Advanced Concept Engine), £22m project
  • CAJoRR (Cutting edge Approaches for Joining of RR1073), £8m project
  • ENCASE (Enabling Novel Controls & Advanced Sensors for Engines), £18.4m project
  • EXCITE (EXternal Component Integration of Technologies for Engines), £9.2m project

Mark Scully, the Institute’s Head of Technology for Advanced Systems and Propulsion, said:

The Government has announced its investment of £24 million to support four ATI-approved Rolls-Royce led R&D projects: developing the next generation of more efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft engines. The UK aerospace sector is one that is ambitious and innovative, leading the way in technological advancements and world-class research. This announcement is a great example of such ambition, and another step towards securing our reputation of aerospace excellence. The ATI is dedicated to supporting the UK aerospace sector and has a crucial role to play in advising and guiding joint Government and industry investment. To date, we have approved over 200 projects through the UK’s R&T programme.

Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce, President – Civil Aerospace, said:

We welcome the support announced by the UK Government today. These research projects will help Rolls-Royce and our partners develop more efficient, technologically sophisticated aircraft engines that are vital to reducing emissions and underline the aerospace industry’s commitment to improving the environment.

We are focused on pioneering new technologies and these projects will support important advancements for our UltraFan® engine.  The UltraFan® engine will offer a 25% fuel efficiency improvement over the first generation of Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

The plans for the testbed were announced by Rolls-Royce in June 2017 as part of a wider £150m investment in UK aerospace facilities.

The new testbed, which is expected to be commissioned in 2020, will support Rolls-Royce’s ongoing industrial transformation and will provide important additional capacity as the civil aerospace business continues to ramp-up engine production and deliver on a record order book.

Capable of testing a range of today’s engines, including the Trent XWB and the Trent 1000, the facility will also serve as a base for testing UltraFan®, Rolls-Royce’s engine for the next generation of aircraft.

The new testbed, which will be the largest indoor facility of its type in the world, will harness the latest digital technology to set conditions and obtain evidence from a wide variety of test activities, such as water ingestion and endurance testing. It will also benefit from the latest advancements in test equipment including new x-ray capabilities.

The testbed itself will have an internal area of 7,500m2, making it larger than a Premiership football pitch, and will be surrounded by two concrete walls which measure up to 1.7m thick.

(Image: An artist’s impression of the new Rolls-Royce testbed © Rolls-Royce)