University of Birmingham
Supporting sustainable UK manufacturing of aero-engines
Over two generations, this partnership has played a pivotal role in the transformation of the UK aerospace industry, enhancing advanced manufacturing research capability through the development of world-class infrastructure, providing global competitive advantage and creating highly skilled jobs in the UK.
The University and Rolls-Royce together have secured multiple high-value research awards over 34 years, establishing a world-leading University Technology Centre (1992), Manufacturing Technology Centre (2010) and High Temperature Research Centre (2015). Today, 70 academic staff, 30 postgraduate students, and 120 Rolls-Royce employees are working together to enhance the scientific understanding of the metallic alloys used for safety-critical components in aero-engines. Such discs and blades have been at the heart of the partnership to date. This collaborative work is crucial in developing future generations of efficient engines that are essential in meeting 2050 net-zero emissions targets. Over the past 20 years the partnership has provided the very best type of “technology transfer” with over 100 of the University’s PhD students joining Rolls-Royce on graduation. Together with the invention of well over 100 patents, this has delivered significant competitive advantage to Rolls-Royce.
As well as its major scientific advances and its training of this next generation of metallurgy experts across both academia and industry, the partnership is working to address gender imbalance in a traditionally male-dominated area. It is attracting more females than ever to study engineering and is supporting them into the workforce. The partnership has played a pre-eminent role in retaining Rolls-Royce research and technology in materials within the UK despite fierce global competition.