Faithful duo woos inventive students

September 21, 2001

The University of Cambridge and Rolls-Royce are extending their long term partnership in a deal that will finance a new gas turbine research centre in Cambridge.

The rolling five-year agreement is worth about £1.5 million a year and will enable the university to extend research to include combustion technologies and whole-engine construction.

The University Gas Turbine Partnership (UGTP) extends a 30-year relationship that has seen Rolls-Royce and Cambridge develop a number of key technology-acquisition programmes. It also marks the tenth anniversary of the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre in the city.

Ann Dowling, professor of mechanical engineering at the department of engineering, will be the UGTP director. The UGTP activities will be coordinated for the company by David Clarke, head of technology strategy and research.

Rolls-Royce funding includes provision for two professorships, two lectureships and support staff. Howard Hobson has been appointed to the chair of aerothermal technology. The chair in experimental combustion is being advertised and an appointment will be made in January.

The university will fund two further lectureships in the research area with additional funding from the Isaac Newton Trust. There will be scope for individual projects, some jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Trade and Industry under the government's Civil Aircraft Research and Technology programme and the European Commission.

Professor Dowling said that the UGTP was built on the trust and mutual understanding developed through decades of collaboration and that it would help to bring job security to staff.

She said: "Many industries fund individual research projects. What is special about this relationship with Rolls-Royce is that they are making a commitment to support the research leaders - professors and lecturers - and these additional staff posts enable us to expand the scope of our activities.

"Whittle developed his jet engine while a student in our department. Equally inventive minds are needed to work on today's research challenges for the next generation of gas turbines."

Both partners emphasised the importance of research that had an outcome in "the real world". Value for money and specific engineering goals within the UGTP are being targeted. It is hoped that the challenge of producing innovative technology will attract the best academic talent into engineering disciplines, and secure the supply of high-quality engineers entering industry.

Phil Ruffles, the company's director of engineering and technology, said that roots of a long-term relationship laid down in Frank Whittle's jet propulsion research had led to the founding of the Whittle Laboratory in 1972 and the launch of the UTC focusing on turbomachinery in 1991.

"The partnership has been a model of how industry and academia can work together to discover new technologies and push the boundaries of engineering," Mr Ruffles said.

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