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Queen's helping Rolls-Royce develop aircraft engines of tomorrow

Engineering expertise from Queen’s University Belfast is playing an important role in the development of the next generation of aircraft engines for Rolls-Royce and creating high value research jobs in Northern Ireland.

Over the last year the University’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty has launched more than £2m worth of research and development projects for one of the world's leading industrial technology companies. This is the latest step of a partnership which stretches back 20 years, first started by Professor Cecil Armstrong.

The news comes as Frank Kirkland, the Chief Designer for Civil Aviation at Rolls-Royce, spoke at Queen’s University’s annual Sir Bernard Crossland Lecture.

The partnership between Queen’s and Rolls-Royce has strengthened over the last few years and the University is now playing an important role in the future of the company’s aerospace technology strategy.

Frank Kirkland, Rolls-Royce Chief Designer in Civil Aerospace, on a visit to the team at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The work which the team here at Queen’s is carrying out supports Rolls-Royce's aim to deliver more efficient engines when we’re designing for the future. We value the expertise which we get from the team and the partnership which stretches back many years.”

The latest projects to launch at the University are helping Rolls-Royce's Civil Aerospace business understand how aircraft will change in the future – and what those changes will mean for the engines it makes.

It is defining and automating the creation of innovative and efficient structural models which will be used to understand the requirements of future generations of aircraft engines compared to those of today.

The relationship between Rolls-Royce and the leading quality team at Queen's has helped to develop the team with world class knowledge and capabilities which have bolstered other areas of the Northern Ireland economy.

Other projects the University focuses on with the company is on the topic of geometry and meshing. This research seeks to speed up the design process, by making computational analysis more automated, integrated and efficient.

Dr Trevor Robinson from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s, who himself did his PhD in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, said: “The partnership we have with Rolls-Royce is hugely important to the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and is one of our most exciting projects.  

“Aircraft of the future won’t look like the aircraft of today and Rolls-Royce need to know what that means for their engines; we’re helping them figure that out.”

One of the academics who started research in this area is Professor Mark Price, who is now Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s.

He said: “It’s great to see relationships between the University and innovative companies like Rolls- Royce evolve over the years. These global leaders drive technology change because they strive to make their products better and better in a highly competitive market. 

“This then drives us to be innovative in our research and to ensure that innovation and effort is focused on helping our company partners to progress. Our research in the aerospace engineering field, and especially this structural geometry and design team, is second-to-none and it bodes well for further collaboration with industry in the future.”

Queen's plays a foundational role in the development of the economy and society in Northern Ireland. Working with top global companies helps it deliver leading research and the University’s link between research and teaching ensures it is producing top graduates who are highly-prized in the recruitment market.

This announcement sits neatly with the Belfast Region City Deal proposal which will support advanced manufacturing activity in Northern Ireland. A major component of this proposal is high-value design, of which the link with Rolls-Royce exemplifies the University’s world leading capability.  In City Deal, Queen's is highly focused on the needs of Northern Irish Companies, striving to serve the local manufacturing community to help them in their drive for success.

The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering team at Queen’s has also worked on a number of projects in conjunction with industry in recent years including TOICA, a European Framework programme on managing the thermal behaviour in aircraft.  The team is open to collaborate with companies and help them develop more efficient CAD, structural modelling and design capabilities and welcomes enquiries from long standing and new partners alike.

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