Nov. 20, 2007 — Plans by British-based Rolls-Royce, announced today in Richmond, to build a new jet engine manufacturing plant in Prince George County will result in significant educational and research opportunities for the University of Virginia.
As part of Rolls-Royce's decision to locate its facility in Virginia, U.Va. will become part of an innovative partnership that includes Virginia Tech and the Virginia Community College System to collaborate with the company on a variety of fronts in both engineering and business.
"The decision by Rolls-Royce to locate a major manufacturing facility for jet engines in Prince George County not only represents a significant economic benefit to Virginia, but also provides a major impact for higher education across the state," said University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III.
"Rolls-Royce has an impressive history of collaborating with universities to support and develop research in academic centers of excellence to develop the company's workforce, as well as to create new technologies," he added. "We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of such an innovative partnership that will result in substantial educational and research activities involving faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from both the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.
"We appreciate the potential impact that it will have at U.Va., in particular, on activities in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the McIntire School of Commerce, both of which have established relationships with Rolls-Royce."
The educational components of the partnership in U.Va.'s Engineering School will include the addition of a manufacturing minor and the development of a program to deliver undergraduate courses to the Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County. In addition, the undergraduate business minor that the Engineering School offers in collaboration with the McIntire School of Commerce will be expanded..
"We are excited about the many ways in which this new partnership will benefit the School of Engineering and Applied Science," said James Aylor, dean of the Engineering School at U.Va. "This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to expand the effective program we have developed with the McIntire School, to enhance the strong programs we have in the Engineering School, and to extend our relationship with Virginia Tech and the Virginia Community College System in innovative ways."
U.Va.'s McIntire School has developed an extensive relationship with Rolls-Royce, which is one of four corporate sponsors of the school's third-year curriculum, the Integrated Core Experience.
"The McIntire School is very pleased to have the opportunity to expand our strong and multidimensional relationship with Rolls-Royce," said Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School. "Our students and faculty already realize great benefits from the extensive participation of Rolls-Royce executives in our classrooms, and the company consistently recruits some of our best graduates. This new commitment provides a context to create the model corporate partnership for business education. We are thrilled to work with Rolls-Royce and other schools in the University to offer new programs that meet their educational and human resource needs and to engage the company in our research and curriculum development efforts."
The partnership will result in the creation of two major research centers:
• The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which U.Va. or one of its related foundations will construct and operate adjacent to the Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County.
• The Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems, which will be headquartered at U.Va.
Both of these new centers will operate in collaboration with Rolls-Royce as well as with Virginia Tech.
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing will house research scientists and graduate students from U.Va. and Virginia Tech, and its location will permit significant interaction between the scientists and engineers from the two universities and from Rolls-Royce. The facility will also support distance learning through the transmission of courses from U.Va. and Virginia Tech to Rolls-Royce workers.
U.Va. and Virginia Tech will jointly create the Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems and will conduct research activities in areas critical to the technological needs of Rolls-Royce.
In support of this partnership, the Commonwealth of Virginia will funding to U.Va., Virginia Tech and the Virginia Community College System over a five-year period beginning in July 2009 for the following initiatives:
• To fund nine chaired professorships — three in engineering at U.Va., three in U.Va.'s McIntire School of Commerce and three at Virginia Tech;
• To endow graduate fellowships to support the work of U.Va. and Virginia Tech graduate students, at both the center in Prince George County and on the respective home campuses;
• To endow internships to support undergraduate students working with Rolls-Royce in Virginia and around the world;
• To renovate mechanical engineering laboratories at U.Va. and Virginia Tech;
• To support enhancements to the manufacturing programs at U.Va.'s Engineering School, which will allow the introduction of a manufacturing minor;
• To assist community colleges in offering associate degree opportunities both to retrain existing Rolls-Royce employees and to help prepare new employees for Rolls-Royce;
• To provide matching funds for research support provided by Rolls-Royce. The research will be in areas of interest to Rolls-Royce, including work done within the Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems.
Rolls-Royce's history of partnerships with universities to support and develop research in academic centers of excellence is based on the company's stated desire to "create a cross-cultural working environment for Rolls-Royce and University staff in areas of basic science, applied research, staff training, and technology transfer, where the universities can benefit from privileged access to Rolls-Royce capability bases and information networks."
Barry Johnson, senior associate dean and associate dean for research in the Engineering School, who participated in the development of the partnership, calls the resulting collaboration a "one-of-a-kind" opportunity through which the University "will grow the faculty base of the Engineering School, expand research activities and provide workforce development activities on site for Rolls-Royce."
Virginia was one of eight states in the running for the new Rolls-Royce facility, and Johnson noted that U.Va. and Virginia Tech combined produce more mechanical engineers than any of the other seven states that had been under consideration.