Rolls-Royce Partnership for Aerospace Research Takes Shape; U.Va. and Virginia Tech Seek New Faculty

May 28, 2009 — The creation of the Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems – a partnership among Rolls-Royce, the University of Virginia Engineering School and Virginia Tech's College of Engineering – will foster collaborative aerospace research while creating new educational opportunities for students at both schools.

CCAPS' partners have signed a master research agreement for an initial period of five years and are now also searching for new faculty members to expand existing faculty strengths to carry out the center's research and educational mission.

"The partnership we forged in the fall of 2007 is taking shape with several very tangible and positive developments," said Barry Johnson, senior associate dean for research at U.Va.'s Engineering School and board member. "In the coming months, this center will allow our faculty researchers and students to work at the leading-edge of aerospace propulsion research."

As a virtual center, CCAPS will use existing lab space at both U.Va. and Virginia Tech to address the latest aerospace propulsion system research questions while offering students the opportunity to work as graduate research assistants and undergraduate interns. Under the guidance of Rolls-Royce, a world-class power systems provider, CCAPS will explore breakthrough concepts for creating more efficient and effective jet-engine propulsion systems.

The U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science stands to benefit from the creation of three endowed professorships. These new faculty members will have expertise to conduct research of interest to CCAPS, as well as the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, an applied research center associated with the partnership that is slated for construction in Prince George County, Va., beginning this fall.

During its first meeting held earlier this month, CCAPS' board of directors identified significant potential research areas in materials science and engineering, and mechanical and aerospace engineering to be addressed by current U.Va. Engineering School faculty. These research areas and professors include coatings research being conducted by Hadyn Wadley, corrosion research by John Scully and Robert Kelly, and magnetic bearing research by Paul Allaire.

Funding will come from the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has pledged $2.5 million in matching funds for research over the next five years, with matching funds from Rolls-Royce. The funds will be distributed to research projects involving these centers or schools over the next five years. .

"CCAPS represents the future of collaboration between industry and academia," said Phil Burkholder, chief operating officer of Rolls-Royce North American Technologies Inc. and a CCAPS board member. "It will play a central role in our company's global technology development strategy and help make the Commonwealth of Virginia a world leader in technology innovation."

In addition to the educational opportunities offered through assistantships and internships, plans call for a Rolls-Royce visiting professor to teach at the U.Va. Engineering School. Currently, the company participates on the Engineering School's Industrial Advisory Board, offering an industry perspective on educational programs at the school.

"We are proud to be strengthening our relationship with Rolls-Royce and Virginia Tech through CCAPS," said James H. Aylor, dean of the U.Va. Engineering School. "The new center promises to help advance the field of aerospace propulsion research, while also benefitting the Commonwealth's future engineers. It will be exciting to see the research that will come out of this center and also the next leaders of innovation it will help to produce."

— By Zak Richards