Rolls-Royce, Purdue combine strengths to create $33 million strategic partnership for jet engine design

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Rolls-Royce and Purdue University will combine resources to form a $33 million jet-engine research and development program to create next-generation aircraft propulsion systems.

"It is a badge of pride for Purdue University to be selected by one of the world's truly great research and manufacturing companies for a partnership," said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. "There is no more fitting or prestigious first step for the university's Aerospace District, which we imagine is a big piece of Purdue's future." 

Rolls-Royce already employs nearly 600 Purdue alumni, making it a strong recruiter of Purdue graduates.

"Research and development in jet engines is an important objective for Rolls-Royce as we strive to create jet engines that are more energy-efficient and can perform even more effectively," said Phil Burkholder, president of Rolls-Royce Defense Aerospace, North America. "Purdue has always been a great partner with Rolls-Royce and I am confident that our collaborative research will result in strong long-term advances in jet engine development."

Lisa Teague, head of Rolls-Royce Research & Technology in Indianapolis, said, "We're very happy to have such a world-class university just up the road from us, and we're very pleased to see this increased recognition of the strong relationship."

As part of the increased engagement Rolls-Royce will designate Purdue as a University Technology Partner (UTP). The Purdue UTP will initially encompass two research centers in the areas of advanced thermal management systems and advanced compressor systems, expanding beyond the current University Technology Center (UTC) designation. The first Rolls-Royce UTC established outside of Europe was launched at Purdue in 2003 to study high-Mach propulsion, and that program is transitioning into a focus on systems for advanced thermal management, said Dan Hirleman, Purdue's chief corporate and global partnerships officer.  Now Purdue receives the second UTP designation in the U.S.

"The investment by Rolls-Royce will further support Purdue's Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, the nation's largest university-based propulsion laboratory, which has a storied history of performing research for NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies," Hirleman said.

In early 2015 Purdue announced that Lilly Endowment Inc. had provided $5 million to expand the Zucrow Laboratories as part of a $40 million grant to the university to support five transformational projects in the colleges of engineering and technology, as well as Purdue Libraries. The grant was the largest cash donation given in Purdue's history.

The new partnership with Rolls-Royce reflects Purdue's commitment to leveraging the Lilly Endowment grant to bolster research and education in engineering and technology and to strengthen Purdue's contribution to Indiana's economy.

"When the Endowment provided this grant we hoped it would generate collaborations like the one being announced today between Rolls-Royce and Purdue," said Sara B. Cobb, the Endowment's vice president for education. "We are eager to see this promising partnership evolve."

The Rolls-Royce funding will support research and technology development in thermal management for advanced propulsion systems, compressor and turbine technology, and analytical methods. 

"This work will have an important impact on the industry," said Nicole Key, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. "We have a good team in place. We know we are impacting future engine designs and yet we are able to simultaneously investigate many fundamental questions into the science and engineering of propulsion."

The Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, Purdue University Airport and Purdue Aviation LLC are located within the 980-acre Purdue Research Park Aerospace District. In 2015, Rolls-Royce announced its move into a research and technology lab in the district's first building, a 40,000-square-foot facility, slated for completion on Oct. 1, at the gateway intersection of State Street and U.S. 231. The Purdue Research Park Aerospace District is owned and managed by the Purdue Research Foundation.

The Purdue Aerospace District is located on the west side of the Purdue University campus. The site has been named an Indiana Certified Technology Park by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. 


Writers: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709,

Cynthia Sequin, Purdue Research Foundation, 765-588-3340

Rolls-Royce Media Relations: Joel Reuter, 317-230-6662, 

Sources: Mitch Daniels,

Dan Hirleman, 765-494-9095, 

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