Rolls-Royce plans UK component plant

28 July 2009

Engineering firm Rolls-Royce will invest over £300 million ($495 million), including £45 million ($74 million) of government funding, in four new plants in the UK. One of these plants will be for components for nuclear power plants.


The company said that the new plant - the location of which has not been disclosed - will manufacture, assemble and test components for new civil nuclear power plants. These components will include pressure vessels, heat exchangers and other large reactor parts.


Rolls-Royce noted that the new component plant will have "strong links" with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), announced by the UK government earlier this month, in which the company will be the leading industrial partner. The NAMRC is expected to open in 2011.


The other three new UK plants will be focused on aerospace. One will produce wide-chord fan blades for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, while another will manufacture disks in advanced alloys for fans and turbines of aircraft engines. The third will be a casting facility for single crystal turbine blades for high-temperature aircraft engines.


The government investment funding towards the new Rolls-Royce plants is part of a package of measures totalling £151.5 million ($250 million) launched by business secretary Lord Mandelson to help UK manufacturers "seize the opportunities provided by emerging technologies."


In addition, Rolls-Royce will receive a further £45 million ($74 million) from the low-carbon element of the Strategic Investment Fund to lead research into the development of low-carbon aircraft engine technology.


The company noted, "The research programs will focus on critical technologies to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of future aircraft programs and will accelerate the development of new manufacturing methods that create significant competitive advantage for the UK." Some 800 jobs should result.


Sir John Rose, CEO of Rolls-Royce, commented: "These are significant investments in capability and research which reflect our commitment to continue to invest in the future of our business, even at this stage in the economic cycle. We are delighted that the British government will be supporting these projects.


According to Rolls-Royce, the civil nuclear market is currently worth around £30 billion ($50 billion) a year globally and is expected to grow to £50 billion ($82 billion) a year in 15 years' time, more than 70% of which will relate to the building and support of new facilities.


As part of its expansion into the civil nuclear power market, the company's nuclear division recently announced plans for a new technical office in Warrington, Cheshire, creating 80 new jobs.


In recent days the UK government also announced a European Investment Bank program to lend up to £1 billion ($1.6 billion) to offshore wind developers.