Excellence in technology

In 2011, Rolls-Royce invested £908 million in gross research and development, of which £520 million was funded from Group resources. Globally, 475 new patent applications were approved for filing – a record number for the Group.

Rolls Royce engineer inspecting the Trent XWB, aero gas turbine

Major technology programmes

The Trent XWB is the latest member of the Trent family in development and is designed to be the most efficient, large aero gas turbine ever produced.

Gross research and development

Patents and income graph

Research and technology

The Group’s 12,400 engineers are an increasingly integrated global resource, whose activities include research and technology, product development and in-service support.

Our successful model of collaboration, through a network of 28 University Technology Centres and seven advanced manufacturing research centres, provides access to world-class research.

With the opening of three advanced manufacturing research centres in the UK during 2011, a total of five are now operational. The next two are due to be opened in the US in 2012 and Singapore in 2013. These centres bring companies, industrial sectors and universities around the world together, in a common endeavour to develop step-change improvements across a portfolio of manufacturing technologies.

In addition, the Advanced Simulation Research Centre was opened in Bristol, UK, in March 2011 and is now enabling Rolls-Royce and member organisations to access the latest simulation technologies for product development, reducing the need for costly physical testing and improving product design efficiency.

Civil aerospace

The year was notable for the successful entry into service of our latest large engine, the Trent 1000, as launch engine for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Trent 1000 completed 670 flights in service with launch customer ANA by the year end.

Flight testing of the BR725-powered Gulfstream G650 recovered from the tragic loss of a test aircraft in April to achieve Provisional Type Certification from the Federal Aviation Authority in November 2011.

The Trent XWB development programme continued successfully, with several key functional, maturity and certification tests completed at sites in four countries. The engine is the only option for the Airbus A350 airliner family. The Trent XWB promises to be the most efficient, large aero gas turbine ever produced.

Our ongoing work to improve the environmental performance of our products continued with key technology demonstrators. The Environmentally Friendly Engine (EFE) completed successful testing of an advanced ‘lean burn’ combustor. Meanwhile, the latest E3E medium-size, two-shaft demonstrator core completed testing at the University of Stuttgart’s altitude facility during the year.

Defence aerospace

Our engineers in Indianapolis are working on key enabling technologies for the US Air Force ADVENT contract. This work focuses on developing and demonstrating variable cycle engine technologies aimed at incorporation in future generation US military aircraft. The team completed designs and procured test hardware in preparation for a core engine test which will take place in 2012 and a full demonstrator engine test in 2013.

In addition, during the year we won contracts for the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Integrated Vehicle Energy Technology (INVENT) and Integrated Power and Thermal Management System Development (IPTMSD) programmes. These both focus on development of electrical and thermal management architectures to support the next generation of military aircraft.


Engineers in our submarines business are engaged in detailed design of the PWR3 reactor plant, which, in May 2011, was selected for the next generation of Royal Navy submarines. This project now represents the second largest technology programme in Rolls-Royce after the Trent XWB. Rolls-Royce has been designing and supplying nuclear reactors for the Royal Navy for over 50 years, with the PWR2 model currently the latest version in service. At the Nor-Shipping Exhibition in Oslo, our Environship concept, the NVC 405 Environship, won the ‘Next Generation Ship’ award, and we launched a new ‘concept bridge’ for marine vessels.

In other marine programmes, we completed our first production Permanent Magnet Tunnel Thruster, and the Rolls-Royce operated NATO Submarine Rescue Service achieved full operational capability. A prototype carbon fibre azimuthing thruster exceeded performance and noise expectations during sea trials. Azimuthing thrusters rotate 360 degrees allowing them to perform both the propulsion and steering duties for a vessel.


In civil nuclear, EDF selected Rolls-Royce to modernise the safety-critical I&C systems of 20 French nuclear power plants. This contract, combined with a 25-year services agreement, means we are committed to support our SPINLINE™ technology with EDF until 2048.


Rolls-Royce has developed a reputation for engineering excellence and has been at the forefront of innovation for over 100 years. We continue to push technological barriers, create intellectual property on behalf of our stakeholders and develop advanced power products across each of our chosen markets.

Colin Smith, Director of Engineering and Technology

Colin Smith

Director – Engineering and Technology

Our research and development investment represents both a commitment to continuous improvement of our existing portfolio and a long-term investment in future technology.

Patent applications were approved for filing – a record number for the Group.


New order intake during the year was strong, up 15 per cent to £2.1 billion...


Significant demand for our products and services in offshore oil and gas applications...


Strong programme positions supported further robust order flow in 2011...