Global leader in power and propulsion technology
This is Britain’s premier engineering company and sets industry benchmarks in many aspects of advanced engineering technologies. It is also one of the world’s most famous brands (even though that does have something to do with cars). And right now, there is surging demand for its products and expertise - in air and on land and sea.
There are more than 13,000 Rolls-Royce aero engines in service around the world, powering more than 35 types of commercial aircraft. Among the “widebody” passenger aircraft (i.e those that have an aisle and at least two rows of passenger seats), Rolls-Royce is a dominant presence.
The company expects to power 50 per cent of all such planes in the first half of next decade. It’s also the second largest provider of defence aero-engine products and services globally with 16,000 engines in the service of 160 customers in 103 countries.
On land, its Power Systems division (which is headquartered in southern Germany) makes high-speed engines and propulsion systems for ships, for heavy land, rail and defence vehicles, and for the oil and gas industry. It also makes diesel generator sets, fuel injection systems and medium-speed engines. It is also an important player in the nuclear industry.
On water, 30,000 commercial vessels use Rolls-Royce equipment, design and technology; the company’s MT30 is the world’s most powerful marine gas turbine at sea.
This is one helluva brainy business. It employs more than 50,000 people in more than 46 countries (24,000 in Britain), with some 15,700 being engineers. It files annually for more patents than any other company in the UK. It spends more than £1bn a year on research and development (R&D), and a large proportion of research investment is spent in the UK. The company has invested in 19 University Technology Centres at 14 UK universities.
It’s not all superlatives. The company had to report a string of profit warnings between 2014 and 2016 and has been mired in stories about bribery. It has “enjoyed” a reputation of being secretive, bureaucratic and insular.
Yet there is no denying its value to the UK economy. Here’s the return: a contribution of £9bn to the UK economy and accounts for £1 out of every £50 that the UK exports in goods. For every £1 of government funding Rolls-Royce receives, it invests £17 in research and development, capital expenditure and training in the UK.