The Rolls-Royce Deal and Knowledge Creation

The University of Virginia has released new details about the Rolls-Royce deal and, despite my misgivings over the $56.8 million in state contributions to the project (see “Questions about the Rolls Royce Deal“), I have to concede that Virginia is putting some of the money where it belongs — increasing the state’s capacity for knowledge creation rather than into Rolls-Royce’s pockets.

According to an article in the University of Virginia Magazine’s e-newsletter, a partnership encompassing U.Va, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Community College System will create two new research centers: The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, adjacent to the Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, and the Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems to be headquartered at U.Va.

The Commonwealth will support the Virginia universities in these endeavors over five years with the following:

  • Funding for nine chaired professorships — three in engineering at U.Va., three in U.Va.’s McIntire School of Commerce and three at Virginia Tech
  • Endowment of graduate fellowships to support the work of U.Va. and Tech graduate students at the Advanced Manufacturing Center and on the home campuses
  • Endowment of internships to support undergraduate students working with Rolls-Royce in Virginia and around the world
  • Renovation of mechanical engineering laboratories at U.Va. and Virginia Tech
  • Support for enhancements to the manufacturing programs at U.Va.’s Engineering School, which will allow the introduction of a manufacturing minor
  • Assistance to the community colleges to retrain existing Rolls-Royce employees and to train new Rolls-Royce employees
  • Matching funds for research support provided by Rolls-Royce. The research will be in areas of interest to Rolls-Royce, including work done within the Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems.

If the Commonwealth is going to invest public funds in higher education, it might as well steer funds into projects that arise in response to market demand and create stronger industry/workforce/research clusters. Indeed, investments made on behalf of Rolls-Royce may provide the basis for enticing other aerospace businesses to Virginia.

This project takes economic development to a higher level — it’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of Economy 4.0 thinking in practice here in the Commonwealth. Advanced manufacturing and aerospace research are the kinds of high value-added economic activity we want to encourage. I still have reservations about spending so much money on a single project, but this latest news ameliorates my concerns to some degree.

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3 responses to “The Rolls-Royce Deal and Knowledge Creation”

  1. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    While you guys get high tech and maybe a future job stream, good ole Va. Beach gets the same o… stuff. Shuffling deck chairs, once again.

    The City Council agreed Tuesday to pay as much as $3.5 million so an international charity will move its headquarters from Norfolk.

    Operation Smile, founded in 1982, is expected to break ground next year on a building near the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center along Princess Anne Road. Beach leaders agreed to pay for improvements to the new site, which abuts Tidewater Community College’s campus.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Darrell, apparently your folks don’t know how to use GOOGLE:

    “”On the flip side, one of the most well-known poorly run charities is Operation Smile, which has partnered with Jessica Simpson,” she said. “A relatively low percentage of their budget is going to the services they’re in the business of providing and instead go to high administration and fund-raising expenses.”

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I might need to read more about this but it “sounds” like a bunch of new tenured seats….

    so these seats are going to cost taxpayers and student tuition probably for a long time.

    I hope the seats are tied directly to the mission and not morph into “generic” seats.

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