Rolls-Royce expanding research footprint at Purdue University

Rolls-Royce announced on Monday plans to expand its footprint at Purdue University with the construction of three new testing facilities for high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines

Rolls-Royce West Lafayette will be developed at the Purdue Aerospace District, just off the university campus. The company already has facilities focusing on digital engine controls and conducts advanced technology engine research at the university’s Zucrow Propulsion Labs.

Rolls-Royce:to shrink downtown Indianapolis footprint as it rethinks post-pandemic work

Rolls-Royce currently conducts high-altitude testing in Indianapolis but plans to move those operations to West Lafayette. That facility was built in the 1950s, said Warren White, head of assembly and testing at Rolls-Royce Defense. 

It was unclear immediately what the impact of jobs would be in Indianapolis.

"The high altitude testing, there's a few spots we have done that in Indianapolis," White said. "This is a new investment, recapitalization that we need to do from some old facilities we have. It is consistent work that we do when qualifying any new engine. We need to renew that capability and we're choosing to, with that development work, put that unique capability up in aerospace district."

"Together with the university and the labs that we use of there already. They use small amounts of that air. By choosing to put that kind of conditioning facility up there, we can double our research," he said. 

Briggs:Losing Rolls-Royce workers and gaining wealthy renters is a good trade

The expanded West Lafayette site will be staffed with a mix of new hires and job transfers, White said. "I expect a lot of the economic development in that area to fill a lo of the open spots that we have," he added. 

A photo of Purdue Technology Center Aerospace in West Lafayette. Rolls-Royce, the aerospace and defense company, has an electronic controls unit in the building and the new hybrid electrical test cell will be connected to this building.

Rolls-Royce recently told its employees that its shrinking the size of its footprint downtown Indianapolis and consolidating its operations into one building at  existing Meridian Center campus. In addition to the downtown campus, Rolls-Royce has several sites in and around Indianapolis. 

The new facilities in West Lafayette will be funded primarily by Rolls-Royce, with support from Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation. Both the company and the university declined to disclose the total cost of the project and the how much each entity is contributing. 

The expansion, which also includes the adding square feet to an existing building, is estimated to total a combined 50,000 square feet. Rolls-Royce has yet to set a construction timeline but expects the work to take place over the next several years. White said certain facilities will open next year while others will fully open at the start of 2024. 

The company also did not disclose how many new jobs the project would create. 

"This new significant investment will continue to grow our capability to serve our customers," Rolls-Royce North America CEO and chairman Tom Bell said in a news release. "This reflects yet another major investment in Indiana, and we are also planning significant investment into our test facilities at our Indianapolis manufacturing campus, which has benefited from a recently completed $600 million modernization program to grow advanced manufacturing and technology capability."

Pando Aspen Grove:Ex-foster youth at risk for homelessness find safety with newly opened facility

Rolls-Royce said Purdue was chosen for the project because of the company's longstanding research relationship with the university. For several decades the two entities have partnered to conduct aerospace research. Rolls-Royce also employs hundreds of Purdue engineers.

The investment supports Rolls-Royce future plans for new test capabilities to support military engine production. The company also hopes modern test facilities will position Rolls-Royce Defense for the future and significantly improve energy efficiency, helping the company achieve its goal of net-zero carbon status in operations by 2030.

Contact IndyStar reporter Alexandria Burris at or call 317-617-2690. Follow her on Twitter: @allyburris.