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Paul Bowen and Mark Jefferies at Rolls Royce
Professor Paul Bowen (left) with Mark Jefferies, Chief of University Research Liaison for Rolls-Royce Group

The Materials University Technology Centre (UTC) at the University of Birmingham has been awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Team Silver Medal for its collaborative research with Rolls-Royce Group plc.

Led by Paul Bowen, Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Birmingham, the UTC has collaborated with Rolls-Royce since 2009. Key achievements have focused on the nickel-based superalloys used in applications such as turbine blades in aeroplane engines. In particular, the team has worked to understand the mechanisms of cracking under high temperatures and the implications of this behaviour for aircraft safety.

This improved understanding has led to these materials being safely introduced into aircraft components where they significantly improved efficiency.

The success of the partnership between our Materials University Technology Centre and Rolls-Royce has truly been down to productive teamwork and excellent collaboration and we’re delighted to see this recognised by the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Professor Paul Bowen

The Team Medals are among a list of awards and medals made each year by the RAeS for achievement and innovation in aviation, aerospace and space. Announcing the 2021 winners,

Howard Nye FRAeS, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society said: “This year’s list of award winners demonstrates the huge amount of innovation that is happening right across the aerospace, aviation and space industries. We are standing on the precipice of a new era in flight with the huge growth and potential in space and the vital decarbonisation of the whole aerospace sector. Many of our award winners are shaping those futures as well as contributing to the mission of our Society.

“The leaders we celebrate today are a diverse cross-section from and represent every corner of our industries. Our winners work in manufacturing, engineering, materials, aerodynamics, defence, flight operations, spaceflight, government administration and more. We celebrate the outstanding contribution made by each of these award winners who have dedicated their working lives to this most vital industry and we congratulate them on their incredible achievements.”

Professor Bowen has collaborated with Rolls-Royce since 1987, has led the UTC since 2001 and has strengthened the partnership with the strategic input of Mark Jefferies, Chief of University Research Liaison for Rolls-Royce Group, since 2009. 

Although there have been technical and scientific inputs over the years from a myriad of PhD/EngD students and professional researchers at both organisations, key contributors to the specific achievements recognised  by the RAeS includ: Hang-Yue Li (detailed and novel crack growth experiments) and Hiroto Kitaguchi (detailed microstructural characterisation), both at Birmingham; and, in collaboration with Mark Hardy (development and optimisation of the proprietary powder-based alloys RR1000 and RR1073), Steve Williams (predictive lifing methodologies), and Simon Bray (optimisation of inertia welds) all at Rolls- Royce. The Materials UTC at Birmingham (established in 1992) remains a cornerstone of the company’s interactions with universities around the world.

  • For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348 or the Royal Aeronautical Society  tel: +44 (0)207 670 4362  
  • Image: Paul Bowen, Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Birmingham (left), with Mark Jefferies, Chief of University Research Liaison for Rolls-Royce Group. 
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The Royal Aeronautical Society has been honouring outstanding achievers in the global aerospace industry since 1909, when Wilbur and Orville Wright came to London to receive the Society’s first Gold Medal. Over the years, honouring aerospace achievers in this way has become an annual tradition. The Society’s Awards Programme recognises and celebrates individuals and teams who have made an exceptional contribution to aerospace, whether it is for an outstanding achievement, a major technical innovation, exceptional leadership, or for work that will further advance aerospace.