Rolls-Royce ignites industrial AI with new partnerships
Rolls Royce turbine
A section of a Rolls Royce turbine

Rolls-Royce ignites industrial AI with new partnerships

Industrial technology and engine specialist Rolls-Royce has joined forces with the Alan Turing Institute and the Hasso Plattner Institute to further its industrial artificial intelligence (AI) and other capabilities.

The first of these partnerships was revealed by Internet of Business in its coverage of the UK’s £1 billion Sector Deal for AI last week, but further details have since emerged.

Business secretary Greg Clark is eager to present the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed between Rolls-Royce and the Alan Turing Institute, as being indicative of the UK government’s new AI ambitions:

“Advances in science, technology, and data are changing the way we live and work. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, and its landmark AI Sector Deal, we want to ensure the UK continues to be at the heart of this growing industry, reaps the economic benefits, and delivers the transformational nature of this technology to people across the country.

This agreement between The Alan Turing Institute and Rolls-Royce will make a valuable contribution in this pioneering field, bringing together the best minds from both institutions to develop the innovative AI solutions of tomorrow.

Industry and academia join forces

Building on the pioneering work of its namesake, the Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s not-for-profit institute for data science. The research body was formed by some of the country’s leading universities and seeks to promote data science in the ‘age of algorithms’.

Neil Crockett, chief digital officer, Rolls-Royce, said:“This collaboration is about delivering real-world impact from AI technologies, but on an industrial scale. At Rolls-Royce, we believe that AI is central to unleashing huge value for our customers and from within our own business, and in achieving our goal of pioneering the power that matters.

The joint programme of research will explore the application of data science at scale, the use of AI across supply chains, data-centric engineering and predictive maintenance, and the role of data analytics and AI in science.

Rolls-Royce and the Alan Turing Institute will also collaborate to advocate the value of data science and AI in building a forward-looking UK economy.

Alan Wilson, CEO of The Alan Turing Institute, reflected on the partnership:

Rolls-Royce has a long tradition of investing in some of the best research institutions in the UK and overseas. We share a common goal of shaping the world we live in for the better, and I am delighted that the Turing will collaborate with Rolls-Royce in some of our key strategic areas: to develop and apply data science and AI approaches to tackle real-world problems, as well as to train future generations in these transformative subjects.

Hasso Plattner partnership

Rolls-Royce has since signed a second MOU with the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI), which was established and funded at the University of Potsdam by SAP’s co-founder.

As Germany’s university excellence centre for digital engineering, HPI will work with Rolls-Royce’s acceleration hub for data innovation, R² Data Labs, to create new capabilities at the company. These will cover:

  • Artificial Intelligence – The analysis of data through the use of pattern recognition in AI, enabling more precise and customised precautionary maintenance to improve operational efficiency.
  • Design Thinking – The HPI’s Design Thinking approach was developed for creative problem-solving. Both partners are now collaborating on ways to integrate Design Thinking into Rolls-Royce’s future training, and the Digital Academy programme.
  • E-learning – Digital training and knowledge transfer in global companies is an increasingly important success factor. The HPI will set up up digital training and E-learning environments to support information exchange.
  • Data security – Engines deliver large amounts of data, both in the process of manufacturing them, and during their operation. The joint research will explore data flows, organisation, and storage to ensure that data integrity and protection are maximised.

Internet of Business says

Rolls-Royce’s data innovation arm R2 Data Labs has already established itself at the core of the company’s future strategy, thanks to huge investment (Rolls-Royce spent £1.3 billion on R&D in 2016) and partnerships with, among others, Tata Consultancy, Microsoft, IoT Tribe North, Seraphim Space Camp Accelerator, and Startupbootcamp.

This blend of industrial IoT and tech startup accelerators emphasises the company’s determination to innovate rapidly, across the board, and at scale.

Rolls-Royce has also partnered with Nottingham University to carry out research and prototyping on remote robotic jet engine surgery, to allow maintenance engineers in Derby to repair engines on the tarmac anywhere in the world, without having to fly there in person.

Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, including more than 400 airlines and leasing companies, 160 armed forces, 4,000 marine organisations, including 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.

Given the magnitude of its operations and the complexity of its technology, it’s clear that Rolls-Royce stands to benefit from a well-implemented IoT strategy. With the recent addition of the Alan Turing Institute and HPI to its roster, it now has both the partners and the R&D budget to pull it off.

For more on AI in manufacturing, attend our Internet of Manufacturing events in London, UK on 5-6 June, or Chicago, USA on 6-7 June.

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