THE North-East will be a pioneering global aerospace force in £45m plans to create an engineering centre of excellence.

Rolls-Royce, which has a plant in Washington, Wearside, will develop low-carbon-aircraft engines alongside the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) after Government and industry support.

The move was revealed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable as they opened Rolls-Royce’s new £100m factory in the region.

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The plant, which will support hundreds of jobs, will make 2,500 fan and turbine discs every year for engines in Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier aircraft.

The site will also make discs for the Trent XWB, classed as the world’s fastest-selling and most efficient civil aircraft engine, which is fitted into Airbus’ A350 XWB.

Mr Clegg said: “We should be really proud the UK is the number one aerospace industry in Europe and a world leader in innovation.

“The highly-skilled workers at the new Rolls-Royce factory are leading the charge for innovative technologies made in the UK.

“The Government’s £45m investment, alongside industry support, will help ensure the UK continues to build and design the planes of the future.

“I am working hard to make sure aerospace continues to boost growth in the North-East and across the country, building a stronger economy.”

Dr Cable, who was last week defended by Mr Clegg over claims he was involved in a plot to oust him from office, said it was vital skilled jobs stay in the North-East.

He added: “The UK is at the forefront of the global aerospace industry, and investments such as this new factory will help to keep us there.

“The projects we are funding through our aerospace industrial strategy will ensure the UK develops the efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft of the future, while keeping highly-skilled manufacturing jobs in this country.”

Bosses said the £45m funding will deliver research and development projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions by using lightweight materials in engines.

They said the research, carried out by partners including Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, will focus on changing parts of engine design to increase efficiency and cut building time.

Gary Elliott, ATI chief executive, added: “These projects, led by Rolls-Royce, will help the UK develop more efficient, technologically sophisticated aircraft engines.

“They are vital to reducing emissions and underline the aerospace industry’s commitment to improving the environment.”

The ATI was opened by Business Minister and former Darlington MP Michael Fallon earlier this year.