April 12, 2018 / 3:22 PM / 2 years ago

Rolls-Royce and Boeing back UK minnow's rocket engine technology

LONDON (Reuters) - British aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) and U.S. planemaker Boeing (BA.N) have both invested in rocket engine company Reaction Engines as the latest blue-chip companies to back the start-up’s thermal management technology.

The logo of Boeing (BA) is seen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Reaction Engines, based in Oxfordshire, England, said on Thursday that it had raised 26.5 million pounds ($37.7 million)from a range of new investors including Rolls-Royce and Boeing’s investment arm Boeing HorizonX Ventures.

They join defense giant and existing investor BAE Systems (BAES.L), which increased its investment in the latest fundraising round.

Reaction Engines is working on ultra light, miniature and extremely powerful heat exchangers to develop an engine that could power hypersonic planes and help to deliver satellites to space.

In the shorter term, however, the company is focusing on commercializing parts of its technology so it can start generating revenue in the next 18 months.

Chief Executive Mark Thomas told Reuters that he is initially targeting electric vehicles, energy generation and aero engines.

Rolls-Royce, for instance, could use the technology in the next-generation engines it is working on and is keen to explore that area, Thomas said.

“Potentially it could enable you to have a more efficient and cleaner, so greener, civil aero engine by improving the thermal dynamics of that engine,” he said.

Boeing, meanwhile, has ambitions to develop commercial supersonic and hypersonic planes.

Reaction Engines did not say what stake Rolls-Royce and Boeing will hold in the company, which is owned by a range of strategic and financial investors and employees.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by David Goodman

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