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£35m research network aims to deliver zero-carbon UK steel sector by 2040

Image credit: DT

A £35m research network has been set up to develop new technologies to lower carbon emissions in the UK’s steel sector.

The network, called SUSTAIN, is led by Swansea University and involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry including companies, trade bodies, academic experts and research organisations.

It is supported by a £10m investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and is described as “the first time that UK steel producers and representatives from the manufacturing sector have lined up behind a co-ordinated programme of research”.

It aims to transform the steel supply chain, making it cleaner, greener and smarter and will be concentrated on two areas.

One of these areas is zero waste iron and steelmaking, with the aim of making the industry carbon-neutral by 2040. While steel is already the world’s most recycled material, the network will investigate new ways of making the industry’s processes and products greener, such as harvesting untapped energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and re-processing societal and industrial waste streams. The second area is smart steel processing; SUSTAIN will develop new methods for acquiring and using data associated with steelmaking, for new metallurgical processes.

Steel is the most widely-used structural material in the world and is used extensively in UK manufacturing sectors such as the car industry, construction, packaging and defence. It is an indispensable component of the UK’s future national infrastructure such as transport, communications and energy, and for high-tech 21st century industries, from energy-positive buildings to wind turbines and electric vehicles.

SUSTAIN projects that its work will double UK steel manufacturers’ gross value added by 2030, boost jobs in the industry to 35,000 and increase productivity by 15 per cent.

Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said: “This news is a massive vote of confidence in the steel industry. It will support the industry’s vision for a responsible, innovative and creative future. We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but this is another giant step forward.”

Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director General, said: “This new boost of innovation funding into the sector is a vital piece of the puzzle to help deliver our vision of a cutting-edge, vibrant, and sustainable steel industry in the UK. The future success of our sector rests on our ability to remain at the forefront of product and process innovation, delivering the new steel products demanded by our customers and society. This new hub will enable us to do just that.”

Professor Mark Rainforth of The University of Sheffield said: “Steel is fundamental to every aspect of society. Developing higher performance steels with reduced carbon footprint during manufacture is key to reducing CO2 emissions and therefore contributing to the reduction in global warming.”

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