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A zinc magnesium alloy magnified 70 times. Used as a coating to protect steel against corrosion, extending its life (Picture: Nathan Cooze)

Climate change groups, companies and university researchers from across the UK have been exploring how they can contribute to a smart, green and clean steel industry, at an event organised by the Swansea-led SUSTAIN project. 

The event, held at the Royal Society in London, was the first time representatives from such a broad range of sectors had come together to consider how research can shape the future of the steel industry, its processes and products.

The central point that emerged was that steel – the world’s most recycled material - is part of the solution, not the problem, when it comes to boosting economic growth in an environmentally sustainable way.  

SUSTAIN is a £35 million research network which aims to transform the UK steel sector into a carbon neutral, zero waste, digitally agile industry that is responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers.  

Led by Swansea University with the universities of Sheffield and Warwick, the network already involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: primary manufacturers, supply chain, trade bodies, academic experts and research organisations. 

The London event, attended by more than 100 people, was aimed at extending this network of partners and collaborators still further. 

There is funding of £1m available to new researchers for feasibility studies and complementary project work. This research may be applied to the 5 main themes of the SUSTAIN project – below - or potentially to an additional theme if appropriate.

  • Emissions management/use
  • Zero waste steelmaking
  • Data-driven innovation
  • Smart low-energy production
  • New processes for new products

Richard Curry, SUSTAIN research programme manager, said:

”There was a huge amount of enthusiasm from everyone at the event: academics, existing circular economy and climate change groups and supply chain industries.

The clear message was that steel is part of the solution, not the problem.  It is an industry of the future, not the past, and is crucial in building a successful and sustainable way forward.

Our discussion was a chance to take a fresh look at the opportunities and develop practical innovative solutions. We will be getting everyone back together and working up the project ideas, teams and proposals. These proposals will then be assessed so that we can decide how to allocate funding.”

Professor Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said:

“SUSTAIN 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 event, by creating new potential links and partnerships, is another giant step forward."

Read about Swansea University's work on 21st century steel

Picture: zinc magnesium alloy under a microscope.  Used as a coating to protect steel against corrosion, extending its life (credit: Nathan Cooze, Swansea University) 

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