Universities research clean steel in £35m collaboration

Feb 18 2019


The SUSTAIN project sees steelmakers and university experts work together on a seven-year research programme to transform the UK steel sector.

The network, called SUSTAIN, is led by Swansea University, partnered with the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick, and involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: companies, trade bodies, academic experts and research organisations.  It is supported by a £10 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as it will be one of their Future Manufacturing Research Hubs. 

The announcement is a landmark as it is the first time that UK steel producers and representatives from the manufacturing sector have lined up behind a co-ordinated programme of research.  It is also the largest ever single investment in steel research by a UK research council.  The plan is that SUSTAIN will be a seed from which much wider research and innovation will grow, drawing on expertise across UK academia and beyond.

The aim of SUSTAIN is to transform the whole steel supply chain, making it cleaner, greener and smarter, and more responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers.  Its work will be concentrated on two areas:

Zero waste iron and steelmaking, with the aim of making the industry carbon-neutral by 2040:  Steel is already the world’s most recycled material, but the network will investigate new ways of making the industry’s processes and products even greener, such as harvesting untapped energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and re-processing societal and industrial waste streams.

“Steel is fundamental to every aspect of society," said Professor Mark Rainforth of The University of Sheffield. "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. This grant brings together all the UK experts in steel to address this critical issue”.

Smart steel processing: like any 21st century industry, steelmaking involves masses of data. SUSTAIN will develop new ways of acquiring and using this data in new metallurgical processes, which can deliver bespoke high tech products.

Steel is the most widely-used structural material in the world.  If a product isn’t made of steel it’s made using steel. 

Steel is at the heart of 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.

The work of SUSTAIN is projected to:

  • Double UK steel manufacturers’ gross value added (GVA) by 2030
  • Boost jobs in the industry to 35,000
  • Increase productivity by 15%

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."

Swansea University


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Issue 69 - May - June 2019

CCUS in Europe - CO2-DISSOLVED: combining CO2 geological storage with geothermal heat recovery .. Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions from EU Heavy Industry .. SINTEF - carbon capture is cheaper than ever UK Government should ‘green light’ carbon captur.....


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