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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Steel technologies projects > Life after the ECSC for steel research
Graphic element Life after the ECSC for steel research
    26-09-2002
 
Source: © avestapolarit
Graphic elementSource: © avestapolarit

Since 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) has played a major economic role going far beyond the two industries it represents, but the end of the ECSC treaty on 23 July 2002 did not signify the end of a technological era. Eager to conserve the dynamic role of community innovation, the Member States have decided to use ECSC residual funds to continue to support research in the coal and steel sectors.

The coal and steel industries played important roles in the rebuilding of Europe immediately after the war and throughout the 1950s and 60s, but the subsequent major decline in demand for both could have plunged Western Europe into a dangerous economic recession. The ECSC struck the right balance through improved productivity and the development of products to support new industries. An essential characteristic of the ECSC was the considerable means dedicated to research.

Funding to be carried over
 

When the treaty expired earlier this year, all still available ECSC funds – some € 1.6 billion – would normally have reverted to the Member States. However, the innovative spirit that helped develop the ECSC research programme as a very strong element of the European Research Area led to the Council agreeing to continue common funding of RTD in these two sectors. Under the management of the European Commission, that decision will provide some € 60 million a year covering activities not included in the EU Research Framework Programme, 72.8% of which will go to steel-related research

While the challenge still remains to make coal cleaner and to reduce associated CO2 emissions, modern steel production has already established itself as an increasingly environmentally friendly and energy efficient activity. The Commission will manage future research in both areas with even greater emphasis on these environmental objectives.

 
Technical and economic relevance
 

Steel is a high technology material adding value to a wide range of applications. An inescapable component in our technological world, it offers a range of unique physical properties, including high strength and flexibility combined with toughness. Safe and dependable, steel is also highly cost effective and fully recyclable. Continued research and investment is nevertheless still essential – the majority of the thousands of steel grades currently available have only been developed in the past ten years.

On the economic side, steel production represents a major European industry. The EU is now the world leader with annual production running at 159 million tonnes (20% of world output), a yearly turnover of € 90 million and – following decades of automation, mergers and restructuring – employing some 276,000 people. This contrasts markedly with the situation 50 years ago, when annual production in the original six Community countries was only 39 million tonnes, yet the industry then employed over half a million people; employment peaked at 774,000 at the beginning of the 1970s. The ECSC played a crucial role in helping the steel industry adapt to global competition while respecting social needs in terms of worker rights and reduced environmental impact.

 
A new research programme
 

The new steel research programme, approved by Council in February 2002, focuses on technologies to guarantee the economic, clean and safe production of steel and steel products. Priorities will be reviewed or supplemented every five years – with the first period ending on 31 December 2007. There will be a continuous open call for project proposals with a cut-off date of 15 September each year for evaluation. Full details are available on the CORDIS website .

Key elements of the initial programme are to include:

  • Improved production and finishing techniques – this includes not only enhanced product quality and increased productivity but also reduction in emissions, lower energy consumption, greater environmental protection and conservation of resources;
  • Meeting user expectations and creating new market opportunities – including new steel grades for demanding applications, improved mechanical properties at low and high temperatures, prolonged service particularly in terms of resistance to heat and corrosion, and greater structural safety – especially resistance to fire and earthquakes;
  • Conservation of resources – particularly in terms of facilitating material recovery and recycling – and improved work place safety.
 
Funding to be carried over
Technical and economic relevance
A new research programme
     

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