The Union produces more than 60
million tonnes of raw steel every year, or 20% of world production.
Faced with increasingly keen international competition, over the
past three decades this key sector has experienced a wave of restructuring
and concentration, coupled with technological modernisation on a
New jobs and technology
The European steel industry currently employs
277 000 workers. In 1952, when the ECSC was created, the six Common
Market countries employed half a million steelworkers, producing
40 million tonnes of steel. In 1973, when the sector began to experience
a crisis, the steel industry employed 774 000 workers producing
10 million tonnes below the present figure.
The ECSC played a vital role in the essential
process of change in the steel industry, in two respects. At the
social level, Community efforts to provide retraining meant little
unemployment among former steelworkers. At the technological level,
support for research was a key catalyst in permitting the modernisation
of the whole production line and satisfying environmental demands.
‘The ECSC played a pioneering role that
foreshadowed the concept of the European Research Area by opting
for integration, which enabled three generations of scientists and
engineers to learn to work and innovate together,’ stressed
European Commissioner Philippe Busquin last June at a conference
which took stock of progress in the steel sector to date and looked
ahead to future steel research.
The ECSC programmes enabled the steel industry
to increase the essential joint effort for technological innovation
in areas such as product diversification, process automation, improvement
in working conditions, reduction of pollution and energy savings.
This continuous research drive, costing almost
a billion euro (funded by a minimal charge on each tonne produced)
produced results which all those involved agree were beneficial.
A 1995 study showed that every euro the ECSC invested in research
projects generated about a dozen euro in return.
Adopted last February,
the Union’s new 2002-2006 ‘steel’
programme will continue the European drive for technological
innovation in parallel with the start of the Sixth Framework
The shared research priorities lie in two main areas:
- continued innovation at every stage of the production
line with a view to sustainable growth (reduced emissions,
energy savings, recycling and rational use of primary
resources), increased competitiveness and improved
- the development of new market opportunities by
producing special steels with very high-level performances
in terms of their properties (at extreme temperatures,
corrosion resistance, antiseismic characteristics,