The Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) programme supports the competitiveness of the coal and steel sectors by co-financing industrial research projects.
EU funding in 2010
The programme was created in 2003, following the expiry in 2002 of the 50-year old European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty, which initiated the process of European integration. The annual budget of €55-60 million comes from interest paid on ECSC residual assets. This budget is split between coal (27.2%) and steel (72.8%) and is managed separately from the EU R&D framework programmes.
As a solid fossil fuel, coal's main applications are in electricity generation, steel production and cement manufacturing. It will remain a key element of Europe's energy security. With 40% of world electricity production derived from coal, it will continue to play a pre-eminent role in a balanced energy mix for Europe. Coal is still abundant and, unlike oil, amply available in large quantities across the world in a variety of politically stable countries. Consequently, clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and storage for existing and future coal-fired electricity plants and increased efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions throughout the entire coal extraction and processing cycle, are essential if it is to become a sustainable energy source.
Steel is one of the most important and commonly used materials, with applications in the building industry and the manufacture of vehicles, machinery, medical devices and household appliances. Although 100% recyclable, sophisticated new technologies need to be developed and exploited, to reduce its big carbon footprint. Its adverse environmental impacts are considerable, as it requires intensive energy input both for its production from iron ore and, to a significantly lesser extent, for its recycling. Europe accounts for 18% of world steel output.
Europe's coal and steel industries contend with stiff competition in global markets. They also face severe pressure to reduce their environmental impacts: key technologies for the sustainable production and use of coal and steel will provide an opportunity for European industry to maintain its position in these strategic areas.
From its creation in 2003 to the end of 2010, the RFCS supported 430 projects for a total value of €439 million.