Steeling the EU’s steel industry for global competition

The Commission has launched plans to boost research efforts in order to help the EU’s steel industry meet the challenges of the global marketplace.

Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Guy Dollé, President of EUROFER, have jointly launched the European Steel Technology Platform to meet the challenges facing the European steel industry in the next 30 years.

Thanks to radical restructuring in the 70s and 80s and the introduction of modern technologies and production processes during the 90s, the European steel industry has succeeded in keeping its competitive edge in worldwide steel trade. Today, its annual production of about 160 millions tonnes generates a 90-100 billion euro turnover per year, providing direct employment for more than 250,000 EU citizens, and even more jobs in steel processing, usage and recycling.

However, the industry is facing serious challenges: changing supply and demand patterns, competition with emerging markets, environmental objectives and the need for extensive restructuring in the light of enlargement. To face these challenges, representatives of the European steel industry (who make up the new Platform) have presented a report to develop a strategic research agenda and a long-term vision for the sector up to 2030.

While the steel industry has succeeded in reducing its CO2emissions by 60 percent over 40 years, it still accounts for six per cent of total EU CO2emission. In light of environmental policies, EU steel might lose its competitive advantage in favour of the plastic and aluminium sectors and foreign producers. Reducing emission has therefore been identified as a crucial objective for the steel industry.

The 1.6 billion euro legacy of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is now being used to finance research activities in these sectors. For 2003-4, over 43 million euro a year will be earmarked for R&D in the steel sector. Additional funding opportunities are available through the 6th Research Framework Programme.

 

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