A major step forward has been taken with with the opening of the new Steel and Metals Institute at Swansea University.
The world leading research and innovation centre will work in collaboration with industry and other UK and Global centres of excellence to drive innovation in products and performance to create a steel and metals industry fit for the 21st Century. Swansea University, with its long history of steel and metals research and its proximity to primary steel making in Port Talbot is the natural home for innovation in the steel and metals industry.
Mr Bimlendra Jha, Chief Executive Officer Tata Steel UK and Professor Richard B Davies, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University accompanied the First Minister at the launch.
Ernst Hoogenes (Tata Steel Europe Head of R&D), Steve Jones (Operations Director - ?Celsa Manufacturing), and Martin Brunnock (Research, Development and Technical Director Tata Steel UK) showed their support at the event. Representatives from Industry, Academia, SMEs, Community Union, Government and SaMI staff were also present.
Swansea University Vice Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies said: "Steel is a foundation industry supporting strategic advanced manufacturing and construction supply chains. A thriving steel industry is critical to a thriving manufacturing base in Wales and the UK. Research and innovation is propelling steel to become a great industry of the 21st Century delivering new products, levels of performance and recycling possibilities.
"Swansea University has always been at the forefront of innovation in the metals industry. That remains the case today. We have a wealth of expertise and talent, and a rich network of partnerships within the industry. We are passionate about working with industry and research partners to build a successful and sustainable steel future through innovation excellence and a pipeline of talented people."
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The Welsh Government is a tireless supporter of the Welsh steel industry and I am delighted we are investing over £2 million in this ground breaking new facility.
"The institute is a clear signal that Welsh steel is not an industry of the past - it is an industry of the future. Increasing research and development in the steel sector will help build the industry's capability and competitiveness and address future challenges.
"I look forward to the institute working with businesses, universities, colleges and alongside us in Government to drive innovation and help secure a sustainable future for our steel industry."
Bimlendra Jha, CEO Tata Steel UK said:"Swansea University, together with the University of Warwick, is part of our two hub strategy for collaborative research and development with universities. Integrating this new facility at Swansea with our existing network of researchers at different universities in UK is a stepping stone to our win-win approach to innovation. Researchers get real world problems to solve and Tata Steel brings its expertise and resources to give wings to innovative ideas."
SaMI is the forerunner to the UK National Steel Innovation Centre (UK-NSIC) which will be funded through the Swansea Bay Region City deal and is due to be operational by 2020. It is an open access innovation facility providing research and innovation for the steel, metals and manufacturing industries from a temporary location at the Universities Singleton campus.
The Institute has been created as a result of the strategic partnership between Tata Steel and Swansea University who have signed a long term collaboration contract for the University to provide research and innovation services to the company. Tata has donated a wide range of research equipment to the University and is providing45 industry R&D staff to work alongside 20 new University research staff. Tata has also committed annual funding to contribute to the running of the Institute.
SaMI is equipped to enable companies to make advances in alloy and process development, mechanical testing and material characterisation and will rapidly expand its areas of focus into the development of disruptive process technologies, circular economies and industrial symbiosis, zero-carbon steel making, product development and Industry 4.0.
The centre will work with Cambridge, CRM, Imperial, Warwick and Sheffield Universities, as well as the Catapult centres, and Cardiff and University of South Wales in Wales.
The open access approach of the Institute will provide Research and Innovation services for: Celsa Steel, Calsonic - Kansei, Crown Packaging, Darlow Lloyd, Gestamp-Tallent, Harsco, Sandvik Osprey, Royal Mint, Tata Steel, Tarmac Lafarge, Timet, Vale and Wallcolmonoy, Weartech, who have all pledged support, whilst others are in dialogue.
Luis Sanz, CEO and Managing Director, Celsa UK Holdings: "CELSA UK is excited by the creation of the Steel and Metals Institute and we look forward to working together over the coming years to take the opportunities and challenges we face in a collaborative and innovative spirit. In particular, and as one of the biggest recycling companies in the UK, we look forward to the Institute's help in continuing to drive our sustainability and further improving our contribution to the circular economy."
Peter Martin, Vale Europe Limited: "This is an important resource for the local steel and Metals industries. It will also be beneficial for suppliers into those industries as its research strengthens the knowledge and expertise in the local area."
Dr Anthony Baker, Head of Circulating Coin Operations at The Royal Mint said: "As the world's largest export mint, The Royal Mint has a strong record of R and D successes behind it, and is constantly innovating in order to stay at the cutting edge of world minting, so we welcome the SaMI centre of excellence at Swansea University. The impact of the innovative solutions and increased levels of performance that SaMI will undoubtedly bring, will contribute to the sustainability of the UK steel and metal industry and equip it to face the challenges of the future. We look forward to working with the SaMI team."