The future of steel and green recovery

In the first of our series on the future of steel, SaMI’s founding director Brian Edy* shares his thoughts on the future of UK steel and the industry’s role in the UK’s green recovery.

Working in steel has given me so many fantastic opportunities and experiences. Given the chance to create a steel innovation centre, I took it as a chance to give something back.

SaMI’s vision

We founded SaMI at Swansea University to support UK steel innovation.

The fact we could innovate the steel industry’s carbon heavy processes and become a real global leader in innovation was a real driving force for me in creating SaMI. I saw it as a chance to invest in manufacturing and to preserve and create jobs to benefit the communities that we live and work in.

UK investment in steel

There’s a level of investment that’s needed in the UK steel industry. Now we’ve left Europe it’s even more important we focus on UK development, and it’s important we invest in steel.

Every successful economy has a strong steel economy and as a nation I feel we need to be behind our steel industry. We can do this through government policy, through innovation and adoption of new technologies, and through investment in our energy infrastructure. The circular economy can play a big part too, for example, to develop lower carbon products and processes and to recover and re-use scarce materials.

The steel industry has its own role to play too, to promote itself more in terms of the benefit it provides.  We are all reliant on steel, the whole of modern-day society depends on steel – it’s easy for us to forget that. Steel is in every part of our lives, when it’s everywhere, it’s easy for us to lose sight of that.

Steel’s green recovery

Cost is often solely considered in terms of financial investment in terms of “how much will it cost to save the steel industry?”. But there is a greater cost here, and that’s the cost of climate change.

With the threat of the climate crisis, retaining, increasing and improving our manufacturing capability is a vital part of the UK’s green recovery. The UK steel industry has an opportunity to quickly decarbonise, that does require money, but it also requires courage.

To enable a green recovery to respond to the climate crisis, this is a challenge SaMI can help the steel industry address.

The decarbonisation of steel

Part of SaMI’s success is developing that understanding of the benefits of collaboration where research and innovation is concerned.

We are working closely with organisations in the steel industry, bouncing ideas off each other about what we need to do. Our collaborations help deliver practical solutions and help the steel industry innovate.

When we created SaMI we wanted to create an open culture, a culture of empowerment. Empowerment is giving people the freedom to make their own decisions, to make their own mistakes, and then to learn from them. That is what the steel industry is doing, they are learning from the mistakes of the past to transition to an industry of the future.

As I see it, the only future for the UK steel industry is in innovation and decarbonisation.

 * Brian Edy retired as SaMI’s director in 2020

Contributed by Brian Edy, March 2021