Teesside gains new hope with launch of specialised steel plant

14 March 2016

Steel making has returned to Teesside with the launch of a facility to make high-quality steel in the area devastated by the closure of SSI’s plant last year.

The Materials Processing Institute (MPI), a not-for-profit company which conducts industrial research for the steel, chemical, energy and mining sectors, is to offer small-scale commercial production of highly specialised steel.

The development is a rare piece of good news in the UK steel sector, which has seen more than 5,000 jobs lost in the past year due to cheap imports of Chinese steel and high costs.

Almost half of these jobs were lost when, in September, SSI’s plant just three miles from MPI collapsed into administration.

MPI is using its existing facilities and staff at its Normanton plant to produce small production runs with profits being reinvested, but hopes it could be successful enough to be spun off into a separate business.

Chris McDonald, MPI chief executive, said the development shows that despite its current troubles, steel making in the UK is not dead and warned of the dangers of such pessimistic attitudes.

“Thirty years ago, many doubted the British automotive and aerospace makers would still be around today, but they are now among the best in the world and underpin our economy,” he said.

“That’s why those who dismiss steel and other materials as 'sunset’ industries risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy despite their current difficulties.”

While Britain’s steel-making industry struggles to compete against commoditised low-quality steel produced in countries such as China, Mr McDonald said the UK is at the “forefront” of innovative steel products.

As an example of such advances, according to the MPI two thirds of the types of steel currently made in UK steel plants had not even been invented 15 years ago.

MPI hopes to capitalise on this research base to ensure the survival of the industry, and is lobbying the Government for the creation of a so-called Materials Catapult research centre, allowing the industry and universities to come together to develop further steel products. Such “catapults” have been successful in other sectors such as transport, manufacturing and medicine, bridging the gap between ideas that come out of research and innovation.

Mr McDonald added: “This new operation enables MPI to be the hub for steel-making on Teesside, and continue the area’s steel legacy, while supporting our position at the forefront of materials and product research and development for industry.”


Source : telegraph.co.uk