Monitoring and assessment report of the research programme for the Research Fund for Coal and Steel

Monitoring and Assessment of the Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS), was conducted in an interval of seven years, from 2003 to 2010, by a Committee comprising of 10 experts (4 for Coal and 6 for Steel) appointed by the European Commission based on the legal basis of the RFCS programme. The programme content was the detailed analysis of the 198 projects which completed during the period 2003-2010, covering the Coal and Steel sectors.
Further to the consultation of the members and chairmen of the 12 Technical Groups (TG), a global screening of all projects was conducted by the TG Rapporteurs, experts in the domain of each TG. This analysis had as a result a briefing of the outcomes of the projects during the period under review. Fourty six (46) projects were selected under the supervision of the TG Rapporteurs for a thorough examination, focused mainly on the benefits for the beneficiaries, the sectors Coal and Steel and of course the Society. The programme implementation included exchanges, and visits, among the projects coordinators and main partners, with the help of a comprehensive questionnaire.
The most significant avail of the project lies in the development of new knowledge, which is quoted as excellent or good, and has as ultimate aim the direct use inside the plants and sectors, as well as in Society. Another important benefit that will have in both sectors, Coal and Steel, are the financial returns, which are expressed through the criteria cost reduction or economic impact, and are rated as the next meaningful benefit. It is considered that the efforts and money – Community funds and Industry funds – invested in the RFCS Research projects produce operational results that effectively contribute to the economic sustainability of the sectors. The evolvent, of new processes, new solutions and new products is rated at a similar level as compared to the economic benefits, in both sectors.
Moreover the development of Innovation and its deployment in industrial practice for the beneficiaries and the sectors constitutes another crucial impact. Particularly in the Coal sector, a great progress is achieved on the environmental issues and on safety and health are considered as significant benefits. A wide number of projects are specifically aimed to those subjects, namely safety in underground mining or the development of techniques for the utilization of coal for clean energy production. Concerning the Steel sector, the projects devoted to process improvement providing significant benefits in terms of quality mastering as well as working conditions. Sectors like automation, intelligent measuring devices and remote control tools have importantly improved the working conditions in a harsh and critical environment.
Another aspect that the RFCS projects have provided numerous solutions is the decrease of the environmental footprint of the processes, by direct action on the process itself or by proposing end-of-pipe solutions.
Concerning the utilisation of steel, the projects are directly geared with the customers. More specifically they have contributed in a great extend to develop new products, directly aligned with the customer’s needs, and as a result to generate new market shares. A wide number of examples are found in both the automotive market (as Advanced High Strength Steels) and in the building and construction markets. In general the projects in whole have achieved to maintain or strengthen the position of steel, in strong competition with other materials, such as aluminium, composites, polymers, concrete or wood.
Regarding the benefits for Society, except the improvement of knowledge, the RFCS projects have given another impetus to maintain and even enhance the competitiveness of Europe in the present challenging world market. Furthermore, some very important solutions were provided by the RFCS programme for the global mastering of the environmental footprint of the Coal and Steel industry and for using Coal and Steel in an environmental friendly way, for the wellness and of the European citizens. Most importantly it contributes to maintain the competitiveness and sustainability of the European industry, more than just Coal and Steel.
A thorough analysis of the most important benefits of the RFCS projects is presented for some key projects. The financial returns are great (cost reduction, financial benefit, energy and raw materials savings, productivity increase, and new market shares) and were identified and quantified at the level of the beneficiaries. In addition, many benefits on Environment health, safety and working conditions were established. The obtainment of new knowledge, including advanced modelling, was described. The results of developing innovative measurement devices were quantified, as well as the promotion of the use of coal and steel. Inside the 46 selected projects for in-depth assessment, a group of 23 projects has been identified as providing direct and non-ambiguous financial benefits.
Concerning the beneficiaries, the RFCS projects have resulted significant financial returns. Regarding only the 23 projects identified as providing the most straightforward quantitative benefits, the annual financial return was evaluated by the coordinators approximately 103 M€/y. This amount can be compared to the budget of those 23 projects i.e. approximately 53 M€.
From the concrete facts and figures provided by the projects coordinators, there were conducted some estimations of the global benefit for the sectors, based on the likelihood of dissemination and implementation of the projects results all over the sectors.
The multiplier for the extrapolation relies on a reasonable and conservative estimation of the number of plants, mines or tonnages which could effectively take benefit from the projects. The overall potential benefit for the Coal and Steel Sectors for the selected 23 projects, according to these assumptions, is about 700 M€/y. The most important components of this benefit are, the Cost reduction, including energy and raw materials savings, the productivity increase, and the development of new market shares. To sum up, in order to capture these potential benefits, it is obvious that additional efforts and budget must be spent at the company level for implementing the relevant technological solutions provided by the RFCS projects.


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