The current crisis around the energy shortage and resulting high prices underlines the importance of research and innovation within the foundation industries, the UK Metals Council (UKMC) heard.

A meeting of the body, which represents the UK metals sector to the government, was hosted by Teesside-based Materials Processing Institute, with members also touring its world-class facilities.

The council discussed various issues, the most pressing being the energy price surges that are driving up production costs across the sector.

Chris McDonald, who is Chair of UKMC and Chief Executive of the Institute, said: “The current energy crisis highlights just how vital it is that the UK becoming self-sufficient in generating renewable electricity, which will not only help the government meet its net zero commitments, but allows industry to avoid being at the mercy of the fluctuations of global wholesale prices and provides a more level playing field.

“It also underlines the importance of the research and innovation being undertaken here at the Institute, in terms of the transformation of industrial processes to improve efficiency, productivity and yield, and reducing carbon impact.”

Last year the Institute was awarded £22m by the government funded Innovate UK to deliver a five-year research and innovation PRISM programme to revolutionise the steel and metals sector in the fields of decarbonisation, the circular economy, and digital technologies.

Its prime aim is to increase the competitiveness of the UK steel and metals sector while supporting the government’s aims to achieve net zero by 2050.

Following the meeting, members of the UKMC toured the Institute’s campus, including its advanced materials, microscopy, and metallurgical facilities. They also visited the Normanton Plant, which is used for new product development and includes the UK’s only pilot electric arc furnace.

Pam Murrell, Chief Executive Officer of the Cast Metals Federation, said: “The Materials Processing Institute has some fabulous facilities that can be used to support the wider UK metals sector. Staying at the forefront of research and innovation is vital to its future viability and competitiveness on the international stage.”

Joe Lee, Programme Manager of PRISM at the Institute, said: “The work we are doing under PRISM is quite unique because it is applicable to the whole sector and supply chain and allows us to tackle problems experienced right across the foundation industries.”

Chris McDonald added: “The UKMC has an ambition that by 2030, the metals industry in this county will be sustainable not only financially, but from a climate perspective.

“This very much fits in with the Institute’s core aims of actively working on research and innovation projects to decarbonise the metals industry through the application of hydrogen and energy efficiency. We are also looking to further develop the circular economy, to extract metals from end products so they can be recycled and reused within the metals supply chain.”