The Welsh steel industry has been given a boost by a £7m initiative designed to promote the development of technology and provide high-level skills training in the region.
The Steel Training Research and Innovation Partnership (STRIP) project has been formed by the Welsh Assembly Government to support universities and colleges in delivering advanced engineering projects that will benefit the steel industry and its supply chain.
Led by Swansea University alongside Bangor, Cardiff and Glyndwr universities, the programme will focus on the next generation of functional steel materials by promoting collaboration between graduates and industry to address specific company needs.
Speaking at the launch of the project yesterday, education minister Jane Hutt said: ‘The STRIP project will deliver tomorrow’s steel technologists and equip people working in the industry with new skills and knowledge.
‘I am delighted that this project will harness the world-class assets in universities and leading companies – and provide the extra impetus provided by our management of European funds where we are committed to focus on vital sectors of the Welsh economy.’
For its first six years, STRIP will be funded by a £4m grant from the Convergence European Social Fund Programme 2007-13 with an additional £3m provided by universities and their industry partners.
The industry, which includes automotive, aerospace, construction and packaging, is expected to benefit from research across a number of applications such as lightweight vehicles and photovoltaic materials.
So far, 22 companies have committed to working with the Welsh universities on the STRIP initiative. In the next six years, it is estimated that up to 50 Welsh companies will have participated in the scheme.
Tony Jones, manager of external research at Corus Research Development and Technology, said: ‘The steel industry is highly competitive and to be successful we need to continuously develop our products and processes through world-class research and development. To support this we need a stream of high-quality technologists.’
Each graduate participating in the four-year industry-based research projects will gain an engineering doctorate, while the taught coursework undertaken by the students will provide the basis for a fast track towards gaining Chartered Engineer status.