Byline: Aled Blake
WALES' under-pressure steel industry was given a boost yesterday when a multi-million-pound research and development programme was unveiled with European funding.
The programme aims to develop steel technology and products by universities and firms in the industry.
The pounds 7m Steel Training Research and Innovation Partnership (Strip) will use European structural funds to support Welsh universities and colleges carrying out research and development.
Under the scheme, masters and doctorate studies for graduates will be funded, as well as the up-skilling of existing workers in the industry.
It will be led by Swansea University, with Bangor, Cardiff and Glyndwe r universities working on the project. They will collaborate with 22 companies which make up the partnership.
The Strip scheme will receive pounds 4m from the Convergence European Social Fund, with the rest of the funding being made up by university and industry partners.
The Welsh Assembly Government said its aim is to develop specialists who can "create innovative steel products and technologies", as well as undertake projects in areas such as carbon capture and renewable energy to secure the industry's future sustainability.
The project will work closely with large steel companies with bases in Wales and with smaller companies which make up the supply chain to identify their training needs.
It will help these businesses to lead Wales out of recession and will complement existing Assembly Government work with the manufacturing Semta Sector Skills Council to upgrade skills in the metals sector and the provision of skills training for steel businesses experiencing short-time working, through the ProAct scheme.
The Strip consortium will com-prisleading science and engineering academics, and will have research and training links to the steel industry and with a number of strip steel and metal companies in the region.
The initiative will also mean companies can increase links with the higher education sector, encouraging the wider supply chain to take full advantage of the knowledge, skills and resources available.
Swansea University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Richard B Davies, said: "This is a hugely significant and timely project. Swansea University's School of Engineering is ranked 8th in the UK for materials and metallurgy and has a long and successful record of collaborating closely with the steel industry in Wales. …