A partnership has been formed between Tata Steel and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The objective of the venture is to develop a range of innovations including graphene-coated steels and 'next-generation' sensors that can operate in extreme environments.

Research into the viability of coating steel strip with graphene will be one of many areas covered by the partnership.

According to Tata Steel, graphene offers a high degree of electrical conductivity and has anti-corrosion properties. "Graphene-coated steels could boost the energy efficiency of solar panels, or make buildings longer lasting by reducing damage caused by water or the most corrosive of chemicals," said the company, adding that ways to improve waste recycling processes and developing new sensor equipment capable of operating in high temperatures or extreme chemical environments are also high on the agenda.

The partnership will mean that Tata Steel has access to world class experts and, therefore, will enhance the company's research and development activities.

A research partnership agreement was signed earlier this month in the presence of The Rt Hon Vince Cable, UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, and the Chief Executive of Tata Steel’s European operations, Karl Koehler were both present when the research partnership agreement was signed.

Debashish Bhattacharjee, group director for R&D at Tata Steel, said that Tata's customers want the company to constantly develop new and more sophisticated products to overcome various challenges. "We also need to develop new manufacturing processes to support product development," he said, adding that the partnership will broaden and enhance Tata's research capabilities and help speed up the achievement of the partnership's objectives.”

Professor David Delpy, EPSRC chief executive, said: "Research across our portfolio has significant impacts in areas in which Tata Steel operates. The company is already investing in joint research projects with UK universities and Centres for Doctoral Training. These relationships will develop the processes and people the UK needs to perform well in the scientific and economic arena.”