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Call key data

CO2-neutral steel production with hydrogen, secondary carbon carriers and electricity OR innovative steel applications for low CO2 emissions (Clean Steel Partnership)

Funding Program

Horzion Europe - Cluster 4 - Destination 1: Climate Neutral, Circular and Digitised Production

Call number




07.02.2024 17:00

Funding rate


Call budget

€ 20,000,000.00

Estimated EU contribution per project

between € 3,000,000.00 and € 5,000,000.00

Link to the call

Link to the submission

Call content

short description

The establishment of a clean steel market will be based upon decarbonisation of the steel making and production through the use of advanced and breakthrough technologies. The modification and change of production routes will have an impact onto the design of customised steel products and its applications in the market.

Call objectives

Proposals should aim at one of the following two aspects, corresponding respectively to the points 1) and 2) outlined under the expected outcomes section:

1. Proposals should relate to metal reduction processes using hydrogen, renewable electricity, and/or secondary carbon carriers, and/or to replace fossil fuels and reductants in steelmaking and in downstream processing in steel plants. Proposals under this topic are expected to:

  • Provide concepts addressing the modifications of the existing and new installations for steel production, such as:
    • Blast furnace–basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF);
    • Electric arc furnace (EAF);
    • Direct reduced iron (DRI) process: In this case, compare the feedstock’s iron content requirements necessary for the direct reduction process in comparison with other alternative processes (e.g., electrolysis);
    • Alternative reduction processes (such as electrolysis on non-conventional ores);
    • Heating and treatment of semi-finished products.
  • Such modifications could also concern the internal and external flows of energy and materials to re-use e.g., metallurgical gases (internal re-cycling) and to upgrade them with new sources, e.g., by replacement of fossil carbon, both as reducing agent, and heat sources with hydrogen and alternative carbon sources;
  • Consider the integrated preparation (reforming, separation, heating, compression) of external carbon-lean gases or internally recycled CO/CO2 streams for efficient use as reducing agent, but not limited to or for use in heating process.


2. Proposals should address the conception and production of clean steel for use in established markets and/or in markets having specific demanding or harsh environments. Of interest are steels and steel grades capable to demonstrate for instance high level of yield strength, high level of fatigue, high resistance to pressure, heat, wear, cyclic loads, crash and to severe corrosion conditions. The scope also covers the maximisation of low-quality materials usage and their influence on the product quality. Where appropriate for the study proposed, analytical research infrastructures, such as but not limited to synchrotron and/or neutron facilities, should be considered as capable of providing large amount of statistically relevant data to validate chemistry and structure / morphology and solve challenges concerning hydrogen embrittlement and/or residual stresses. Proposals should demonstrate the CO2 reduction potential by conception along the advanced / breakthrough manufacturing routes and/or by the application of their innovative steel solution.

Research should contribute to pre-standardisation documents and technical reports to support achieving innovative industrial applications of advanced clean steel grades.

Specific budget needs to be allocated in the project for pursuing dissemination and exploitation activities with the Clean Steel Partnership (e.g. exchange of information, carbon reduction potential etc.).

This topic implements the co-programmed European Partnership on Clean Steel.

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Expected results

Projects outcomes will enable achieving the objectives of the Clean Steel Partnership (CSP) by contributing to one of the following two aspects:

  1. Enhance CO2-neutral steel production with hydrogen, secondary carbon carriers and electricity;
  2. Contribute to innovative steel applications for low CO2 emissions.

Projects related to the above point 1 are expected to contribute to one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Introducing the use of secondary carbon sources, including waste and residues of biological origin in steelmaking processes to target improved sustainability and to allow a technically and economically feasible transition to reduce the use of fossil carbon as fuel or reducing agent;
  • Combining the reduction of fossil carbon-related emissions obtained with technologies to reduce steelwork energy consumption with improvements in the materials and energy flows;
  • Reduction of carbon footprint by incrementally adapting to the use of low-CO2 hydrogen to heat up steel for rolling, shaping, and heat treatment, considering also a coupling between hydrogen and/or electrical heating and fuel-flexibility concepts;
  • Valorisation of non-conventional ores, e.g., in (photo)electrolysis processes;
  • Substitution of fossil sources as carburiser and slag foaming agent by alternative materials in electric arc furnaces (EAF) and contribute to achieve low-CO2 steel production;
  • Enhancing the handling of carbon-bearing residues and recovery of metal contents from low-value residues by pre-reduction or reduction smelting with hydrogen and/or electricity;
  • Identify and analyse the amount of European existing technologies that could be efficiently retrofitted to CO2 neutral solutions (e.g. H2 DRI). Differentiate between incremental retrofits and retrofits allowing for production of carbon-free iron and steel. The final evaluation should provide a comprehensive overview of technical possibilities along with possible implementation timelines, and indicate on emission reduction stages and required financial investments. Projects awarded under this point are expected to involve among the consortium a balanced representation from academia, research centres and industry and to be developed in contact with the European Commission.


Projects related to the above point 2 are expected to contribute to at least two of the following outcomes, which require designing steel alloys and products and validating their application for the clean steel market (related to the CSP specific objective 6, see also Building Block 12: Innovative steel applications for low CO2 emissions in SRIA):

  • New or modified alloying concepts, downstream processing and manufacturing processes for new clean steel grades, as well as derivation of new test methods that are closer to reality into the industrial application;
  • Manufacture steels with improved life cycle contributions to CO2 emissions reduction; this is the case for, but not limited to, the transport sector, which includes improved possibilities for re-use and re-manufacture; this includes also innovative manufacturing technologies for steel grades supporting decarbonisation like, but not limited to, electric strip;
  • Clean steel grades with improved in-use properties obtained by controlling the application properties (e.g., yield strength and/or high ductility steels, fatigue, embrittlement, internal and external corrosion and other properties relevant to service life in the application) supported by known or new techniques (e.g., machine learning (ML), metallurgical / thermodynamic simulations, multi-scale models, defect vs. structure vs. properties correlations, finite element methods (FEM), realistic and applied testing methods) to realise the desired steel grade characteristics;
  • Innovative simulation methods and tools (e.g., Calculation of PHAse Diagrams (CALPHAD), crystal plasticity, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), realistic and application-oriented testing methods, multi-scale modelling, and microstructure, defects and properties prediction tools, digital twins etc.) to accelerate the development processes of the mentioned clean steel grades and their manufacturing processes;
  • Advanced grades of steel for use in efficient high temperature processes including, for instance, thermal reactors for waste recovery;
  • Advanced grades of steel for use in the railway's systems of high-speed trains to assure high quality, good weldability, and very high mechanical properties, including high yield strength, metal-to-metal wear resistance, and high rolling contact fatigue resistance;
  • High-performance structural steels (e.g., high-strength, high-pressure resistant, creep resistant, oxidation resistant, etc.) not containing critical strategic elements (such as, V, Nb, Ti, etc.) and/or characterized by increased tolerance to the content of contaminants in the scrap, such as for instance Cu;
  • Steel grades with increased use of low-quality input materials (e.g., scrap, secondary raw materials, ores / dust, etc.) by new knowledge of the influences on the application properties of manufactured steel products tested under realistic operating conditions, taking into account the entire manufacturing process to identify the acceptance of buyers / users (incl. economic / ecological benefits, questionnaires, market research).

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Eligibility Criteria

Regions / countries for funding

EU Member States, Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT)
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Armenia (Հայաստան), Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan), Belarus (Беларусь), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Faeroes (Føroyar / Færøerne), Georgia (საქართველო), Iceland (Ísland), Israel (ישראל / إِسْرَائِيل), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Morocco (المغرب), New Zealand (Aotearoa), North Macedonia (Северна Македонија), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија), Tunisia (تونس /Tūnis), Türkiye, Ukraine (Україна), United Kingdom

eligible entities

Education and training institution, International organization, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)

Mandatory partnership


Project Partnership

To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:

  • the Member States of the European Union, including their outermost regions
  • the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States
  • third countries associated to Horizon Europe - see list of particpating countries

Only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State; and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.

Any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, including legal entities from non-associated third countries or international organisations (including international European research organisations) is eligible to participate (whether it is eligible for funding or not), provided that the conditions laid down in the Horizon Europe Regulation have been met, along with any other conditions laid down in the specific call topic.

A ‘legal entity’ means any natural or legal person created and recognised as such under national law, EU law or international law, which has legal personality and which may, acting in its own name, exercise rights and be subject to obligations, or an entity without legal personality.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities — Affiliated entities (i.e. entities with a legal or capital link to a beneficiary which participate in the action with similar rights and obligations to the beneficiaries, but which do not sign the grant agreement and therefore do not become beneficiaries themselves) are allowed, if they are eligible for participation and funding.
  • Associated partners — Associated partners (i.e. entities which participate in the action without signing the grant agreement, and without the right to charge costs or claim contributions) are allowed, subject to any conditions regarding associated partners set out in the specific call conditions.
  • Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees to protect the EU’s financial interests equivalent to those offered by legal persons.
  • EU bodies — Legal entities created under EU law including decentralised agencies may be part of the consortium, unless provided for otherwise in their basic act.
  • Joint Research Centre (‘JRC’)— Where provided for in the specific call conditions, applicants may include in their proposals the possible contribution of the JRC but the JRC will not participate in the preparation and submission of the proposal. Applicants will indicate the contribution that the JRC could bring to the project based on the scope of the topic text. After the evaluation process, the JRC and the consortium selected for funding may come to an agreement on the specific terms of the participation of the JRC. If an agreement is found, the JRC may accede to the grant agreement as beneficiary requesting zero funding or participate as an associated partner, and would accede to the consortium as a member.
  • Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members (e.g. European research infrastructure consortia (ERICs)) may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. However, if the action is in practice implemented by the individual members, those members should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible.

other eligibility criteria

Activities are expected to start at TRL 4 and achieve TRL 5-6 by the end of the project. 

Additional information


Circular Economy, Natural Resources, 
Competitiveness of Enterprises, Employment/Labour Market, SME & entrepreneurship, 
Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Relevance for EU Macro-Region

EUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region

UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)

Additional Information

All proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funders & Tenders Portal electronic submission system (accessible via the topic page in the Search Funding & Tenders section). Paper submissions are NOT possible.

Proposals must be complete and contain all parts and mandatory annexes and supporting documents, e.g. plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results including communication activities, etc.

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A (to be filled in directly online) contains administrative information about the applicant organisations (future coordinator and beneficiaries and affiliated entities), the summarised budget for the proposal and call-specific questions;
  • Part B (to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system) contains the technical description of the project.

Annexes and supporting documents will be directly available in the submission system and must be uploaded as PDF files (or other formats allowed by the system).

The limit for a full application (Part B) is 45 pages.

To ensure a balanced portfolio covering the two technology areas in the scope below, grants will be awarded to applications not only in order of ranking, but also to at least one project in each technology area, provided that the applications attain all thresholds.


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