The European Commission has published its medium-term guidelines for the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) steel RTD programme of research and pilot/demonstration projects, covering the period 1996-2002. During its 40 years of existence, ECSC steel research has supported the efforts of the steel industry by increasing overall research efficiency, enabling the steel industry to tackle jointly large projects which could not have been carried out by individual companies, and creating, throughout the Member States, a network of researchers through which there is an effective exchange of information related to the projects and their results. The task assigned to the Commission by the ECSC Treaty, concerning RTD related to the production and use of steel, has been implemented through a specific RTD programme divided into two sectors: - Steel research projects; - Steel pilot and demonstration projects. The main objective of the ECSC steel RTD programme is to sustain and develop the Community steel industry's competitiveness in changing industrial, commercial and political contexts. The major goals are to: - Reduce production costs; - Improve quality; - Sustain the outlets for steel in its traditional markets and develop new products and markets; - Adapt and develop new production processes and improve recycling capability, to meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements. These latest guidelines, which follow on from those for the period 1991-1995, specify the areas in which further RTD activities are required with regard to processes, products and environmental protection and recycling. In this context, it is specified that: - Steel-oriented RTD activities should be carried out in an integrated approach where topics ranging from raw materials handling to final products are addressed; - A strong feedback of product and environmental requirements should be incorporated into production parameters; - Account must be taken of the most effective options for recycling the product at its life-end and of recycling, using or safely disposing of the by-products of the production itself; - Steel-oriented RTD actions should consider specific market needs; - Environmental awareness should permeate all branches of the industry and should form an integral part of new RTD developments in steel production and utilization and, in particular, RTD activities should support the development of advanced clean technologies for steel production. Up until now, Community-funded steel research has been predominantly carried out in the ECSC programme. The ECSC Treaty is, however, due to expire in 2002. Steel research activities will, therefore, be progressively incorporated into other Community programmes, in particular the RTD Framework Programmes. Over the coming years, the ECSC steel RTD programme and the RTD Framework Programme will run in parallel, providing the iron and steel industry with access to both programmes. The ECSC steel RTD programme will give priority to those RTD topics which do not fulfil the conditions required for the Framework Programme and are specific to steel, including: - Pilot and demonstration projects; - Specific research for steel production processes; - Promotion of steel use; - Development of new or improved steel grades. On the other hand, RTD proposals of a generic and multi-sectoral nature should be submitted to the Framework programme.