Research and development

      voestalpine’s corporate strategy is geared towards innovation, technology, and quality leadership. Research and development therefore plays a central role in the business model, which is also reflected in the continuous increase in the R&D budget.

      Research expenditure for the voestalpine Group

      In millions of euros, R&D gross expenditure (without R&D facility investments)

      Research expenditure for the voestalpine Group (bar chart)

      Steel is one of the most widely used materials in the world and is also indispensable in a sustainable society. It is durable and can be recycled again and again, making it the basis for modern solutions in mobility and the energy industry.

      The two major topics of electrification (as part of the energy transition) and artificial intelligence were the focus of this year’s two Group-wide events for employees in research and development and digitalization.

      At the R&D Day, the relevant topics of electrification were discussed by external experts, from the holistic view of the energy transition to the role hydrogen will play here in future mobility developments.

      The topic of the Digitalization Day was artificial intelligence. External experts provided an overview of the positioning of AI, its status of development, and the impact it could have on business activities. The program was supplemented by a session with internal contributions on AI applications in the voestalpine Group.

      The Group’s R&D activities follow the voestalpine strategy, which is based on current and relevant megatrends. They are summarized in prioritized innovation roadmaps and cover the topics discussed below.


      One focus is on the further development of the existing process and the research and development of new technologies for sustainable steel production with the aim of achieving net zero emissions.

      These initially include switching the process route to electric arc furnaces, maximizing the circular economy, and also developing the new HYFOR and SuSteel technologies for reducing iron ores.

      The switch to the electric arc furnace route poses a challenge for the production of high-quality steel grades, which are required in the automotive industry or wire rod production, for example. The aim is to be able to produce the same high-quality products as before using the electric arc furnace route.

      Depending on the input material used (scrap, HBI, pig iron), the increased addition of scrap can result in higher levels of so-called by-elements in the steel, which has a direct influence on the strength, ductility, hardenability, and other important mechanical-technological properties of the end product. R&D is therefore focusing on determining the correlation between steel grade, input material mix, and the resulting product properties as well as developing adequate metallurgical countermeasures and forecast-controlled process adjustments to the production facilities.

      As part of the circular economy, work is being done to optimize the availability and quality of scrap, among other things. New sources of scrap are being developed by establishing closed loops with customers. In order to increase scrap quality, work is being carried out on AI-supported scrap sorting processes. voestalpine is involved in the KiRAMET project, the FFG lead project for AI-based recycling of metal composite waste.

      In order to achieve the goal of CO2 neutrality by 2050, research is being conducted into hydrogen-based technologies.

      The H2FUTURE trial program was successfully completed; in addition to producing green hydrogen, the electrolysis plant at the Linz site provides grid services by participating in the balancing energy market. The project H2FUTURE Follow-up has been launched; it comprises the planning, installation, and operation of a system for compressing and purifying the hydrogen produced in the PEM electrolyzer, which can be used to supply R&D pilot plants, for example. Commissioning is planned for mid-2025.

      In the HYFOR (Hydrogen-Based Fine-Ore Reduction) research project by Primetals Technologies, the applicability of the process of fine ore reduction using hydrogen was confirmed. Hydrogen-reduced material from the HYFOR test facility was melted down together with scrap in a trial melt at the “Technikum Metallurgie,” a metallurgy technical center, and a low-CO2 bearing steel was produced that met the required quality standards. This proved that a HYFOR or hydrogen-generated steel melt has no disadvantages in comparison with standard material.

      A follow-up project for a demonstration plant for the HYFOR process with continuous operation at the Linz site is currently in preparation.

      In the SuSteel (Sustainable Steelmaking) basic research project, the technical feasibility of producing crude steel directly from iron ore using hydrogen plasma was demonstrated at the pilot plant at the Donawitz site.


      This technology includes process development tailored to the respective requirements, from powder production to design, actual printing, and post-processing through to the finished component. All process steps are carried out by voestalpine.

      The process is used, for example, in the improvement of tool repairs and upgrade services for hot stamping, high pressure die casting and hot forming applications and strengthens voestalpine’s position as a full service provider in this field. Damage analysis, 3D scanning, programming, laser metal deposition with suitable filler materials, machining, and post-heat treatment are carried out. The results, such as reuse of tools through repair and design changes, longer service life through upgrades via multi-material coating, scrap avoidance, and minimization of raw material requirements, lead to considerable cost savings on the one hand and make a major contribution to sustainability on the other.


      The topic of sustainability includes R&D activities to increase resource, energy, and general process efficiency, which is optimally supported and driven forward with the help of digitalization.

      Robust sensor technology during operation provides the data for model-based control. Data-based algorithms in combination with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) not only help to optimize processes and increase their efficiency and, as a result, product quality, but also ensure a better understanding of the process as a basis for successful further developments. However, optimizing plant availability and capacity utilization as well as the entire process chain also means a reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

      Optical systems are already being used successfully in many voestalpine companies for AI-based defect detection, for example. This allows defects on the surface, such as cracks on the product or component, to be detected at an early stage.

      With the help of OCR (Optical Character Recognition), i.e., algorithms for optical character recognition supported by artificial intelligence, parts can be clearly identified and their path can be traced.

      AI is used successfully in condition monitoring and predictive maintenance applications. However, the use of AI is not just limited to production processes, but also supports intelligent product solutions.

      In the latest generation of turnouts, AI is used to assess the respective status from the recorded data and decide whether a turnout failure and therefore a track closure is imminent. In this way, the perfect functioning of this important system component can be ensured with a high degree of accuracy and maintenance can be initiated proactively.

      Visual Train Analysis (VTA), a camera-based condition analysis for wagons in motion, is used to automatically assess their condition on an ongoing basis and track the development of the wagons with regard to relevant wearing parts. A pilot system for speeds of up to 40 km/h is currently being tested. Further development is planned to make the system suitable for high-speed trains and to record additional condition data. This will increase safety in rail traffic and enable the wagon maintenance to be planned in advance.


      High-strength steels are continuously developed and adapted to customer requirements by constantly optimizing the alloy design in order to improve the weldability of the material and by optimizing and expanding the operation of the galvanizing lines. Outstanding quality performance has led to further customer approvals.

      The new tailormade functional steel technology has already been successfully implemented on heating panels together with a customer. Further customer applications are in preparation. voestalpine Stahl GmbH received the Upper Austrian Innovation Award 2023 for this innovation.

      In addition, a rail steel with optimum resistance to the formation of dents on the rail surface was developed. The material approval of this steel with increased toughness has already been successfully completed and the track tests have been started as part of Europe’s Rail.

      Various forged parts made of titanium alloy were developed for aircraft landing gear with the help of finite element analysis, taking into account the ideal load. This makes it possible to meet the extremely high quality and safety requirements. On this basis, the framework agreement with an important customer was extended as a result.

      Finite element analysis is also used in component development and approval in the area of high-bay warehouse systems. Further developments have been successfully implemented for various automatic guided vehicles and autonomous mobile robots using modular profile systems and standardized racking systems. voestalpine is the cost/benefit leader in this area.

      The development of the substructure for agrivoltaic applications such as vertical solar and canopy structures, e.g., over fruit trees, led to the realization of a first pilot system with a customer. The optimal use of land for agriculture and energy purposes with minimal impact on agricultural yields is still being tested in collaboration with a research center. A patent has already been granted.