The innovation teams of SIJ Acroni, SIJ Metal Ravne and SIJ Ravne Systems were awarded six prizes – four gold, one silver and one bronze – in the competition for the best innovations within the the Gorenjska and Koroška regional chambers of CCIS (Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia). Two innovations, ferritic stainless steel for hydrogen fuel cells from SIJ Acroni and the superalloy UTOPTI from SIJ Metal Ravne, will also compete at the national-level in the autumn. Thus, we are once again proving and reinforcing our position as one of the most innovative Slovenian business groups.

At the announcement of the regional chambers of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 30 May 2024 for Gorenjska and on 6 June 2024 for Koroška, we once again impressed with our innovativeness, which is strongly promoted and invested in at all SIJ Group companies. The search for new solutions is crucial for us as a specialized producer of steel for niche markets, enhancing our competitiveness and meeting the needs of our customers, who demand ever newer and better solutions.

The Gold Award goes to a nationally-ranked innovation of ferritic stainless steel for hydrogen fuel cells. The steel of the future, MKMCrMoW22, was purpose-developed in SIJ Acroni in collaboration with a German customer for a new generation of hydrogen fuel cells, the SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell). This is a unique development of steel and process using scrap remelting and continuous casting processes. As a final application, it is used in the new generation of fuel cells, the SOFC. The steel is able to withstand high temperatures over a very long period of time while retaining all its original characteristics.

The innovative slim design of SIMAXX 700 high-strength steel also shines with a golden brilliance. By lowering the carbon equivalent in the best-selling SIMAXX 700 high-strength steel, the competitiveness on the global market has been significantly improved. In addition, the manufacturing process has been made cheaper and properties such as toughness, ductility, weldability, and machinability have been improved, which has a key impact on the final application of this niche product with the most demanding customers and further strengthens SIJ Acroni's position among the main suppliers of high-strength quarto plates.

As part of a sustainable plan to reduce CO2 emissions, the silver-awarded innovation Solution Annealing Steel SINOXX 4542  is delivering groundbreaking change. In addition to changing the conditions of conventional solution annealing at extreme temperatures above 1000 °C, a new sustainable process technology has also been developed. This innovative step raises standards while protecting the environment and improving product and production performance.

SIJ Acroni's bronze innovation was born out of a desire to reduce the cost of producing T85 and T16 steels. The result of the impressive work on the innovation entitled Breakthrough of green tool steels of T85 and T16 grades has brought a new perspective and new insights, savings on electricity with the sustainable prescription of a new recipe in the technological prescription (-100°C and -15 hours in N2 atmosphere) and increased competitiveness in the market.

Stanislav Jakelj, the company's Head of Research and Development, sees forward-looking development teams as the common thread in all the award-winning innovations, adding: "I am extremely proud of my team of colleagues, authors and co-authors of all four award-winning innovations. We are aware of the great importance of the two gold, one silver and one bronze innovation we have received from the Gorenjska regional chamber. This outstanding achievement in a very strong competition underlines our dedication, cooperation and cohesion. Our innovations, which cover both product and technological developments, are key to the company's continued progress and growth. It is the close integration of the development department with technology and other departments that enables us to continuously create innovations that set new milestones in the industry.”

The national level also includes the gold innovation for the development of the UTOPTI superalloy, for which SIJ Metal Ravne, together with its partners, the Institute of Metal Materials and Technologies (IMT) and the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering (NTF), developed a technological process and, using the innovative EPZ process, successfully produced the UTOPTI superalloy for the manufacture of control cartridges, which are critical components in nuclear reactor systems. The recycled superalloy is characterised by its homogeneity and its greatly improved mechanical and corrosion properties over an extremely wide temperature range from -196 to 700 °C, which increases the reliability and durability of the final products.

"Superalloys are a special group of metal alloys used in extreme conditions, such as in nuclear reactor cores. Our greatest achievement in the development of UTOPTI superalloy is increasing the homogeneity of the material to ensure constant properties across its entire cross-section. This ensures the safety and smooth operation of the control cartridges over an extended lifetime and consequently reduces the environmental impact," explains Marko Češnjaj, Head of the Innovation Team, who is extremely proud to have been the first in the world to achieve this technological breakthrough.

SIJ Ravne Systems has developed a unique way to automate grinding by innovatively upgrading a surface grinding machine in conjunction with machine learning. By building their own prototype on top of an existing machine, they have automated part of the complex grinding process, which is much more reliable with the new solution, while increasing productivity and capacity utilisation and providing the need for more qualified jobs. The innovation will also have an impact on reducing costs, energy consumption and environmental impacts. At the same time, the innovation is also highly attractive to the market. Automation of machining processes is a necessity in modern production. In Slovenia alone, there are more than 100 machines of a similar type suitable for upgrading, and thousands more worldwide.

"Surface grinding is a very complex process, mainly due to the changing tool geometry required to ensure the desired surface properties of our products. The process is therefore quite time-consuming in terms of modern production and competitiveness, as it requires constant presence of the operator, which makes it impossible for him to work on two machines at the same time, despite the long machining cycles. On the other hand, the international manufacturers on the market do offer automation solutions for grinding, but they are not sufficiently reliable and precise for our needs. I am proud that my team and I, with our own knowledge and innovation, have in less than two years taken an idea to a product that has proven to be a great success and that will increase productivity and our competitive advantage, while also having a positive impact on costs and the environment," explained Marko Miklavc, Head of R&D at SIJ Ravne Systems, who was in charge of the innovation team.



SIJ – Slovenian Steel Group is one of Europe's leading producers of stainless steel and special steels. We are committed to global and European climate goals and operate in line with circular economy principles. With our steel and steel products, we are the right partner for facilitating the green transition in Europe. We confirm our commitment to sustainability with the ResponsibleSteel certification, the first global initiative to standardise and certify responsible and sustainable practices in the steel industry.  This ranks us among the most responsible and sustainable steel producers in the world. Our two largest companies are modern recycling steelworks, and our steel is recycled because it is made from steel scrap. With 3,500 employees, we are one of the largest employers in Slovenia and a pillar of the Slovenian steel sector. We are one of Slovenia's leading exporters. About 85% of our revenue is generated in foreign markets.


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SIJ – Slovenska industrija jekla, d.d.

mag. Sara Wagner, Head of Corporate Communications

Corporate Communications

Phone: +386 1 242 98 27

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