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Continuous Improvement through Investments in R&D
Most of the Group investment efforts are allocated to improve and perfect products and production processes and to develop new products, usually in the sector of ferroalloys and silicon, using the latest developments in technology and with the aim of maintaining and consolidating the Group’s international competiveness.
R&D and innovation activities are usually carried out by the Group’s affiliates that are highly active in strengthening its technological specialisations (such as FerroAtlántica R&D or FerroPem R&D). This specialisation, supported by its highly qualified personnel with extensive experience and know-how, allows us to be leaders in the field of technology, with the registration of several patents every year.
Leveraging state-of-the-art technology has contributed to the signing of cooperation agreements with universities and research centres, managing funds obtained through European, Spanish and local public research programmes. Ferroglobe also sells technology to main producers of ferroalloys and silicon metal.
Research, Development and Innovation is so important that Ferroglobe invests approximately 3% of its Gross Added Value (which might be around 1% of total turnover).
As of now, FerroAtlántica R&D is taking part in the CABRISS (Developing a Circular Economy Based on Recycled, Reused and Recovered Indium, Silicon and Silver Materials for Photovoltaic and Other Applications) programme for the European Commission.
CABRISS has received funding under HORIZON2020, GA no. 641972
Program WASTE-1-2014 CALL: Moving towards a circular economy through industrial symbiosis http://www.spire2030.eu/cabriss
Examples of Successful Patents
One of the most notable fruits of this research is the ELSA electrode, also known as the "composite electrode", which is patented and globally recognised and used in a large part of global silicon production.
Other examples are:
This is a new process which consists in producing electrolytic manganese from the sludge resulting from the production of manganese alloys.
This process has been patented worldwide.
Casting copper plate
Consists of an improved manufacturing process of silicon metal which achieves power savings and a more homogeneous final product without the previous need to crush, which reduces the production cost.
This process can be implemented also in other ferroalloy casting processes.
In November 2008 Silicio FerroSolar was founded as a result of a research project. Its business focuses on the production of solar-grade silicon for photovoltaic panels, using a new metallurgical treatment method, based on a technological process developed by the Group's own R&D and Innovation division, which is more environmentally friendly and much more energy efficient.
This knowledge is really useful for the group. It includes most of these innovations in its own processes to reduce costs. For example, the ELSA electrode has been used in different factories and multiple countries. Also, the automation of processes in our factories came also from R&D projects, in particular furnace running.