Industry and environment concept. Sustainable development goals. SDGs.

Call follows publication of 'Degradation in Structural Materials for net-zero' report

Royce calls for technology roadmap to help co-ordinate action to address degradation issues

The Henry Royce Institute has called for co-ordinated action to address the significant degradation challenges presented by the transition to net-zero through a ‘Technology Roadmap for Net-Zero’. This follows the publication of the ‘Degradation in structural materials for net-zero’ report which presents the results of a landscaping exercise conducted by Royce and Frazer-Nash Consultancy, supported by the Institute of Corrosion.

Such a roadmap would select which technologies should be prioritised for investment and also be attached to key dates linked to when they’re expected to come online. It could also define the most cost-effective investment pathway to net-zero, allowing industry and academia to develop Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) programmes in alignment with clear timescales for delivery.

  • Degradation of structural materials presents significant challenges in transition to net-zero
  • Need for high-level strategic direction to guide RD&I efforts
  • Royce report identifies six key areas for investment that will provide cross-sector benefits
  • Collaboration between government, industry and academia crucial to help tackle challenge

For many sustainable and low carbon technologies, the degradation of structural materials presents significant and ongoing challenges which limit the performance, operational life, and sustainability of assets as we move towards a net-zero landscape.

Materials degradation leads to potentially dangerous failures, downtime and repairs, with high costs not just financially, but also to the environment. For example, the financial impact of corrosion, which represents just one of the mechanisms under the umbrella term of degradation, has been estimated at $2.5tn, or 3.4% of the world’s GDP. Significant savings and societal benefits can therefore be achieved through better understanding and effective management of materials degradation.

Publication of Landscape Report

To explore these issues in more depth Royce commissioned a major landscaping exercise that examined the impact of degradation on wind power generation, carbon capture use and storage (CCS), nuclear fission power generation, transportation technologies (air, road, rail and sea), and hydrogen production and usage. The overall aim was to identify the materials-related issues affecting the lifetime of structural components and prioritise the research needed to improve the lifetime of these components.

The report says there is a need for high-level strategic direction to guide R&D efforts towards these degradation challenges. But it says that in order for such a strategy to have authority and credibility, it is imperative that it should be developed as a collaborative effort between senior policymakers, along with a broad range of cross-sectoral academic and industrial stakeholders.

Click here to read the ‘Degradation in structural materials for net-zero’ landscape report


Bill Hedges, Project Champion for the Royce landscape study into materials for degradation, and President of the Institute of Corrosion said:

“Significant savings and societal benefits can be achieved through better understanding and effective management of degradation issues. Yet at the moment funding calls continue to encourage an isolated approach to investigating degradation mechanisms and this report recommends that only with a significant change in leadership and policy will the obvious opportunities for transformational change be grasped and ultimately realised.

While the report confirms that there are no ‘show-stopping’ issues associated with materials degradation that will block our path to net zero, there are however many opportunities to reduce the costs associated with this.”

He added that the report also really clarifies some of the RD&I programmes required to support net-zero.

“To tackle the degradation challenge, collaboration between governing bodies, UK Research and Innovation, major industry players, the supply chain, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and academia, is now essential.”


The study identified three common cross-sector degradation mechanisms – corrosion, fatigue and creep – and highlighted the rising interactions between them which are largely the result of structural materials operating under increasingly challenging conditions such as higher temperatures and harsher environments.

In particular, the report identified five key areas for investment that will provide cross-sector benefits and where systematic work is required to address degradation mechanisms. Underpinning all of this is a need for clear leadership and policy definition, as direction and clarity on strategy is paramount to provide focus and promote investment in new technologies and methods.

  • Design and manufacture – for improved sustainability across the life cycle of assets, consideration of material degradation is as crucial at the design and manufacturing stages as it is throughout the operational life.
  • Modelling and simulation – integration of simulation techniques and modelling are of increasing importance in solving complex materials degradation problems.
  • Maintenance and inspection – improved, updated, and properly formulated inspection and monitoring techniques will support life extension activities and enable industry to adopt new materials and manufacturing methods.
  • Characterisation and testing – in order to effectively address and manage the degradation challenges and issues, there is a need for an improved fundamental understanding of the degradation mechanisms and how they interact.
  • Knowledge and data management – effective knowledge and data sharing incentives are required to help support the development and implementation of net zero enabling methods and technologies.
  • Leadership and policy – direction and clarity on strategy is paramount to provide focus and promote investment in new technologies. Providing incentives through challenge-driven research projects are great structures to foster successful and broad collaboration.

Royce CEO, Professor David Knowles, added:

“This report was part of a suite that we commissioned as part of our role to convene the UK advanced materials community to help develop new research activity that will meet the grand challenges we face.

What is clear from this study is that tackling degradation issues will require promotion and encouragement through focused initiatives, leveraging off existing infrastructure across our universities, national laboratories, Catapult network and wider research technology organisations.”

Visit the Degradation in Structural Materials for net-zero page here to find out more about the project.


Judith Holcroft, Communications and Engagement Manager