The Gerdau factory in Basauri, formerly Sidenor, houses the Brazilian multinational’s only R&D centre in Europe, one of the largest on the continent. It was created 30 years ago but remains a benchmark comparable to other R&D centres in Germany, Holland and England.
The raw steel producer, which is one of the ten largest in the world, manufacturing 25 million tons a year worldwide, including one million in the Basauri factory, has always been aware of the need to provide “value added” for its customers. This is achieved especially by converting most of its raw material into valves, laminated and spiral springs, cogwheels and other gearing elements for vehicles, with manufacturers not only seeking reliability but also less weight, logically without losing efficiency or properties. In figures, «85% of steel from the Brazilian group ends up in the automotive industry», but also, to a lesser extent, in the shipbuilding, wind power and petrochemical sectors.
In the 1980s, in the middle of the oil crisis, the Basque Government took over the plant and, searching for specialisation, created the R&D excellence centre. A space for research that has continually worked to consolidate itself with the passage of decades, including periods of economic recession and the fact that ownership of the factory has changed on several occasions. In 1995 Ifesa took a stake, with Sabino Arrieta as its major shareholder and, ten years later, it was sold to the Brazilian group Gerdau.
About fifty workers currently work in this test lab, which is a replica of the plant but smaller. They are mostly engineers, physicists and chemists, who are distributed throughout different areas of the plant.