A TECHNOLOGY research centre has secured a deal to support a North-East steel operator.

The Materials Processing Institute is working with Liberty House.

Bosses say the multimillion pound agreement includes three strands, with a focus on work to enhance engineering and aerospace steels complemented by the development of a plate and offshore steel supply chain and efficiency improvement schemes.

Liberty earlier this year bought sections of Hartlepool-based pipe mills from Tata Steel and Chris McDonald, chief executive at the MPI, based on the outskirts of Middlesbrough, said its partnership was a real feather in the cap.

He said: “We look forward to applying our expertise to enabling the global Liberty businesses to be at the forefront of new technology.

“This agreement is further recognition of the MPI, not only as the leading centre for steel innovation in the UK, but as a highly sought after and valued partner for the global steel industry.”

Jon Bolton, chief executive of Liberty’s UK steel division, added: “Metal production is a tough, competitive market, but we intend to play an increasingly prominent role in the sector by developing value-added products using the most efficient, low-carbon and integrated processes.

“The MPI will play a key role in helping us to achieve that.”

Upon confirming Liberty’s Hartlepool deal in the summer, Mr Bolton told The Northern Echo of the firm’s plan to create 100 jobs and gain a stronger foothold in a 50-million tonne offshore pipe market.

Scarborough-born Mr Bolton, who previously held senior roles at Tata, Corus and British Steel, added: “We will be increasing the activity level at Hartlepool and will be looking to bring in some white-collar staff.

“This represents an opportunity to support steel in the region.”