"The ministry has taken a decision to set up a forum for R&D in steel sector with proposed initial corpus of Rs 100 crore from Steel Development Fund (SDF)," said Steel Minister  Narendra Singh Tomar at an event organised by industry body Assocham here.
     
"Better R&D means better resource utilisation, better cost efficiency, better products and world-class exports...I will also urge upon the Indian industry to focus on the R&D initiatives in a big way to utilise locally available cheap raw material, to remain competitive in world market," he said.
     
Last month, the minister had given in-principle approval for setting up Steel Research and Technology Mission of India (SRTMI).
     
The mission envisages increasing R&D investment from the present level of 0.2-0.3 per cent of turnover to international benchmark of 1-2 per cent of turnover by leading companies.
     
Expressing concern over shortage of iron ore for several domestic producers, Tomar said the production of the key raw material has gone down from the level of 218 million tonne to around 150 MT owing to various reasons.
     
"In line with the recommendations of Supreme Court and the Shah Commission, we have revised mining guidelines in the country to make the process more transparent and efficient," he said.
     
Comparing India's per capita average consumption of steel at 60 kg with the global average of 215 kg, Tomar expressed confidence in the growth potential of domestic steel industry,  despite tough market conditions.
     
Minister of State for Mines and Steel Vishnu Deo Sai, who was also present in the event, said state-run Steel Authority of India would embark on an expansion drive to more than
 
double its capacity to 50 MT by 2025, a move that is likely to involve in investment of Rs 1,35,000 crore.
     
"The expansion will be executed in two phases and will see the company's steel-making capacity go from the projected 23.5 million tonnes per annum in 2015-16 to 35 mtpa by 2020, the end of the first phase and then to 50 mtpa by 2025-26," he said.