Context and Scope

Material System Analysis (MSA) is a study of the flows of materials through the economy in terms of entry into the economy, movement through the economy, additions to stock, and end-of-life through either disposal or recovery in the EU-28. The MSA study also contains additional information related to security of supply, and substitutes.

The study has been carried out by DG GROW with the consultation of expert and stakeholders as a follow-up of the “Study on Data Needs for a Full Raw Materials Flow Analysis”[1], launched by the European Commission in 2012 within the context of the European Raw Materials Initiative’s strategy. This strategy, which is a part of the Europe 2020’s strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, aims at securing and improving access to raw materials for the EU[2]. The objective of the MSA study is to provide information on material stocks and flows and to assist the European Commission on the development of a full Material System Analysis (MSA) for a selection of key raw materials used in the EU-28, some of them considered as critical for the economy of the EU-28 or the so-called “Critical Raw Material”.



First of all, an overview of existing literature and data sources for MSA was conducted. At this phase the data gaps were identified by material and life cycle stage.

In describing the physical flows and stocks along the life cycle and the aspects that can influence criticality of a material, a set of parameters have been selected in each of the following life cycle stages: exploration, extraction, processing, manufacturing of end-products, use, collection, and recycling.

The figure below shows an example of the value chain of Chromium in the EU:The value chain of chromium in the EUFigure 1: The value chain of chromium in the EU

Afterwards, a procedure for collecting information to establish the full MSA inventory was generated based on documented assumptions and consultation with the experts. Subsequently, five workshops were organized to obtain a feedback regarding the data sources, data collection, and processing methodology from the selected experts.  After this phase, the data elaboration was conducted, setting the time coverage from 2007-2012 for 28 raw materials.



The output of the study contains a map of the stocks and flows of materials through the EU economy in terms of entry into the economy and movement through the economy with additional information related to security of supply, and substitutes.

The results of the MSA study for each material is presented in a Sankey Diagram (where the width of the arrows represents relative flow between the life-cycle stages). The MSA study was built on the basis of the situation of the EU economy in 2012 with a limited number of parameters that may refer to other years due to lack of specific data. Figure 2 shows an example of a simplified Sankey diagram from the MSA study for chromium.

Sankey diagram of MSA study for chromium

Figure 2: Sankey diagram of MSA study for chromium

Moreover, the study provided recommendations for the European Commission for further updates and improvements of the data inventory created during the project. The recommendations highlighted the need to update the present work, to extend the scope of the MSA, and to explore new approaches to build the data inventory and to integrate and harmonize the existing data bases at EU level.

The complete report of the MSA study can be found at the following website:, also available in the Library section.


[1] Study on Data Needs for a Full Raw Materials Flow Analysis – Final Report. Source:

[2] Source:

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