Proof of concepts will be developed to further fusion energy
Seven organisations have secured contracts with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to develop their innovative solutions and technologies to the ‘proof of concept’ stage.
Worth £6.8m in total, the contracts were awarded to organisations focusing on digital engineering and fusion fuel requirements to address fusion energy development challenges.
All challenges were launched through the Small Business Research Initiative Competition as ‘Innovation Competitions’.
The contracts are funded by Fusion Industry Programme launched in 2021, which is part of the Government’s £484 million support package for UK science. The programme is stimulating growth of the UK fusion industry by developing technology and skills for the future global fusion powerplant market.
The seven organisations stem from a range of start-ups, small-medium enterprises, established companies, and academia. The organisations focusing on digital engineering challenges include Full Matrix Ltd and the University of Manchester.
The organisations focusing on reducing fusion powerplant fuel requirements by researching advanced production and handling technologies for hydrogen isotopes include Gencoa Ltd, AqSorption Ltd, IS-Instruments Ltd, the University of Bristol, and the University of Liverpool.
Minister for fusion energy, Andrew Bowie, said: “The UK’s leading the world in getting fusion energy off the ground, investing over £700m into research to help power this unique low-carbon energy on home shores in the years ahead.
“Today’s funding, through the Fusion Industry Programme, will drive new transformative technologies pioneered by UK companies to get fusion up and running - taking fusion from scientific vision to commercial reality.”
Tim Bestwick, UKAEA’s Chief Development Officer, said: “Fusion has enormous promise as a source of sustainable, low-carbon energy for future generations.
“The second phase of the Fusion Industry Programme gives organisations the opportunity to take their proposals to the next stage in development with resultant awards of up to £1 million. The awards announced today aim to engage the private sector on the technical challenges facing fusion energy’s development.”
UKAEA is undertaking cutting edge work with academia, other research organisations and the industrial supply chain to develop the commercialisation of fusion energy.
Fusion energy is sometimes described as the ultimate energy source with potential to provide ‘baseload’ power. Complementing renewable and other low carbon energy sources it could be transformational for energy security and climate change.
This latest announcement follows the award of 18 Fusion Industry Programme contracts earlier this year for the development novel fusion materials, manufacturing techniques and innovative heating and cooling systems.
There is still time to apply for the latest Fusion Industry Programme challenge, which aims to encourage innovation in the development of lithium technologies. Up to £1.5m for prototype development and evaluation is available to organisations, to ‘realise the potential of lithium in an economic, sustainable and scalable fusion energy fuel-cycle’. The closing date is 19 July 2023.