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The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has awarded contracts worth £6.8m ($8.5m) in total to seven organisations to develop their innovative solutions and technologies to the “proof of concept” stage. The awards went to organisations focusing on digital engineering and fusion fuel requirements to address fusion energy development challenges.

The challenges were launched through the Small Business Research Initiative Competition as “Innovation Competitions. The contracts are funded by the UK Fusion Industry Programme launched in 2021 as part of a £484m government support package for UK science.

The seven organisations include a range of start-ups, small-medium enterprises, established companies, and academia. Those focusing on digital engineering challenges include Full Matrix Ltd and the University of Manchester.

Organisations focusing on reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements through 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 funding will “drive new transformative technologies pioneered by UK companies to get fusion up and running - taking fusion from scientific vision to commercial reality”. He added that the UK is “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.”

According to UKAEA Chief Development Officer Tim Bestwick 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 £1m”. The awards “aim to engage the private sector on the technical challenges facing fusion energy’s development”.

This announcement follows the award of 18 Fusion Industry Programme contracts earlier in 2023 for the development of novel fusion materials, manufacturing techniques and innovative heating and cooling systems.

Applications for the latest Fusion Industry Programme challenge, which aims to encourage innovation in the development of lithium technologies can still be submitted until 19 July. 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”.

Image: Inside of a replica fusion energy machine at UKAEA's Culham Campus (courtesy of UKAEA)

Date: Wednesday, 14 June 2023
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