Oxfordshire LEP puts PM's innovation vision into practice with fusion energy research
OxLEP is underpinning the Prime Minister's focus on innovation as a key driver of economic growth by championing the county’s potential in fusion energy, especially in areas such as superconductivity, cryogenics, advanced materials, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence. Below, Sebastian Johnson, OxLEP's Head of Innovation and Inward Investment, explains all.
"There is no doubt that fusion is the future of energy, as made clear following the breakthrough by US scientists earlier last month in the race to recreate nuclear fusion. As a primary location for fusion energy research and innovation, companies in Oxfordshire are leading the race to make this happen.
OxLEP is helping to drive innovation in the region and continues to highlight and champion the county’s unrivalled potential in fusion energy, especially in key areas such as superconductivity, cryogenics, advanced materials, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Not only this, but Oxfordshire-based companies and experiments are already showing the considerable potential of fusion as a clean energy source. New, unparalleled successes in its evolvement are happening more and more regularly.
Just at the start of this year, the acceleration of fusion became further apparent through results recorded at the Culham Science Centre’s Joint European Torus (JET) facility (pictured above). It was announced that 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy was achieved over a five-second period, with JET saying that this level more than doubled previous records dating back to 1997 – the previous high being 22 megajoules.
In addition – with companies such as Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion already calling Oxfordshire ‘home’ – it’s no surprise that the Canadian-based industry leader, General Fusion has taken notice of these strengths and last summer announced it will build its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at Culham, further adding to Oxfordshire’s depth and reputation as a ‘powerhouse’ in the development of fusion energy.
With such a dense concentration of fusion strength, it’s very hard to dispute how important Oxfordshire is in creating a genuinely achievable fusion future and – with this in mind – it remains a key role of OxLEP to profile and highlight the strength of the sector in the county and in our wider world-leading innovation ecosystem.
Recently, OxLEP took part in Fusion 22, a major event that brought greater awareness as to the potential of fusion energy. The whole fusion industry was gathered to demonstrate the sector’s incredible potential and how it can be a significant cornerstone of a cleaner future.
In September 2022, OxLEP became a co-founder of the inaugural OX to ZERO conference in central Oxford, an event that brought together Oxfordshire’s most-innovative thinkers, investors and entrepreneurs in energy and built upon their own official COP26 conference last autumn.
Such high-profile stakeholder events highlight Oxfordshire’s significant investment potential and further amplify the county as one of – if not, the key – international driver in creating a clean future for the planet.
OX to ZERO also demonstrated the value of key partnerships, with the conference delivered alongside OxLEP’s co-founders; the University of Oxford, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and the Culham-based UKAEA, with the hope of a second conference taking place next autumn.
The partnership enabled OxLEP to create a key platform and ‘shout out’ far-and-wide about the huge potential of the county’s stand-out science and technology assets, clearly underlining why investment into Oxfordshire cannot be ignored.
The county has a breath-taking history of addressing the world’s most-pressing and pivotal challenges, perhaps most-recently demonstrated through the development of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine. Greater investment in a sector like fusion can push us all closer – and more quickly – to the goal of a sustainable, global future.
This is where OxLEP play a pivotal role.
At the time of reaching its 59 megajoules record, JET spoke about if the ability to maintain fusion for five seconds could be maintained for ‘five minutes and then five hours’, the need to scale-up operations in future machines was key and absolutely necessary – therefore, attracting further UK and international investment is vital to this ambition.
The LEP is taking on this challenge with many of its Oxfordshire partners and the Government through the Fusion Energy High Potential Opportunity – promoting the investment and trade opportunities that the growing cluster and expertise in Oxfordshire and the UK offers.
As we’re closer than ever to creating a cleaner future with fusion energy, driven by their Oxfordshire Internationalisation Plan to 2025, OxLEP will continue to ‘fly the flag’ for the county’s incredible fusion potential.
By working together and championing our incredible businesses and talent, we can all help drive forward a new era of clean energy through fusion."