SBRI Competition: Fusion Industry Challenges

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop solutions that accelerate fusion power plant design and reduce their fuel requirements.

Opportunity Details


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Phase 1 projects can have total costs between £50,000 and £250,000, inclusive of VAT.

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This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority. The aim of the competition is to develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in two key priority areas. This competition has two themes:

  1. Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools
  2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for hydrogen isotopes

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition.

Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2. Applicants for phase 2 will need to apply directly to the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Phase 1 projects can have total costs between £50,000 and £250,000, inclusive of VAT. Projects are expected to start by 1 September 2021, end by 31 March 2022 and can last up to 6 months.

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or other sectors as subcontractors

Applicants are welcome from all sectors.

UKAEA will give preference to applications which:

  • help the innovation be formally accepted for future use in a fusion plant environment, such as through obtaining relevant regulatory certificates or approvals during phase 2.
  • offer innovations that consider sustainability as part of their technology development

Your proposal must:

  • reduce the risk involved in taking up technologies and faster
  • outline plans to accelerate time to market
  • be pre-commercial
  • explain rationale for the solution and describe the expected impact
  • define how the proposed solution would enable and support the delivery of sustainable fusion power plants
  • assign at least 2 technical milestones where technical performance is reviewed in order to release funds
  • demonstrate a clear plan for commercialisation and a route to market for affordable, developed solutions
  • set out clearly how solutions might be tested in a representative or real world setting as part of phase 2
  • address how any potentially negative outcomes would be managed (such as on the environment or society)
  • demonstrate how you will work with at least one potential future customer throughout your project who might use your solution when it comes to market

Your proposed solution must:

  • be based on sound fundamental technical principles
  • be innovative
  • be practical and deliverable
  • take affordability into consideration
  • demonstrate the potential for cost-effectiveness
  • integrate with existing systems where necessary
  • consider user experience throughout the design and development process.
  • provide a business case for using the solution in a commercial environment that demonstrates improvement over the existing baseline conditions

At this stage contracts will be given for phase 1 only. You must define your goals and outline your plan for phase 2.

Your project must address one of these two themes:

1. Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools

To meet Net Zero targets, there is not enough time for traditional Design-Build-Test-Learn (DBTL) approach for fusion power plants. Increasing emphasis will be placed upon emerging innovation from in silico engineering design:

Exascale artificial Intelligence era Digital Thread platform

  • beyond current Product Lifecycle Management
  • endures for the lifetime of the product (100 years)
  • low-code
  • time efficient
  • scalable
  • enable and promote automation
  • enable design integration

Optimise the extraction of information and knowledge from experiment and simulation

  • data science for experiment automation and optimisation
  • avoid “all prior data” dependence
  • minimise simulation data storage – extraction, compression, discarding
  • surrogate models and emulators
  • data extrapolation

2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for Hydrogen isotopes

Tritium is a radioactive isotope with a half-life of around 12 years. Because of this, natural reserves are scarce. Developing techniques for safely and efficiently managing hydrogen isotopes is an essential step in the path to making fusion a commercial energy source, for example:

  • Hydrogen Isotope Separation Technologies
  • improving efficiency of tritium and hydrogen systems (e.g. pumps, sealants, inner loop)
  • waste management and decommissioning
  • development of on-line Tritium production measurement (e.g. Raman spectroscopy)
  • tracking and location of hydrogen, e.g. Atom probe tomography, Raman spectroscopy

A recording of the briefing event that was held on 27th May can be found on the UKAEA website: click here to watch the recording.


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