The most iconic nuclear fusion project in the world is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). This installation is located in Cadarache, in the south of France, and counts with the collaboration of 35 countries to build the world’s largest Tokamak, a magnetic fusion device designed to demonstrate the viability of fusion as a large-scale energy source and carbon-free, based on the same principle by which the sun and stars generate their energy. This experimental project is of crucial importance for the advancement of nuclear fusion and to pave the way for commercial fusion power plants.
ITER will be the first fusion device that will achieve a net energy gain – that is, more energy is produced than is absorbed by the operation of the system – as well as the first device that will maintain the fusion for long periods of time. It will also be the first to test integrated technologies, materials and physics required for the commercial production of fusion electricity.
Since its construction began in 2007, Catalan and Spanish companies have participated very actively in the development of ITER. They currently occupy the third position in the procurement ranking in Europe with some 340 contracts won worth 1,200 million euros, according to data from the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI). The technological fields where these companies participate are very diverse, from the construction itself, engineering, plasma heating systems, antennas, diagnostics and instrumentation, etc.
To bring the industry closer to the project and to publicize business opportunities, there are several possibilities. FusionCAT itself has established an active fusion community in Catalonia involving main research institutions, universities and industrial partners that work together to develop industrial competencies. In addition, assistance in technology transfer from institutions to industry is given. There is also a network of ‘Industrial Liasion Officers’ of Fusion for Energy, where each member country has an assigned person and body that helps in connecting the industry with procurements. In the case of Spain, it is through the CDTI.
To bring the industry closer to the ITER project there are also international events and fairs that are very useful. On the one hand, there is the ITER Business Forum, a meeting that is organized in the south of France every two years. The next face-to-face Forum takes place in Marseille in April 2022 (the current edition is held remotely on April 7 and 8 of this year). It is an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest business opportunities in the field of fusion and to promote collaboration between industries and fusion laboratories.
Another very important event is the Big Science Business Forum (BSBF), which brings together companies from all over Europe that can exchange information with large scientific organizations on future investments and procurements. The BSBF is a business-oriented congress. The conference is organized by ITER, CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory), ESA (European Space Agency), ESO (European Southern Observatory), ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility), ESS (European Spallation Source), European XFEL, F4E (Fusion for Energy) and ILL (European Neutron Source). In the first edition held in Copenhagen in 2018, it brought together more than 1,000 people from 500 companies and organizations from 29 different countries. The next edition will be held in Granada from October 4 to 7 in 2022. In this second edition, companies will learn about future investments and acquisitions planned by the large European scientific organizations valued at 38.7 billion euros.
The forum will offer the opportunity to:
- Know the business opportunities in the coming years, within a wide range of business areas and technologies.
- Meet representatives of the major scientific organizations in Europe and their main suppliers.
- Establish contacts through business-to-business (B2B) meetings and business-to-client (B2C) meetings.
- Learn about procurement rules, intellectual property rights, technology transfer proposals, opportunities for SMEs, and how companies can interact with the great science market.
One of the main projects in the field of nuclear fusion is IFMIF DONES, a unique research infrastructure that will allow, once built, the testing of materials for future fusion reactors under real operating conditions. This infrastructure is part of the ambitious program that the European Union and will probably be built soon in Granada with many industrial possibilities.