FEI Insights

Fusion innovation paradigm shift - ecosystem challenges to commercialisation

Dec 13, 2021

3 insights from the December 2021 Insights Q&A session with Dr Richard Pearson, Co-founder and Chief Innovator at Kyoto Fusioneering, an engineering start-up focused on accelerating the development of fusion energy. 

For the event, Richard recapped where we are today, with the private sector rising fast, and explained how the private sector is doing things differently. He examined the paradigm shift happening, starting with why things have changed and moving onto where we go next to realise fusion. We discussed the shared "ecosystem challenges" -- i.e. the things that matter to all, including both the technical challenges and the non-technical (e.g. supply chain considerations, siting issues, entering markets, etc).

Here are 3 insights from the event:

1. Until now, fusion has predominantly been focused on technological innovation and not on commercialisation.

The mechanisms to deploy technology in the market (diffusion) are not explored until later – i.e. until after a promising invention is discovered or realised.

Private fusion developers are upending the current paradigm by trying to commercialise fusion within the next decade or so. It requires a different, more agile model of innovation and a greater acceptance of technical risk/failure.

Private companies are focused on returning investment to their backers, so they explore potential routes to market, angling technology development towards those commercialisation pathways.

2. Development of the fusion ecosystem needs to allow public and private fusion developers to do what they do best:

• Private companies – led by entrepreneurs – can focus on developing technologies

that present the most promise for the commercialisation of fusion.

• Government-funded laboratories and research institutions – housing leading scientists and engineers – can provide technical support and expertise to private fusion developers, i.e. they can fully focus on technological innovation.

In fusion, we have to turn around the innovation ecosystem, so that the right organisations (in both the public and private sectors) are focussed on the right things — with all pushing in the same direction.

3. For successful commercialisation, fusion developers must consider both technical and market drivers.

We’ve spoken about technical challenges before, such as in the Insights Q&A with Mike Gorley in November. These technical drivers are necessary for the technology to work. But there are also market drivers that are needed to take technology to market.

Technical drivers: e.g. tritium breeding and handling, materials development, balance of plant systems….

Market drivers: e.g. regulation, export controls, resource availability, supply chains….

A full pdf summary of key insights, plus the Q&A event replay, is available to Game Changer members of Fusion Energy Insights. Join us now for full access to all the insights.

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