Opportunities for SMEs in the growing fusion industry
We discussed the growing and changing industry and the opportunities existing and arising for small player and talk about the work Tom does and the projects he is involved with. He also told the story of the growth of Oxford Sigma, founded in 2019, against the backdrop of the changing fusion industry.
Here are three key insights from the event:
1. Getting into big, publicly-funded contracts (like the UK STEP programme) helps company growth
Winning a contract for STEP gives the certainty of long-term work, meaning that the company can hire more staff and therefore deliver more work. They then also have more resource to work with private companies too, so via these kinds of programmes the government supports the growth of the wider industry.
Tom said: “UKAEA as a government body has a mandate support the supply chain. If it wasn't for that we couldn’t even be considered for this delivery partnership. But with a long term contract with consistent work I can support multiple staff hires in the facility. And that just spills over to the private companies, and it spills over to our development program. So it's an indirect way of governments supporting the fusion industry.”
2. SMEs fit into the fusion ecosystem by tackling enabling technologies
There are numerous areas where non-fusion specialists can get involved in the fusion industry. Oxford Sigma specialises in materials. Other areas include cryogenics, magnets, balance of plant and heat exchangers/extraction.
3. Never say never; never say no.
That’s Tom’s advice for small companies wanting to get involved in fusion. He says that sometimes you don’t know what it is you’re being asked for, or where it’s going, but it’s probably positive.
Put yourself in the position of opportunities.
Tom said: “There were so many occasions where we could have said, 'no, this is not interesting.' You can't see two steps ahead. But somehow it comes back in a very positive way to support you. Also, allow for the opportunities to come. Put yourself in a position where opportunities present themselves.”
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.