Ox To Zero: A one day event with Oxfordshire's most innovative thinkers
Last week Fusion Energy Insights founder, Melanie Windridge attended the Ox to Zero event that took place at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford.
The event was an opportunity for organisations from a variety of fields, including green finance, business, and academia to showcase how Oxfordshire leads the global charge to address the climate emergency and how companies and individuals are supporting the drive towards a zero-carbon future through different technologies and approaches.
Melanie spoke in the first session, giving the keynote address on fusion energy as well as participating in the panel discussion that followed.
Oxfordshire's Fusion Credentials
Oxfordshire is home to the UKAEA’s Culham Centre for fusion Energy site as well as Oxford University where there's research that contributes to fusion, particularly in the materials maths and engineering departments. There are private companies like Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion in the facility as well. But there are also places such as Harwell Science and Innovation campus, and other companies, such as Oxford Instruments, who work on magnet technology. There is a lot of expertise in the Oxfordshire area!
Melanie introduced fusion energy and how it could fit into the energy market and the potential role that it could play in maintaining net zero in the long term. During the panel discussion, we heard from representatives from Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, UKAEA and from the private fusion companies mentioned above. They each told us a little bit about their approach, their technology, and the benefits of being in Oxfordshire. Some of the key reasons include the scientific expertise at Oxford University, the research institutions such as Culham and Harwell, as well as the availability of people talent in the area. It was particularly telling when General Fusion talked about why they decided to build their fusion demonstrator plant in Oxford.
General Fusion looked at twelve potential sites in North America, but they chose Culham because of the wealth of fusion expertise in the area and the skills and the people that they could recruit in the area.
What Else Is Needed To Progress Fusion Energy In The UK?
Robert Trezona, founding partner of Kiko Ventures, part of the IPGroup talked about the innovation ecosystem in Oxfordshire and the strength of the area. The world class University of Oxford is very attractive it attracts great people, entrepreneurs as well as capital.
He added that what we don't do well enough in the UK is the technology translation (getting results from the lab to work commercially). We need more support such as the tech to market piece which they do much better in the US. For example, the US has DARPA and ARPA-E and support for companies looking to commercialise technologies. The UK need government incentives to help capital go into risky innovations and we need stable policy to support this. Political leadership will be required to improve this situation. We also need to encourage graduates to get into start-ups. There are a huge number of exciting jobs in start-ups but often they are perceived as riskier than established companies.
An Innovative Community
Tim Bestwick, UKAEA’s Chief Technology Officer and Director of Strategy, Communications & Business Development, summed up the event saying that all the solutions that have been discussed give us hope that we are an innovative community and together we can progress ideas and make a difference.
Indeed, we have a duty to make the most of the community in Oxfordshire to push towards Net Zero.
Thank you to everyone who attended and spoke to share their expertise and passion getting to net zero.