Grant information

closed    Opened: 09 May 2022   |   Closes: 22 June 2022


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

1. Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems.

2. Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture.


This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. The 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 the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2.


In applying to this phase 1 competition you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the date of the deadline.

Funding Type


Project size

Phase 1 projects can range in size with total costs of between £50,000 and £200,000, inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Projects must:

  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last between 3 to 6 months

Your project is expected to start by 1 September 2022


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an eligible organisation of any size with a UK registration or registered office
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors
  • applicants are welcome from all sectors

This competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only.

Subcontracting is encouraged where it will improve the proposal. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.


A total of up to £2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1. The funding is provided by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be between £50,000 and £200,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to 6 months. Innovate UK expects to fund up to 10 projects.

Phase 2 involves up to 5 contracts being awarded to organisations chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £1,000,000 inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 18 months.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

The contract is completed at the end of the competition, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. Innovate UK will not provide any further advice and suggest you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.


Your project

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovation in the fusion industry through the use of novel and innovative heating and cooling systems, materials, manufacturing and technologies.

Your project must develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in two key priority areas identified by the UK Atomic Energy Authority:

1. Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems

2. Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture


Your solution must be developed in the UK for use within the UK.

In phase 1 you must demonstrate the feasibility of your project, in line with the specific themes.

Innovate UK will give preference to applications which:

  • help the innovation be formally accepted for future use in a fusion plant environment, for example by obtaining relevant regulatory certificates or approvals during phase 2
  • offer innovations which consider existing infrastructure and potential interfaces



Your proposal must:


  • reduce the risk involved in the take up of new technologies
  • outline plans to accelerate time to market
  • be pre-commercial
  • explain the 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 performance is reviewed in order to release funds
  • demonstrate a clear plan for commercialisation with a route to market for affordable, developed solutions
  • describe how solutions can be tested in a representative or real world setting as part of phase 2
  • explain 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


Your 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

At this stage contracts will be given for phase 1 only.

You must define your goals in your application and outline your plan for phase 2. This is part of the full commercial implementation in your phase 1 application.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

In phase 2 Innovate UK will ask successful applicants from phase 1 to develop and demonstrate a working prototype in a real-world environment.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one of these 2 themes:

Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems.

Projects can focus on one or more of the following under this theme:

Microwave heating challenges:

  • high power, long pulse microwave sources with high electrical efficiency (greater than or equal to 55%)
  • development of special waveguide components, for example, diamond window assemblies, power monitors, expansion units, vacuum pumping access
  • improvements on the high voltage power supplies (50kV) for reduced voltage ripple in a compact assembly while maintaining high electrical efficiency (greater than or equal to 98%)
  • development of optical mirrors for evacuation of high thermal loads (approximately 5MW/m2)
  • high precision optical alignment assemblies for the free space to waveguide coupling

Neutral particle beam heating challenges:

  • negative ion beam system with high electrical efficiency (greater than 60%)
  • improved beam neutralisation efficiency, for example, Plasma or Laser Neutralisers
  • development of residual ion energy recovery.
  • improved negative ion source efficiency with caesium free operation
  • reduction in scale; improved ion optics, source uniformity and power handling to reduce size of components
  • development of actively cooled high heat flux components (approximately 5-10 MW/m2) with reactor relevant materials
  • development of fault tolerant 1-2MV fast switching power supply systems with high electrical efficiency
  • development of vacuum pumping systems with pumping speeds of millions of litres per second which allow continuous operation

Reactor high heat flux components:

  • jet impingement cooling technology transfer
  • sCO2 as coolant
  • diamond components for heat dispersion
  • novel discrete limiter designs, for example, vaporisation layers, speed of maintenance or increased heat flux performance

Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture

Projects can focus on one or more of the following under this theme:

  • fusion grade steels, for example, reduced activation Ferritic or Martensitic (RAFM) development, including, Castable Nanostructured Alloys (CNAs), and Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels
  • liquid Metal testing, for example Li, PbLi and Pb
  • scalable or large volume manufacture of tritium breeder materials
  • irradiation resilient joining materials and processes, for example, Tungsten based armour materials, CuCrZr or vacuum vessel ports including fused silica, Mo, MgAl2O4, ZnS, ZnSe
  • novel manufacture of multi-metre complex structures and components for fusion environments testing and evaluation
  • scalable or large volume manufacture of neutron shielding materials
  • manufacture of complex geometry components in refractory metals
  • additive manufacture for non-water coolant components
  • anti-corrosion coatings or novel application methods of corrosion and tritium barrier coatings for complex geometry components
  • development of on-line activation measurements
  • in situ health monitoring of fusion reactor components
  • novel inspection of interfaces in complex multi-material fusion components
  • radiation hard improvements for fusion equipment and plant
  • novel energy conversion technology
  • high temperature superconductors
  • composite materials such as silicon carbide fibre, reinforced silicon carbide
  • novel materials for radiation hard electronic components

Research categories

Phase 1: technical feasibility studies

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

In phase 1 the supplier must work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Your phase 2 project will involve prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

Projects that will not be funded

Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • do not engage with potential future customers to understand needs
  • cannot be undertaken within the working restrictions of coronavirus (COVID 19)
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes, including the environment or society, would be managed
  • do not address at least one theme within the competition scope
  • are not suitable for use within the UK fusion industry sector
  • duplicates existing innovation
  • are not commercially viable
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver


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