On October 15, the Department of Energy announced the results of the first competition for awards from the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) public-private partnership program.
FIA is proud that, of the 12 grants awarded, 11 went to FIA member companies. These grants, awarded to five different fusion companies, will enable our companies to take advantage of U.S. government expertise in computer simulation, x-ray diagnostics, design of high-frequency switches, materials testing under extreme conditions, and more. Without the INFUSE program, companies would have been forced to replicate these capabilities, which already exist within the federal scientific research program, at high cost to their investors.
FIA members receiving awards are: Commonwealth Fusion Systems, HelicitySpace, Hyperjet Fusion Corporation, Proton Scientific Technologies, and TAE Technologies. A full list and description of the awards are available through INFUSE at: https://infuse.ornl.gov/2019-infuse-awards-2/.
With these funds, FIA member companies will collaborate with U.S. government researchers at a diverse range of national laboratories, including Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The members of FIA have been happy to support the INFUSE program. As it moves into planning for its second round, we have encouraged Department of Energy, Congress, and INFUSE leadership to undertake several steps that would increase the program's value to both the government and fusion companies. First, INFUSE grants should open to eligible foreign companies; this would attract companies to invest in the United States and do research with federally-funded scientists. Second, individual INFUSE grants should be larger; the small size of grants limits the utility for companies. Finally, INFUSE grants should not be limited to collaboration between private companies and national labs; federally funded researchers at universities or other entities should be allowed to benefit from collaboration with private companies.
As the Senate says in its Energy and Water Appropriations report:
"The U.S. has an opportunity to seize global leadership in this transformational energy sector and attract global industry stakeholders by building on the Department's laboratory capabilities and world class fusion science talent while partnering with these private fusion companies."
INFUSE, and future programs like it, can help to ensure that the United States is a key player in the fusion energy economy of the future.