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SBRI: UKAEA Fusion industry challenges prototype development

Fund Name

SBRI: UKAEA Fusion industry challenges prototype development

Project Length

6-18 months

Project Value

Up to £1.5m



This funding programme will support the UK’s leadership in economic, sustainable, and scalable fusion energy.

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovation in the development of Lithium in an economic, sustainable, and scalable fusion energy fuel cycle.

Check Your Eligibility

Fund details

Your project must evidence that initial feasibility work has been undertaken in line with the theme of this competition.

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • how export control and regulation will be addressed

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

Preference will be given to applications which:

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

Specific themes

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

Isotopic Enrichment

Technologies that can enrich the proportion of the minor isotope Lithium-6. Enrichment will be essential to the fuel sustainability of many fusion power designs and, where it is not essential, can add value by boosting Tritium production. This will enable the commissioning and restart of other fusion power plants.

Lithium enrichment represents a front-end fuel cycle service that will be demanded by fusion reactor operators around the world.

Examples of performance measures that would constitute an improvement over existing Lithium enrichment technologies include:

  • product quality, for example, maximum enrichment level (percentage), purity and product form (metal or compound)
  • economics, for example, production rate, capital cost, energy and resource consumption or value of co-products
  • environmental and worker protection, for example, hazards, waste production, obstacles to licensing such as the Minamata Convention

Tritium Extraction

Technologies that can extract Tritium from a Lithium breeding material and make it available, fast and efficient enough to fuel the ongoing Deuterium-Tritium (DT) reaction. Performance parameters relevant to a fusion energy plant’s fuel cycle system include:

  • rate of extraction
  • continuous operation
  • availability of recovered Tritium
  • energy cost

Conversion and Manufacturing

Technologies or techniques that can convert Lithium from the form available in existing supply chains into either:

  • a form suitable for an isotopic enrichment process
  • a form required by the Tritium breeding system of a fusion energy plant

Aspects relevant to a sustainable and competitive supply chain include:

  • raw material input forms, for example, Lithium Chloride, Carbonate, Hydroxide
  • product output forms, for example, suitability for a variety of enrichment processes or breeding systems
  • potential to recycle Lithium, for example, use of recycled Lithium from other sectors in fusion, or recycling of Lithium after its use in a fusion energy plant

Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • do not engage with potential future customers to understand needs
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes, including environmental or societal, would be managed
  • create the potential for the international transfer of Lithium enrichment material or technology without addressing export control compliance
  • are not suitable for use within the UK fusion industry sector
  • duplicates existing innovation
  • are not commercially viable
  • are early-stage feasibility studies
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU-funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • include UKAEA as a subcontractor


Your project must:

  • start by 1 October 2023
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • last between 6 to 18 months
  • have total costs of up to £1.5 million, inclusive of VAT

A total of up to £5.6 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition.

This competition will award up to 4 contracts to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 18 months. Up to £1.5 million, inclusive of VAT, will be allocated for each contract.

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

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