Spring statement delivers for innovation in Oxfordshire


The Chancellor unveiled further plans to invest substantial sums in research and development in Oxfordshire this week.

These include a commitment to fusion research at the Joint European Torus (JET) megaproject at Culham to continue to progress nuclear technology. Culham Science Centre is home not only to the UK Atomic Energy Authority (which owns the park), its Centre for Fusion Energy, RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) and Materials Research Facility, but also the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory and the Joint European Torus (JET).

JET is the world’s largest and most powerful tokamak and the focal point of the European fusion research programme. Since it began operating in 1983, JET has made major advances in the science and engineering of fusion and more investment is going into the project.

Last year the Government revealed £86 million funding for a ‘national fusion technology platform’ at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Oxfordshire. The investment will fund the building and operation of a National Fusion Technology Platform at Culham, expected to open in 2020.

The Chancellor also confirmed that the government is investing £81 million to construct an Extreme Photonics Centre. This will be a specialist, national facility based at Harwell Campus for the deployment of new UK-developed high-powered laser technology to produce a variety new sources of penetrating radiation.

Uniquely, the EPAC can selectively produce different radiation from the same, single laser driver, consolidating the capabilities of several facilities into one. This will support multi-disciplinary research and industrial innovation in materials science, system performance and assurance in extreme environments.

This will be led by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI – an arms-length body of BEIS’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC).

Construction for the centre will begin later this year 2019-20 and is due to conclude in 2021-22, with operations scheduled to begin in 2023.

Companies at Harwell have expressed their enthusiasm for the EPAC project. Element Six, part of the De Beers Group of Companies, designs, develops and produces synthetic diamond and other supermaterials.. Neill Hunt, Executive Director of innovation at Element Six. said: “It’s fantastic to see a commitment from the UK Government to invest in science and technology, particularly within Oxfordshire. Our Global Innovation Centre sits on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus so it’s really positive to see further investment being made to support research and development in the area.

“As a world-leading R&D centre, we’re excited to welcome additional facilities to Oxfordshire and look forward to hearing more details about this investment.”