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Culham Innovation Centre celebrates 22 years at the heart of biotech, high-tech and fusion energy

27 February 2023
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20230214 Copyright James Robinson Free for editorial use image, please credit: James Robinson Culham Innovation Centre celebrate their 22nd birthday If you require a higher resolution image, have any other photographic enquiries or are in any way unsure of your right to publish this image please contact James Robinson on [email protected]

As Culham Innovation Centre in south Oxfordshire celebrates 22 years of providing flexible workspace for innovators in the science sector, the facility has also been reflecting on its contribution to cutting-edge technology that is helping to deliver potentially world-changing solutions.

Based within the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus near Abingdon, the Innovation Centre has played a key role in incubating and supporting innovative companies on their growth journeys since it first opened in February 2001.

One of its first clients and significant successful spinouts was Reaction Engines, who pioneer high-speed flight, space access and sustainable technologies and have gone on to employ over 250 staff across their offices at Culham Campus and Denver, Colorado, US.

Managed by Oxford Innovation Space, Culham Innovation Centre Director Shelley Furey said: “Over the last 22 years, we have supported over 200 businesses in biotech, high-tech engineering, and fusion energy.

"Being based at one of Europe’s leading science and technology campuses, means that we are also at the heart of fusion technology developments, with First Light Fusion, General Fusion and now Tokamak Energy planning on building fusion facilities at the UKAEA owned campus.”

Tokamak Energy was initially based at the Innovation Centre and General Fusion currently have a satellite office space at the centre, whilst they await their new site on the campus.

General Fusion’s Senior Vice President, Technology Delivery, Michael Cappello said: "We are thrilled to be based in the Culham Innovation Centre, which places us at the heart of a thriving fusion community.

"Our close proximity to our fusion demonstration site, set to break ground this year, gives us unmatched access to the largest concentration of fusion-based expertise and suppliers in the UK.”

Fusion energy has great potential to deliver safe, sustainable, low carbon energy for generations to come and is based on the same processes that power the sun and stars.

“With more and more companies taking an interest in fusion, Culham Innovation Centre provides an ideal place to be located. Its role becomes ever more vital as the fusion ecosystem grows,” said Valerie Jamieson, UKAEA’s development manager for The Fusion Cluster.

Technologies benefiting from fusion R&D include robotics, computing, and artificial intelligence and applications for these technologies are expected in other fields, such as space exploration, mining, healthcare, and transport.

The Innovation Centre is also home to clients including sensor companies, an automated testing company, as well as a battery technology company, with all companies at the centre benefitting from community collaborations on Campus.

Innovation Director, Wendy Tindsley, said: “As Innovation Director, I provide typical business support from finding grants or collaboration opportunities or getting the community working well together.

"Some great opportunities for companies based at the Innovation Centre have come from connecting and collaborating with UKAEA and making the innovation centre a strong contributor to what is happening at Culham Campus.

“It’s great that as a relatively small centre, Culham Innovation centre is helping to deliver potentially world-changing technologies.”

Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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