Fuelling Success: Culham Innovation Centre Celebrates Milestone in Advancing Fusion Energy Businesses

February 14th 2024

We’re thrilled to announce a significant milestone here at Culham Innovation Centre! For an impressive 23 years, we've been at the forefront of innovation, serving as a dynamic hub for the brightest minds in science and technology. To mark this occasion, we recently hosted a celebratory gathering on Monday, February 12th, where we raised our glasses in honour of our incredible customers – both past and present.

At Culham Innovation Centre, our mission is clear: to empower emerging businesses in the fields of fusion energy and high-tech engineering. With state-of-the-art facilities including flexible office and laboratory spaces, complemented by a wide array of support services and curated events, we've had the privilege of nurturing numerous pioneering startups on their journey to success.

Jo Stevens, Managing Director of Oxford Innovation Space – which manages the Culham Innovation Centre – said: “We are proud to have supported so many companies to start, scale and graduate from the Culham Innovation Centre over the last 23 years. Some of our most notable graduates such as Tokamak Energy and Reaction Engines are developing cutting-edge technology and creating substantial job opportunities. Our Culham centre demonstrates the integral role innovation centres can play in building communities of SMEs, driving local economic growth, and supporting the government’s ambition for the UK to be a science and technology superpower.”

Tokamak Energy stands as one of our earliest success stories. Reflecting on their journey, David Kingham, Executive Vice Chairman, reminisces, “Culham Innovation Centre was the ideal location for the early growth of Tokamak Energy when the company emerged as a spin-out from UKAEA – it was the perfect place to start a bold, hard-tech, company. We wanted to remain on the same site for the first few years as one of our founders was still employed by UKAEA – and we benefitted from the flexibility of the Innovation Centre as we grew to employ more than 10 people. We wanted all the services provided by the Centre, so that we could concentrate on growing the business, tackling our technical challenges and hitting our milestones. We “graduated” from the Centre after three years and now, 10 years later, have raised over £150m investment and employ 260 people, nearly all in Oxfordshire.”

The latest business to join our community is Oxford Sigma, founded in 2019 by Jonathan Musgrove and Dr. Thomas Davis, who are pioneering advanced materials technology in the fusion sector. Moving to Culham Innovation Centre in 2023, Jonathan explained: “Culham is the key place for fusion in the UK, so Culham Innovation Centre was the right place for us to be. As well as being close to all the right companies and people, being here has opened us up to a network of support, including access to specialists in areas like finance. The centre really brings start-ups together to collaborate and discuss challenges, while the centre management team are always willing to provide additional help with those little day-to-day things.

“An industry is not built just on one or two companies, but a whole supply chain and we at Oxford Sigma are part of the growth of that supply chain and this exciting sector. Fusion is one of many future forms of energy to help meet Net Zero ambitions. There has been a lot of strides in some areas, proving that this could be a realistic energy source in the future.”

Fusion energy, touted as a promising avenue for sustainable, low-carbon energy, is at the heart of Culham's innovation. Tim Bestwick, Deputy CEO of UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), said: “The Culham Campus is developing rapidly as a global hub for the commercialisation of fusion technologies, and Culham Innovation Centre plays a central role in this mission – providing flexible accommodation and important support to growing businesses.”

Furthermore, our diverse ecosystem encompasses ventures such as Active Needle, a medical device company specializing in innovative needle technology. Ian Quirk, CEO and Founder of Active Needle, highlights the Centre's role in their journey, stating, “We’ve tripled in size since we first moved here, but we’ve been able to easily scale-up our office space within the centre as we’ve grown. We’ve also benefitted from the specialist support services and events offered through the centre.”

At Culham Innovation Centre, we're not just a space – we're a thriving community. Together, we're driving local growth and cementing the UK's position as a global leader in science and technology.

Here's to 23 years of innovation, collaboration, and endless possibilities. Here's to the future – may it be filled with continued success and groundbreaking achievements.

July 10th 2023

Active Needle -Shortlisted For Technology Innovator Of The Year

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