The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the government, has officially opened new robotics and materials research facilities at its Culham Science Centre site, signalling a diversification to aid wider industry research.
RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) is a new £10 million robotics test centre for UK industry. As one of the Government’s ‘eight great technologies’ for growth, RACE is seen as key to developing the sector.
RACE will apply the knowledge in robotics and remote handling developed over two decades at Culham so companies in other areas, such as space, deep sea, nuclear, construction and autonomous vehicles, can benefit.
It offers access to state-of-the-art test facilities, robotic equipment and expertise to SMEs, multinationals, research laboratories and academia.
Culham’s new Materials Research Facility (MRF) meanwhile is a £10 million laboratory for scientists designing the nuclear power stations of the future, both fission and fusion. It provides academic and industrial users with equipment for the processing and characterisation of radioactive materials, for on-site analysis or taking back to the researcher’s own lab.
The MRF has hot cells for processing and equipment for characterisation of neutron-irradiated samples and bridges the gap between the university or industrial laboratory and large facilities at nuclear licensed sites, with affordable, convenient access.
RACE and MRF are UKAEA’s first new research facilities at Culham for over 30 years and marks the start of a new era for the site.
Prof Steve Cowley, UKAEA’s CEO, said: “UKAEA and Oxfordshire are taking technology from fusion research and moving it towards industrial applications. Robotics is a vital sector where much of the future lies, and advanced materials are key to the next generation of innovations. They are testament to the government’s commitment to tomorrow’s technology.”
Officially opening both facilities, science minister Jo Johnson said: “The hard work of scientists, academics and apprentices here at Culham is a prime example of why the UK is a world-leader in scientific discovery. These new facilities will take the next steps in developing clean fusion energy, and train apprentices to support businesses and growth