SBRI: UKAEA Fusion industry challenges prototype development

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £5.6 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop solutions for fuel cycle services which use Lithium.

Programme:     UKAEA

Award:     Share of up to £5.6 million

Opens: 25th May 2023

Closes: 19th Jul 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

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.

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

Contracts will be given to successful applicants.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

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 re-start 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

Prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.


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

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

This competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can engage specialists or advisers. As a funding body UKAEA cannot be a subcontractor in your project. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.


UKAEA 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 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

Funding Costs

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 commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £1.5 million.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £1.5 million.

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.