The Monaco International ITER Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED) gather representatives from the seven parties of the biggest energy collaboration, together with multiple companies and laboratories currently involved. Those flirting with the idea to contribute with their know-how also show up to get first-hand information about existing subcontracting opportunities and future contracts. This MIIFED edition came, however, with an aggressive business twist aiming to boost the entrepreneurial spirit of all participants: the organisers of the ITER Business Forum (IBF) joined forces to convert this three-day meeting point into the rendezvous of commercial deals.
The participation rate was impressive bringing together 556 participants from 26 countries representing 285 companies and fusion labs. To help attendees network and form future partnerships, the organisers offered the possibility of business to business (B2B) meetings. The majority of them grabbed this opportunity and more than 653 meetings took place. When needed, F4E representatives were there to assist and clarify any questions regarding Europe’s strategy. An exhibition consisting of 34 stands served as a complementary space for more informal exchanges. To give some context to the nature of the talks and offer a glimpse of the latest technical developments, three technical tours were planned for 60 participants taking them to the ITER construction site, the facilities of CNIM and SIMIC, where some of Europe’s components in the field of magnets are being manufactured.
A total of 75 speakers addressed the political landscape that surrounds ITER and a wide range of technical presentations tackled the progress of components and the contracts in the pipeline. H.S.H. Prince Albert II opened the event delivering an inspiring speech about climate change, the recent developments resulting from COP21 and the role of fusion energy and ITER. Under his reign Monaco will use best practice to tame its CO2 footprint and promote a sustainable model. Bernard Bigot, Director General of ITER International Organization, explained the wave of changes that have been initiated during his mandate and elaborated on the path towards a new ITER calendar. The merits of stronger integration between teams, the design revision of critical components and the comprehensive bottom-up review of all activities were spelled out. For Bigot “the challenge is to switch from a research oriented approach to more project management structure.” There were references to November’s 2015 ITER Council (IC 17) meeting where organisational improvements have been acknowledged and the recruitment of senior management together with the mapping of integrated operations have been deemed as positive. “The next target is to establish a new baseline and for this we need a political decision,” explained Bigot. The ITER Council has agreed to instill a better project culture and by 2016-2017 to approve the schedule that will be communicated to all parties. Meanwhile, the ITER Council will monitor the achievement of 29 key milestones to verify that ITER is on track. When will the schedule for first plasma be communicated? The revised calendar was presented last year and would require some further adjustments so that it is formally communicated in June 2016.
The European Commission’s Massimo Garriba, Director for Nuclear energy, safety and ITER, highlighted the financial, environmental and strategic importance of ITER. He stressed that approximately 75 % of the funding for ITER construction (i.e. around 4.5 billion EUR) is for components and activities that result in the creation of new knowledge and cutting-edge technology. More than 766 procurement contracts for a value of 3.5 billion EUR have already been awarded to European companies; and more than 145 grants have been signed with European industries and research centres. ITER is seen as a key step to demonstrate the viability of fusion as an energy source which can lead to future fusion power plants. As such, ITER is considered a strategic element of President Juncker's objective for clean and secure energy. F4E Director, Johannes Schwemmer, echoed Europe’s determination to honour its obligations and follow up rigorously all manufacturing activities. He used this occasion to formally introduce himself to the fusion community, referred to the main achievements of the project and offered an overview of the business prospects in the years to come. To showcase the direct and indirect financial benefits stemming from ITER, he presented a selection of case studies demonstrating commercial, financial or RD breakthroughs and concluded with the views of some contractors.
The hospitality of the Principality of Monaco and the hard work of colleagues from ITER IO and Agence ITER France left the best impressions. This time, however, there was a tone of confidence and assertiveness that ITER is moving in the right direction and that all parties are determined to ensure its success.
To view the MIIFED-IBF 2016 programme click here.
To view all F4E presentations click here.