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Media Corner
18 April 2017

ITER Business Forum 2017: the road to first plasma is paved with commercial opportunities

Johannes Schwemmer, Director of F4E, welcomes Bernard Bigot, Director-General of ITER Organization, and representatives from the regional and local authorities of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region ©AIF.C21

What used to be once the prestigious residence of the Pope and a symbol of power became the venue of the largest business event for the fusion community. The Palais des Papes in Avignon, the biggest gothic palace in the world, opened its doors to the fifth edition of the ITER Business Forum (IBF). The impressive fortress welcomed 1000 participants from more than 400 companies operating in at least 25 countries. This has been by far the most successful IBF in terms of attendance, demonstrating the determination of Agence ITER France (AIF) to raise the bar higher by offering the fusion community an unprecedented opportunity to network, exchange information and establish new business partnerships. There was enthusiasm in the air because this IBF was taking place after the ITER Council had formally adopted the date for the first plasma of the biggest fusion device.

For Jacques Vayron, Director of AIF, the event showed the commitment of the South of France, the host to the project, where more than 3 200 people are currently being involved in ITER activities. The region has been keen to support companies in setting up their business and therefore, a network called “Welcome around ITER” has been set up to help with this task. The manufacturing of ITER components will also rely on the R&D generated by various laboratories around the world. For this reason, Bernard Bigot, Director-General of ITER Organization, highlighted in his opening speech the need for more interaction between companies and the research community in order to capitalise on their complementary skills. In order to promote this dimension further, Sabine Portier, France’s Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) for ITER, and Philippe Olivier, France’s Deputy ILO for ITER, offered attendees the possibility to interact in multiple ways. First, by means of an exhibition spreading on two floors, the ITER Domestic Agencies together with companies and laboratories presented their achievements and unveiled samples of their work. Second, plenty of business to business meetings (B2B) were organised to bring different parties together and explore ways to collaborate. In parallel, an interesting thematic programme was carefully designed to offer insight to the technical progress.

The IBF 2017 plenary session bringing together senior ITER figures and policy-makers © AIF.C21


During the plenary session, which brought together senior policy-makers, the importance of international collaboration in tackling the production of clean energy was addressed. The European Commission’s Deputy-Director General for Energy, Gerasimos Thomas, reminded the audience that energy has always been inextricably linked to European integration, referring to Euratom, and stressed the need to strive towards decarbonisation and the elimination of fossil fuels by the end of the century. The various EU investment packages were also presented to illustrate the incentives offered to Europe’s economic operators so as to promote sustainability. F4E’s Director, Johannes Schwemmer, highlighted Europe’s contribution to ITER by unveiling the latest key figures and thanking ITER partners for their dedication and collaboration. His presentation offered an overview of the progress on-site and in different European facilities. “We are at a point of no return and will continue to deliver” was his key message. And for those not yet involved there was good news in the horizon. During the next four years F4E will launch tenders for a total value of approximately 1 600 million EUR.

During the 11 thematic sessions, which grouped representatives from the different ITER parties, companies and laboratories, future market opportunities were communicated in more detail, together with their respective timelines and types of expertise in need. F4E’s Market Intelligence Group was actively involved in the B2B meetings to showcase F4E’s Industry and Fusion Laboratories portal, helped companies to share contacts and with the assistance of technical members of staff, and procurement officers, the F4E rules were explained.

As the two day event was coming to an end, one could hear the strong echo coming from the footsteps of the participants as they were walking on the cobbled street of the Palais des Papes. Judging from the sound, it definitely proved to be the rendezvous that no one in the ITER fusion community wished to miss.

Participants exchanging ideas during the B2B meetings © AIF.C21