22 May 2023, Oxford, UK: First Light Fusion (“First Light”), the world’s leading inertial fusion start-up, has been awarded a £6 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (“EPSRC”) to launch its new Prosperity Partnership (read more here).

The EPSRC will support the programme to 2028, with their £6 million grant match funded by First Light, taking the total programme value to £12 million. The Prosperity Partnership will sponsor critical research at First Light and focus on the key physics questions specific to its approach to inertial fusion, which aims at producing energy by compressing a target of fusion fuel using a hypervelocity projectile.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with Imperial College London, led by Dr Simon Bland, along with other research partners, including from the Universities of Oxford and York, and Oxford spin-off Machine Discovery.

As part of the brand-new Partnership, First Light will jointly fund 14 Postdoctoral Research Associates, 12 PhD students and 40 undergraduate internships over the next five years, allowing it greater access to the UK’s university talent pool as part of its mission to commercialise fusion energy. It will also be able to draw on the talent and expertise of its academic partners, funded by the £12 million to dedicate time to this important research.

Founded in 2011 as a spin-out from the University of Oxford, First Light has long supported bringing the next generation of PhD students and interns locally and from across leading institutions in the UK. Over the last decade, it has recruited 15 PhD students and hosted 23 internships to undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of which have become full-time employees today.

The firm is particularly committed to bringing underrepresented groups into the STEM and fusion sectors, and over the last 10 years, its PhD and internship programme has been a key recruitment pool for the company.

Dr Nick Hawker, Co-founder & CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “We are excited to be launching our next five-year Prosperity Programme with the generous support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. This grant, which we are doubling to bring it to £12 million, will be a vital platform in recruiting the best and the brightest physicists to First Light, and more critically, unlock important physics research as we continue with our mission of solving the problem of fusion power with the simplest machine possible. Our internship scheme has been incredibly successful in building a truly diverse and representative workplace. Many of our leading scientists at First Light joined us in this capacity, and we’ve become a better and stronger business for it. This new round funding will allow us to double down on this important commitment.”

Dr Matt Betney, former PhD student and now Head of Target Design at First Light Fusion, said: “Conducting a PhD with First Light Fusion was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. It allowed me to build my skills as an independent scientist, whilst gaining exposure to the fast-paced world of a fusion start-up. This research grant will enable the next generation of scientists to benefit from this experience.”

First Light has rapidly become one of the leading inertial fusion start-ups in the world, known for its unique ‘projectile’ approach. First Light’s approach to fusion, which is safe, clean, and virtually limitless, has the potential to transform the world’s energy system.