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November 10, 2021 | Tom Ballard

General Fusion to open U.S. headquarters in Oak Ridge in another tech and innovation win for region

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

It’s another significant win for the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region in its quest to be more broadly recognized as a global innovation hub.

General Fusion, a Vancouver, Canada-based company that is focused on transforming the world’s energy supply with clean, safe and abundant fusion energy, announced yesterday that its new U.S. base of operations will be in Oak Ridge. In making the announcement, Chief Executive Officer Christofer Mowry underscored the strength of the region and its innovation economy.

“Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the ideal location for our new U.S. headquarters,” he said. “Oak Ridge is one of the primary centers for energy innovation in the U.S. It (the new operation) will provide us with access to the state’s rich innovation ecosystem and the highly skilled workforce in the Oak Ridge region. We are harnessing the immense breadth of fusion resources located here in Oak Ridge to help us transform the world’s energy systems for a low carbon future.”

Described as “a global leader in fusion energy technology development,” General Fusion is rapidly expanding its collaboration with national laboratories, universities, and the U.S. government as the it advances plans for a “first-of-a-kind” commercial pilot plant. The new Oak Ridge operation will create up to 50 highly technical jobs to advance the company’s commercialization of fusion energy – a carbon-free power source necessary to meet the growing global energy demand while fighting climate change.

One of those collaborations is with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) which no doubt was a strong factor in the decision to locate the U.S. headquarters here, and the announcement was warmly received locally.

“General Fusion has been a valued research partner as we advance plasma diagnostics to establish fusion energy as a viable source of abundant clean energy,” said Thomas Zacharia, ORNL Director in a news release. “We are thrilled to welcome its U.S. headquarters to the Oak Ridge Corridor. The arrival of this world leader in fusion energy underscores the value of the private-public collaborations that drive technology development and deployment here.”

General Fusion is the first private fusion company to establish an office in Tennessee. The office is strategically located near ORNL, the largest multi-purpose science and energy laboratory in the U.S. and home to the U.S. ITER program. According to the company’s news release, General Fusion will collaborate with world-leading fusion scientists and tap into key engineering talent. The Oak Ridge office will also provide a robust ecosystem of suppliers and services essential to making commercial fusion energy a reality.

“Our expansion into Tennessee embodies the spirit of the recent National Academies of Sciences report which calls on government and private industry to invest and collaborate now to deploy fusion power in the 2035-2040 timeframe,” Mowry said. “With this announcement, we intend to make it a cornerstone of General Fusion’s global network of partners preparing fusion to be the clean energy technology of choice for the world.”

Public-private partnerships drive innovation in the fusion sector, and in Oak Ridge, General Fusion will benefit from increased opportunities for scientific collaboration with ORNL. The two organizations recently partnered to study plasma diagnostics to improve the quality of the plasma used to create fusion, work that will advance the design and operation of General Fusion’s commercial machine. General Fusion is developing a practical and economical approach to Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) to produce fusion energy. The company’s MTF technology puts it on the fastest path to commercialization, and on course to power homes, businesses, and industry with clean fusion energy by the early 2030s.

General Fusion, which was founded in 2002, is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders, and technology pioneers. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Vancouver and the new Oak Ridge operation, the company also has an office in London.

Jay Brister, the company’s Chief Business Development Officer, will be the featured speaker at Friday’s weekly meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council.

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