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Media Corner
13 October 2014

SOFT optimism in the air

ITER Industrial Info Day opening ceremony. From left to right:Prof. J.Sánchez, Head of Fusion National Laboratory -CIEMAT, Prof. H.Bindslev, F4E Director, E.Hernáez, Basque Government Deputy Minister of Technology, Innovation and Competitiveness, JP. Uriguen, Dept. of Innovation, Rural Development and Tourism, Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa , ML.Castaño, General Direction of Innovation and Competitiveness, MINECO , Prof.O.Motojima, ITER IO General Director

The Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT) is one of the most anticipated rendezvous of the fusion community. Every two years the most prominent fusion experts from around the globe meet for five days to discuss the progress of their work, present new breakthroughs, debate the future of their field and network. The 28th edition of SOFT was celebrated in San Sebastián under the auspices of Spain’s Research Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology (CIEMAT) bringing together more than 1,100 participants.

The event was hosted at the Kursaal congress centre overlooking the Bay of Biscay. The building has the shape of two translucent glass cubes which let the rays of light come in. At the centre of the hall stood the SOFT exhibition that offered participants the possibility to interact and learn more about the R&D and industrial developments of the 50 entities that took part.  Plenary and thematic sessions grouped high profile speakers who addressed a vast range of topics such as ITER, DEMO, JET, K-STAR, Weldenstein 7-X, ASDEX and JT-60SA. Round table discussions served as platforms for dialogue about technology transfer and upcoming business opportunities. As always, the poster sessions were buzzing with activity as younger and older generations of scientists proudly presented the latest progress.

F4E was present in all activities through a delegation that counted 40 members of staff ready to take questions on the progress of ITER, communicate the latest calls for tender and give an overview of the Broader Approach activities. During the opening session, the Director of F4E, Professor Henrik Bindslev, shared with a full auditorium the news about the ITER Tokamak basemat: “This is an important milestone for which we are very enthusiastic! A mesh of very thick irons mixed with high strength concrete is in place to host the most crucial component- the ITER machine” he said. As the image was unveiled to the audience one could not help noticing the positive impression it made. It was a moment of soft optimism that marked a point of no return. ITER was advancing! The progress report offered by F4E gave a 360 degrees overview of the key technologies that Europe is responsible for and gave assurances that we were handling them with great care. The F4E Director concluded his presentation with an open invitation to all participants to the Fusion for Energy forum, the biggest business event in fusion technology, organised by F4E on 10-12 June 2015 in Barcelona.

The presence of numerous European Fusion Laboratories (EFLs) and Industry Liaison Officers (ILOs) inspired Ana Belén Del Cerro, Spain’s ILO, to organise an Info Day gathering more than 180 representatives from companies and laboratories interested to hear more about upcoming calls and potential possibilities of collaboration between the two fusion camps. F4E deployed an army of experts to address multiple aspects. Jean- Marc Filhol, gave a thorough overview of the F4E roadmap to fulfill ITER’s short-term technical needs; Glenn Counsell and Filippo Sartori explained the F4E procurement strategy in the areas of Diagnostics and Control Data Access and Communication (CODAC); Mario Cavinato and Tullio Bonicelli gave succinct reports on Plasma and Antennae and the Neutral Beam Test Facility and EC Power Supplies. The business angle was boosted by Mehdi Daval who explained to attendees how to apply to a tender and used the occasion to unveil the brand new F4E clip that guides applicants through. Finally, Victor Saez contributed to the round table discussion on technology transfer highlighting the benefits of being part of the ITER learning curve and its domino effect on DEMO.

SOFT 2014 managed to meet the expectations of its participants. The combination of interesting scientific topics and its attempt to reconcile them with business offered a new interesting twist to the event. It felt like a fresh start for a community that was on the rebound: onboard to tackle ITER, eager to tussle with its intricacies and enthusiastic about DEMO. The next edition of SOFT will take place in Prague in 2016. Let’s see two years down the road where we will stand.

More than 180 participants attend the ITER Industrial Info Day
From left to right: Philippe Magaud, CEA, Filippo Sartori,F4E, Sylvain Bremond, CEA,  Glenn Counsell, F4E