Funding for nuclear innovation

Applying for government funding for UK civil nuclear fission innovation.

Nuclear innovation, 2016 to 2021

At Spending Review 2015, government committed to invest in an ambitious nuclear research and development programme.

Across government, Innovate UK, Research Councils, and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) expect to invest around £460 million in nuclear research and innovation.

As part of this commitment, within the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme, BEIS expects to invest around £180 million in nuclear innovation.

Nuclear innovation, Phase 1 Funding

As part of this commitment, an initial phase of over £20 million of funding was launched in November 2016, supporting innovation in the civil nuclear sector across 5 major areas from 2016 to 2018 and building on the recommendations set out by the Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board (NIRAB)

This funding included:

  • £6 million towards maintaining the UK’s leading edge work on advanced nuclear fuels which could provide greater levels of efficiency
  • £5 million for research that underpins the development, safety and efficiency of the next generation of nuclear reactor designs. This includes scoping work in collaboration with the Welsh government
  • £6 million to develop the UK’s capability in nuclear materials, advanced manufacturing and modular build for the reactors of the future. This process is being led by Innovate UK through the Small Business Research Initiative
  • £2 million to research fuel recycling processes that may reduce future environmental and financial burdens
  • £2 million to continue with the development of a suite of toolkits and underpinning data that will enhance government’s knowledge basis for future decision making in the nuclear sector, up to 2050

A number of contracts, valued at up to £12.5 million, have now been awarded covering the areas above. Work has commenced on these contracts and is being led by a number of organisations, including:

  • National Nuclear Laboratories (on advanced nuclear fuels and recycling)
  • Frazer Nash (on reactor design, including thermal hydraulics and safety engineering, and on materials and manufacturing)
  • Amec Foster Wheeler (on reactor design, materials, and manufacturing)
  • Brunel University London (on materials and manufacturing)
  • Cammell Laird Energy (on materials and manufacturing)
  • Nuclear AMRC (on materials and manufacturing)
  • University of Sheffield (on materials and manufacturing)

Nuclear innovation, Phase 2 Funding

A second phase of innovation funding was announced in December 2017, providing up to £8 million for work on modern safety and security methodologies and advanced fuel studies.

This includes:

  • £3.7 million of funding for work on reactor design and safety engineering. This work will aim to: build better tools for developing and evaluating safety and security cases, improve the evaluation of nuclear safety and security performance and, increase understanding of how nuclear safety, nuclear security and safeguards requirements can be delivered throughout the design process
  • £4.3 million of funding for work on advanced nuclear fuels. This work will aim to develop world leading laboratories to develop accident tolerant fuels and to develop improved computer modelling and simulation of how advanced nuclear fuels behave in operation. This work will support the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, such as Generation IV technologies

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Nuclear Innovation, Phase 3

Nuclear Innovation, Advanced Reactor Design – Digital Phase 2

View the Advanced Reactor Design – Digital Phase 2 Invitation to Tender (ITT):

As stated in the invitation to tender documentation, a Supplier Day Event hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) was held in Birmingham on 14 January 2019, aiming to:

  • disseminate findings from the Phase 1 of the Advanced Reactor Design – Digital programme
  • promote the opportunity for Phase 2 of the programme

Stakeholders who were unable to attend can watch a recording of the event. watch a recording of the event.

Advanced manufacturing and materials (AMM)

The advanced manufacturing and materials competition could:

  • decrease the capital costs of nuclear power stations through off-site fabrication
  • help meet cost reduction targets set out in the Nuclear Sector Deal (NSD)

Programme aims and benefits

The aims of the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials programme are:

  • by 2021 to have established a strong manufacturing and materials research and development base to support the UK nuclear supply chain
  • by 2030 provide underpinning technology support to the UK manufacture of components for modular reactors and other reactor types
  • by 2050 facilitate UK industry developing a position as a significant global player in the deployment of modular reactors and other advanced reactor technologies. Support BEIS in achieving its objectives:
    • ensuring the UK has a secure and resilient energy system
    • keeping energy bills as low as possible
    • securing ambitious international action on climate change while reducing carbon emissions cost-effectively at home

The programme benefits are:

  • development and retention of key skills and capabilities required to design, manufacture, regulate and operate future reactors
  • increased capability and competitiveness of the UK nuclear manufacturing supply chain
  • nuclear technologies and components with enhanced safety and reduced costs
  • reduced energy costs by implementing advanced manufacturing techniques
  • improved nuclear sustainability by reducing waste

Phase 1

The initial phase of the programme was £5 million and ran from April 2017, concluding in August 2019. Phase 1 of the programme provided initial funding to develop technologies in advanced manufacturing and materials, with Phase 2 intended to move these, and other, technologies through demonstration towards commercialisation.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is a £20 million investment programme focused on increasing the manufacturing or technology readiness levels of technologies, including those established in Phase 1, towards demonstration and commercialisation. It will produce one or more technology demonstrators using advanced manufacturing or construction techniques, incorporating and developing the learning and technologies from the Phase 1 funded programme.

Find out more about the AMM competition and the successful projects

Support for advanced nuclear technologies

Government is providing up to £7 million of funding to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and license small and novel reactor designs. This funding will also provide support for pre-licensing engagement between vendors and regulators.

Government is investing up to £44 million in the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development (F&D) project, a 2-stage advanced modular reactor programme, administered by Innovate UK:

The Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory board (NIRAB) reconvenes

The Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) was initially established in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance as a temporary advisory board, by Ministerial appointment, for a period of up to 3 years in duration. Its term ran from January 2014 to December 2016.

Building on the success of the original structure, NIRAB was reconvened at the behest of BEIS in 2018 and will work in partnership with the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO) to provide independent advice to government.

The role of NIRAB is set out in their terms of reference and can be summarised as follows:

  • monitor the delivery and impact of the BEIS Nuclear Innovation Programme and recommend any amendments that may be necessary in the light of outputs from the programme and developments in the nuclear landscape
  • advise where innovation could drive down costs across the whole nuclear cycle
  • identify opportunities for greater collaboration with industry and international partners
  • to support the development of recommendations for new research and innovation programmes required to underpin priority policies including energy policy and industrial policy
  • to oversee a regular review of the nuclear research and innovation landscape which may include facilities, capability, portfolio and capacity in the UK
  • to foster greater cooperation and coordination across the whole of the UK’s nuclear research and innovation capability, portfolio and capacity

NIRAB does not have responsibility for managing or delivering research and development (R&D) programmes or for directing or managing R&D budgets.

Innovation in nuclear fusion technologies

Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and harnessing this process to deliver clean, inexhaustible energy is the goal of global fusion research. This technology is less developed than fission energy generation technology but is a promising field of research that could have global implications in the future. In addition, there is a clear link between the technologies that support fission and fusion energy research such as robotics, advanced materials and computing that can be exploited for the benefit of the UK nuclear sector as whole.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority manages the UK’s fusion research programme and contributions to international fusion programmes such as JET and ITER.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council manages the research funding for the UK fusion programme.

UK Nuclear Fission R&D Catalogue

This catalogue brings together and builds on existing information about UK nuclear fission research and development (R&D) facilities. It aims to provide a comprehensive list of all equipment and capabilities, updated contacts for users and access requirements.

The catalogue was compiled by NIRO.

Read the catalogue on the NIRAB website.

Published 3 November 2016
Last updated 10 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Links to winning AMM/AMR projects added.

  2. Advanced Materials and Construction (AMM) Phase 2B is now open to applications. Closing date: 19 February 2020.

  3. Advanced manufacturing and materials - Phase 2 information added.

  4. We've added information about Nuclear innovation, phase 3.

  5. Nuclear innovation phase 2 funding.

  6. Expression of interest for roles in NIRO.

  7. Updates from Clean Growth Strategy.

  8. Reform of NIRAB

  9. Closed procurement rounds removed.

  10. First published.