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Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

Calif. start-up Fuse wins Air Force SBIR contract to lower nuclear effects testing costs

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Fuse, a California-based startup focused on fusion power, won an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract recently, setting up a collaboration with the U.S. Air Force to lower costs associated with nuclear effects testing. 

“Economic security and national security go hand-in-hand,” said retired USAF Major Gen. Aaron Prupas, who recently joined Fuse’s advisory board. “On the energy front, Fuse will keep us in the lead in both. Fuse brings much needed nuclear effects testing to an underserved market, particularly given the dramatic growth in the commercial and government space.”

Fuse has previously demonstrated the capabilities of advanced pulsed-power prototypes, and now, it will be looking to other solutions in the electro-magnetic spectrum for nuclear effects testing and system hardening. As a result of the contract from AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force (DAF), Fuse will be able to directly interact with not only the DAF but also the Air Force Operational Test Community, Strategic Systems, and other key stakeholders. A big part of the company’s push will be on lowering costs and giving Air Force operators greater tactical flexibility and survivability. 

Fuse ultimately hopes to develop fusion generators and push through the challenges remaining to commercially available fusion power, through the collaboration of public-private partnerships with government agencies. 

“Fuse is delivering fusion engineering breakthroughs at lower cost and faster speed than others,” JC Btaiche, founder and CEO of Fuse, said. “Our goal is to partner with government agencies to ensure that the United States remains the global leader on fusion. We are proud to partner with the Air Force Research Laboratory and AFWERX to efficiently and cost effectively offer nuclear effects testing to provide Air Force operators greater tactical flexibility and survivability.”

The SBIR has been streamlined in recent years, along with the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) process, giving companies like Fuse faster timelines between proposal and award, expanded opportunities for small businesses and reduced red tape. An open topic version of the SBIR/STTR program began in 2018, expanding the range of topics open for funding – a decision that ultimately benefited Fuse’s own journey to selection.