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London Tech Week

Proxima Fusion closes €20M to build world’s first-of-its-kind fusion power plant

Proxima Fusion team
Picture credits: Proxima Fusion

Quasi-isodynamic (QI) stellarators result in a carbon-free, safe, and effectively limitless source of energy. The science behind this class of magnetic confinement fusion devices has been the subject of research for more than six decades. However, achieving sustained and commercially viable fusion remains a challenge. Proxima Fusion tackles this challenge with an engineering- and simulation-focused approach, leveraging advanced computing.

Now, Proxima Fusion has raised €20 million in seed funding led by redalpine, which invested in Knowunity. This round follows the €7 million pre-seed funding round last year.

The oversubscribed round saw participation from the Bavarian government-backed Bayern Kapital, German government-backed DeepTech & Climate Fonds, and the Max Planck Foundation. In addition, existing investors, including Plural, UVC Partners, High-Tech Gründerfonds, Wilbe, and TOMORROW of Visionaries Club also participated in the round.

Proxima Fusion will use the seed funding to further expand the team with world-class engineers and physicists, as well as to match public funding awards. This round is part of its mission to build the world’s first-of-its-kind fusion power plant and lead Europe into a new era of clean energy. 

World’s most advanced stellarator 

Founded by the former scientists and engineers from the Max Planck IPP, MIT, and Google-X – Francesco Sciortino, Lucio Milanese, Jorrit Lion, Martin Kubie, and Jonathan Schilling. Proxima Fusion is the first spin-out from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP).

Its project uses IPP’s Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), whicis the most advanced stellarator in the world. Since the start of its operations in 2015, W7-X has been rapidly catching up over the most advanced tokamaks, which have collectively received vastly more funding so far. 

With W7-X reaching high performance in continuous operation, uniquely among fusion concepts, Proxima Fusion is catalysing the creation of a new fusion ecosystem in Europe. Connecting partners from industry and academia, Proxima Fusion is now entering the race for fusion energy to turn stellarators into economically viable fusion power plants.

In less than 12 months, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, attracting talent from the likes of Google, Tesla, TUM, Harvard, MIT, CentraleSupélec, and EPFL.

“Our first year of operation has exceeded all expectations”, said Dr. Francesco Sciortino, Co-Founder and CEO of Proxima Fusion. “In April 2023, we hit the ground running on both engineering optimization and high-temperature superconducting magnets. One year later, we are leading Europe into a new phase of stellarator R&D, having made huge progress in integrated design with our StarFinder framework.”

Simulation-driven engineering has been a key feature of Proxima Fusion since its inception. Now, AI-enabled design has taken the center stage. The entire engineering program is being structured to collect training data and enable AI across domains. “When we started ProximaFusion, we saw the opportunity for radical automation of engineering design in QI stellarators”, commented Co-Founder Martin Kubie. “Over one year, we have gone a long way to enable that vision.”

Harald Nieder, physicist and General Partner at redalpine, stated: “Fusion energy presents both incredible challenges and unprecedented opportunities, and it must be pursued to ensure a clean energy future. I’m incredibly excited to partner with Proxima Fusion’s game-changing team, setting a new standard for European deeptech moonshots.”

Ian Hogarth, Partner at Plural, said: “W7-X is one of the technological wonders of the modern world. Proxima Fusion, originally spinning out from the organization behind it, aims to take the vision of W7-X to industrial level. This is GDP-level impact in the making and the team that will bring fusion to the grid and enable a clean energy future.”

“Now the key is flawless integration of the achieved scientific milestones, and first-class engineering quality”, commented Benjamin Erhart, General Partner at UVC Partners.“Proxima Fusion’s strengths in automated design, AI-enabled engineering, high-temperature superconducting magnets, as well as rapid team growth, give us unwavering confidence in their ability to turn steady-state fusion energy into a reality.”

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