International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI)




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Innovation Views by Henry Etzkowitz


I had the opportunity to reacquaint with the fusion project, an  international effort to supersede nuclear fission technology, with its converse. Edward teller's proposal to create a far more destructive weapon, based upon fusion principles, than "fat boy and.  Fission devices Deployed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Culminated in a successful test almost within a decade. 30 tears ago I had the opportunity to visit the tokamak project at Princeton university at the invitation of the project's technology transfer officials from an observation deck we looked down at an array of compute which doubtless on the intervening period are by comparison less powerful than a contemporary server.  It was explained that the experiment was on the verge of achieving an intermediate goal of producing as much energy as it took to power the project.  

Recently, as part of a Leverhulme foundation sponsored project on science scrapes, led by colleagues from the planning department of Oxford brooks university, in which I am responsible for delivering an analysis OSF Silicon Valley, we visited science vale Oxford, a collectivity of governmental labs and former labs transitioning into science parks. At Column we met wit the leadership of the jet joint European tokamak before walking through the experimental site and learned about the current status of fusion, a promethean vision to recreate the temperature of the sun and capture spillover energy to achieve the long promised nuclear utopia of energy too cheap too meter, a vision that has turned out to be an expensive proposition given wind scale, three mile  island, (etzkowitz, 1983) Chernoble, Fukushima...

The director had worked on the Princeton project, since shuttered in favor of the larger Column project that will itself be superseded by an even larger experimental site located in France. The good news is that the goal of more energy out than in has been attained but we were told that about five years ago, it was realized that in order to sustain the phenomenon for more than a few seconds. A new order of materials was required. To this end, a materials research center is being established at the cite. Why no road-mapping exercise was not conducted decades ago can only be explained by a tunnel vision that not ignores exigencies of fusion. Policy makers have also apparently failed to carry out or chosen to ignore alternative uses of the large funds devoted to this project in comparison to much smaller amounts devoted to alternative energy technologies like photovoltaics that have demonstrated greater promise over the decades. Despite being relatively neglected. A participant at the recent Jiip 40th anniversary celebration of a collaboration among innovation agencies of six small European countries noted that the German photovoltaic effort focused on subsidizing diffusion of the technology rather than advancing it to new generations and was blown away by the Chinese incremental innovation in photovoltaics that reduced costs sufficiently to virtually wipe out German photovoltaics producers. A six country joint effort to advance photovoltaics was suggested but inertia is great. The fAil fast fail often mantra has not be applied to government energy policy. If the 14 billion pounds devoted to fusion were transferred to photovoltaics Europe might solve its energy problems and create new industries rather than waiting on the Godot of fusion not every grand tech logical vision is achievable at least not on reasonable terms with value for money

As a child I visited Williamsburg Virginia whet with Rockefeller finds a village practicing the technologies of the 18th century had been recreated with actors playing the roles of blacksmiths etc. I submit that the joint European tokamak is another Williamsburg but at much greater expensive, led by physicists that still retain great political influence on the basis of their discipline' military achievement whose skillsl hpveents who's to keep alive for military reasons. That is what is now being negotiated in with Iran in Geneva president Eisenhower' atoms for peace program let a genie out of the box in 1954 that we are still trying to suggest back in.



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