By Romi Mahajan, CEO, ExoFusion
In her important book “The Entrepreneurial State”, Dr. Mariana Mazzucato debunks the almost sacred belief held in the technology industry that innovation comes solely from the private sector. The myth also suggests incorrectly that the private sector takes the “risk” and deploys most of the capital in technology innovation. In a similar vein, Dr. Robyn Klingler-Vidra in “The Venture Capital State” shows how entire economies have been built around Government-investment especially in industries that require patience and long gestation periods.
The world of Nuclear Fusion bears resemblance to these arguments; in fact, it is almost entirely because of governmental R&D that the possibilities for a private fusion industry emerged. Now, the industry has reached a mass critical enough to merit a place in the consciousness, having garnered approximately $7 billion in investment and boasting over 60 companies pursuing Commercially Viable Fusion (CVF).
The ongoing partnership with long-view governments and medium/short-view private companies is essential for the enterprise to live up to its potential and promise. No doubt, there are advantages to both sides of the equation; the ecosystem needs each one of us to leverage the strengths of each side and to avoid the self-serving mythologies that appear to be persistent in the technology sector.
Private Fusion has come a long way, as has the pursuit of CVF. Still, there is a long road ahead. To accelerate the quest, we must remember that fusion is a quintessentially scientific pursuit not simply a technological or engineering enterprise. We must remember that science proceeds at a non-linear pace- one that might be foreign for typical technology investors. We must remember that collaboration is paramount in this field, that pugilistic competition forces us to miss the mark- that it is important that someone gets there and less important who it is.
Finally, we must learn the lessons from other industries- that when we spend too much time justifying our pronouncements, making timing promises to appease investors, abandoning science for PR, and being wedded to gargantuan projects with the usual cost and time creep, we do the ecosystem a disservice.