Tech Giants Invest in Power and Energy Startups

CEO of UPower Technologies Jacob DeWitte told New Scientist that radical improvements to nuclear power will be led by entrepreneurs. “Newer companies can help stimulate innovation in a traditional start-up sense,” he says. “Go hard, go fast, and try to make this a reality.”

Indeed, nuclear science startups are “splitting atoms” with new initiatives to provide safer and more affordable nuclear power than is currently available. The new design could prevent disasters like the one in Fukushima, Japan.

Green energy firms have long been popular ventures for entrepreneurs, but nuclear power has largely been ignored, thanks to the extreme cost, safety issues and the worries about nuclear proliferation that are usually associated with such an undertaking. But a small group of nuclear scientists believe they can change things. By building new types of reactors, some of which reuse spent fuel rods from massive – and often ageing – power plants, they aim to commercialise cheaper, safer replacements to transform the industry.

Other initiatives include Bill Gates’ investment in a “travelling wave” reactor designed by TerraPower of Bellevue, Washington. Using spent fuel, the reactor would potentially sustain itself for decades by creating a slowly expanding ring of fission in its core.

IBM has made significant investments in Africa, where nearly 80% of the population has little to no access to energy, safe water, sanitation, food security or financial services.

Similarly, Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative focuses on encouraging innovation, increasing access to technology and building skills in the local workforce.

There is no doubt that these investments enable economic development. Investing in technology creates knowledge as well as technology consumption, which drives the IT ecosystem and industry and makes it relevant throughout the world.

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