The RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) facility at Culham in Oxfordshire uses knowledge gained from the world’s largest nuclear fusion experiment to help industry develop robots for some of the most extreme working conditions imaginable.
Opened by the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 2016, the RACE facility offers test facilities, equipment and consultancy for companies that need robotic or remote handling systems that can operate in places and situations where it is difficult to send human beings – such as nuclear power stations or complex emergency rescue scenarios.
RACE draws on over 20 years of robotics expertise from remotely maintaining the Joint European Torus fusion reactor at Culham. Clients to date include the European Spallation Source physics research facility, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) fusion experiment and nuclear decommissioning projects such as the UKRI Robotics and AI in Nuclear (RAIN) hub. The team has also been involved in more than £300 million of collaborative R&D with 100 industry partners and 15 universities.
In addition, RACE has established partnerships with leading UK innovators in the development of driverless cars. Culham is an ideal test site, offering 10km of secure, private roads that provide a real-life driving environment. RACE works with specialists including Oxbotica and Millbrook and is part of key UK consortiums Zenzic and DRIVEN, which are forging the path to a global self-driving vehicle revolution potentially worth £900 billion by 2035.