Press Release from the Summer 2016 Edition of the NiA’s Industry Link Magazine Specialist firm, Oxford Technologies, is riding high on the surge in demand for remote handling solutions in the nuclear industry – pushing the boundaries of engineering in areas ranging from vision and image processing and human-machine interfacing to virtual and augmented reality. The origins of this unique company can be found in the Culham-based Joint European Torus (JET) project, whose aim was to advance the search for a way of obtaining power from nuclear fusion. It was there in the late 1980s that a talented group of young contract engineers were brought together to form the JET Remote Handling Team, under the leadership of Dr. Alan Rolfe. For the next 20 years this tight-knit unit worked together developing an unparalleled level of understanding of the requirements and challenges of creating remote handling solutions in a nuclear environment. During this time, it became clear there would be an ongoing need for their particular expertise and, with ITER – one of the world’s most ambitious energy projects – looming on the horizon, the time was right to create a new, independent company. At first JET was the sole customer of the fledgling company, which rented offices at the Culham site and, as Marketing and Business Development Director, Stephen Sanders, explains, “In those early days we were climbing a really steep learning curve; there were many, many sleepless nights and 18-hour days to be endured before we won our first major external contract.” Since then the company has continued to grow year-on-year, moving from Culham into its current offices in Abingdon. Meanwhile, the number of staff has expanded from those initial half dozen engineers, to 57 staff. In the latest stage of its development, the company was sold to Kurion Inc. in 2015, providing an even wider international platform for the company’s activities. One of the most important growth areas for Oxford Technologies has been its expansion into nuclear decommissioning, a field in which its remote handling expertise gives it a major competitive advantage. Stephen continues, “The methodologies and operational experience we developed over many years in fusion have been a key factor in our success in the decommissioning field. As part of our strategy to develop further into this area, we joined the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) in 2015 and are sure that membership has helped to increase our exposure and network outside of fusion. “Tom Greatrex, the NIA’s Chief Executive recently toured our offices and following on from that, Mark Sharpe our Business Development Manager for the Nuclear Sector, has arranged for a large group of NIA members to visit later this year. We are confident that when decommissioning stakeholders see our track record, further growth opportunities will follow and having NIA members at our facility will help to achieve this goal.” A recent example of this work has been a contract Oxford Technologies won to design and manufacture the Shaft Intervention Platform for waste retrieval from the Dounreay shaft, which resulted in an anticipated saving of approximately £600, 000 from the project budget. Stephen sums up: “It has been quite a journey from Culham to Abingdon. We have all worked incredibly hard, suffered set-backs and celebrated successes – but what we have proved more than anything, I think, is that talented, dedicated engineers can build a great business.” Please click here for the complete issue, full article (Pages 16/17).