Geneva-based Transmutex SA has announced new round of financing to develop its nuclear energy technology”. The Swiss startup, founded in 2019 by scientists from the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) including Federico Carminati and Jean-Pierre Revol along with entrepreneur Franklin Servan-Schreiber.

The company raised CHF20m ($23m) through the Series A2 round jointly led by New York-based Union Square Ventures and Steel Atlas. They are joined by a syndicate of both new and existing investors including At One Ventures (USA), HCVC (France/USA) and AlleyCorp (USA), with the participation of House of Ventures (USA), Presight Capital (USA), Verve Ventures (Switzerland), FONGIT (Switzerland) and Tiny Supercomputer Investment Co. (UK), as well as private investors.

In 2023, the World Economic Forum recognised the company as one of its top 100 Technology Pioneers at its annual meeting in Davos. “By engaging with the Forum as a tech pioneer we will engage with government officials, multinationals’ CEOs, innovative founders and young leaders from around the world who are passionate about fighting climate change,” said CEO Franklin Servan-Schreiber at the time.

Transmutex plans to increase its team with the newly raised funds. It intends to establish an additional research facility outside of Switzerland and is currently deciding which country would be best for it. “This facility will serve as the centre for a global engineering platform whose purpose will be to accelerate the deployment of this new technology globally,” said Talal Attieh, Partner at Steel Atlas.

“It is rare to find a company developing novel, world-changing technology that is already preparing to deliver on commercial interest after just a few years,” Cameron Porter, Partner at Steel Atlas and lead investor, said. “Transmutex provides the most viable ‘third pathway’ to sustainable nuclear energy,” said Helen Lin, Partner at At One Ventures. She added: “Conventional uranium-fuelled fission faces a number of obstacles to being adopted on a mass scale, and the dream of fusion remains distant and fraught with technical challenges. The Transmutex system has the potential to overcome the obstacles in conventional fission, while being technically viable in a more realistic timeline than fusion.”

Transmutex’s says it is working with governmental and research institutions worldwide to explore the possibility of forming of an international coalition to accelerate the development and the construction of a first-of-kind facility and that its accelerated development timeline is a direct result of its ability to nurture partnerships with leading institutions for core components of its system.

Some of these include the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology (EPLF – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), CERN in Geneva, ENEA and Ansaldo Nucleare in Italy and, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) in France.

Links with CERN remain strong. “The original investigations in the accelerator-driven research conducted at CERN and PSI in the late 1990s and early 2000s laid the groundwork for important technologies like those developed by Transmutex,” said Giovanni Anelli, CERN Knowledge Transfer group leader. "Our collaboration with Transmutex is a testament to the far-reaching impact of fundamental research and CERN's commitment to fostering innovation and supporting startups.”

The company claims its technology promises inherent safety, resistance to proliferation, and the transmutation of long-lived nuclear waste. The design, for a facility fuelled by thorium and nuclear waste, couples a particle accelerator to a non-self-sustaining (subcritical) fuel assembly, which it says offers a number of benefits:

  • The reaction can be stopped in 2 milliseconds for safer operation;
  • The system can use different fuel material and enrichment levels, thereby unlocking vast resources, including thorium, a metal that has long been overlooked for nuclear energy;
  • Subcriticality offers a wider safety margin, allowing the system to burn the existing stockpile of long-lived nuclear waste more efficiently;
  • When thorium is used as fuel, it will not produce plutonium and other long-lived waste;
  • When combined with innovative used-fuel recycling technology, the system can be made sustainable for energy production over centuries.

Transmutex is taking “a software-first approach” to designing its technology. “In addition to increasing capital efficiency, this approach has resulted in the development of best-in-class, high energy physics Monte Carlo software, as well an industrial process digital twin solution based on validated software from EPFL. The Transmutex software team has improved the speed and ease ofuse of the software over the last few years, enabling fast iterative evolution of its system design.”

Image courtesy of Transmutex