If fusion is going to power the future, it needs a generation of well-trained fusion researchers and engineers. With fully dedicated Master studies in The Netherlands, The United Kingdom and the Erasmus Mundus Fusion Programme based in Ghent, Europe has already started to pave the way for a sound and organised fusion training programme. Specialisation programmes have also been set up in France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Switzerland, Portugal and Germany.

Now Italy has introduced a innovation. In March, the one-year Master in Fusion Energy – Science and Engineering will commence at the Tor Vergata University in Rome. Its unique approach: To incorporate fusion related industry at a very early stage of research. Francesco Romanelli, former EFDA (European Fusion Development Agreement, now EUROfusion) Leader, has spearheaded the creation of the Italian Master programme which is strongly dedicated to the European fusion roadmap. His priority was to educate employees who had already enjoyed practical training during their studies and who have been trained by experienced industrial experts. Fusion in Europe talks to him about the challenges, the European lead in fusion research and what it takes to be a good fusion student.

Francesco Romanelli

The newly set up Master at the Tor Vergata University in Rome will be financed by Italian companies. Why do you involve the industry at this early point?

There is a strong incentive, also coming from the Europeanpolicy on education, to achieve the objective of ‘employability’ for students coming out of a Master and PhD course. Our Master/PhD track, linking the Master in Fusion Energy to the PhD in Industrial Engineering is one of the first of such attempts in Italy. It has already raised interest among Italian businesses. They will finance six PhD positions which are reserved for those in possession of our new Master in Fusion Energy.

But can you maintain your scientific independence while having the industry so closely involved in your studies?
Scientific independence is not at risk here. I rather see the benefit of experience that will be brought to the students. Practical experience which is gained by the industry involved in manufacturing ITER components.

What is the most challenging task in setting up a new Master lecture?
Such a new Master course must have a well-defined target. Our objective is not only to create personnel who are directly employable by industry but also to communicate a build-oriented approach to the students who will remain in research. The Fusion Roadmap sets this as one of the main targets. We have to move from being science-driven and laboratory-based towards an industry-driven and technology-driven venture. Dedicated training and education initiatives are the main pillars enabling the facilitation of this transition. The proximity and strong connections between Tor Vergata and the laboratories of ENEA (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development in Italy) ensure that all areas relevant to fusion research, and specifically those related to fusion technology, are properly addressed.

To what extent are you collaborating with other European Master studies?

Tor Vergata is part of FuseNet and shares its experience with the other Master courses held on fusion energy in Europe.

Are you complementary or competitive?

We are complementary. Our Master differs from those currently in existence insofar as it is mostly devoted to the training of highly qualified personnel for industry. It has a duration of one year and it requires a qualification equivalent to a second level degree also known as laurea magistrale in Italy.

What are you especially focussing on?

The Master will give all the notions needed for a preliminary design of all the components of a fusion power plant. In each of the ten modules, the students will learn how to estimate all the relevant quantities that characterise each component of a fusion plant.

To what extent is EUROfusion involved in your master programme?

Most of the lecturers come from the Italian universities, ENEA, CNR and Consorzio RFX. All of them are directly involved in the EUROfusion programme.

Are there any exchanges planned with EUROfusion’s research facilities?

We have already a number of students working for example under the Erasmus program in EUROfusion research laboratories outside Italy. I am sure that such an involvement can be further strengthened with the help of the Master/PhD track.

Will there even be scientific exchanges beyond European borders?

Fusion is a global enterprise and China, India, Korea and Japan have a very ambitious programme in fusion. I look forward to an increased participation of non-European students.

To sum it up: what does it take to be a good fusion student?

Fusion is one of the big challenges of science in the 21st century. A student must enter this field with a strong interest for innovation and for the interdisciplinary aspect of fusion.


For fusion training and education possibilities in Europe check out the European Education Network in Fusion (FuseNet). It shares a list of programmes and coordinates fusion education activities of its members (universities, research institutes and industrial partners).

Fusion Training Programmes in Europe