As I am writing these lines, I am on my way back from Porto, a world heritage city on the northern tip of Portugal. There, the international fusion community convened this week for the biannual Symposium on Fusion Technology (SOFT). For its 26th edition - with more than 1200 participants from the fusion community and industry, several oral presentations and more than 170 poster presentations per day - the SOFT conference has beaten its own record.
Never before has the conference attracted a bigger crowd and never before has the industry's interest been bigger. More than 200 representatives from heavy industry and smaller companies came to the exhibition to introduce themselves and to discuss with us.
I must admit that I was sincerely impressed when I stepped onto the stage of the Alfândega, the historic customs building next to the river Duoro that served as congress venue, to address the many hundred people that are working on the realization of fusion energy - whichever approach they are following.
It was my first opportunity to address the international fusion community as Director-General of the ITER Organization and to paint my vision for the future of the project. The important message I conveyed was that with the Baseline adopted and construction now in full swing, ITER has entered a new era in its history.
It was also very important for me to address in detail the questions and constructive comments from the panel following my talk. I deeply appreciated the exchange of ideas which confirmed that together we can solve the still outstanding issues for the success of ITER - such as the implementation of ELM control coils, cold tests, and quality control. Seeing the enthusiasm of the many young scientists and engineers that had come to Porto from all around the globe to present their latest research results in the poster sessions gives me confidence that we can solve these issues. Our door is, and always will be, open to the ideas of the young generation.
In Porto we could take the full measure of the progress in fusion energy research. We could also feel the strong commitment of the fusion community to support the ITER project all the way to success. The words of Rudolf Strohmeier, the EU Commission's Deputy Director-General for Research, who summarized this progress, saying "fusion energy research is reaching a state of maturity", were very encouraging for us.
I wish to congratulate the conference organizer Carlos Varandas and his team for the success of this conference and I thank him very much for giving me the opportunity to present my ideas and vision to this forum.
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