Abstract. After a number of upgrades, the SULTAN high field test facility at CRPP-Villigen is today a unique tool for in depth characterization of the large, high current superconductors of next step fusion device. In the ITER EDA and CTA phases, many experiments have been carried out in SULTAN, both in short length and coiled samples, exploring the performance to the limit, without the operation risks unavoidable, for example, in a coil test. The most relevant results obtained in the scope of the R&D program for optimization of the conductor design are highlighted. The feedback in the ITER conductor design led to a substantial reduction of the engineering margin and conductor cost. Examples include the ac loss and stability at field transients, the use of copper segregation in Nb3Sn cables, the broad superconducting transition (low ``n'' value) in large conductors and the fatigue load effects in Nb3Sn cable-in-conduit conductors. The R&D activity in SULTAN will continue in the next years to refine the conductor design and to broaden the database. An important role will be played during the construction of ITER, for the acceptance test of the large superconductors before winding the coils.