Funding competition SBRI Competition – Open Digital Solutions for Net Zero Energy

Organisations can apply for a share of £1.2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop open solutions to accelerate decarbonisation of energy in the UK

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Text update 11 February 2022: slight edit made to clarify the relevant sectors as the net zero energy and associated sectors

his is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The aim of the competition is to develop open software, hardware and data solutions that address the challenges off transforming to a net zero energy system in the UK. The competition will stimulate the development of collective equity for the sector and the creation of communities to support the development of reusable and open net zero energy solutions.

Your open solutions should accelerate the delivery of net zero energy in the UK. The outputs should be adopted by first users and have potential to be supported and adopted by the wider community and other users across the net zero energy and associated sectors.

Projects in this competition must follow appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition stewarded by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and have suitable open licencing, such as OSI approved licences. You must consider business model innovation options to support scaling and commercial growth based on open solutions.

The contract is completed at the end of the project. The successful organisation is expected to pursue the support, development, adoption and scaling of the open solution.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Projects can range in size up to total costs of £300,000, inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Projects are expected to:

  • start by 1 July 2022
  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last up to 9 months


To lead a project, you can:

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, you can employ specialist consultants, advisers or partnering organisations as subcontractors. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

We are looking for proposals that involve all the necessary stakeholders relevant to the proposed innovation, including a first user of the solution if that is not the lead organisation.


A total of up to £1.2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition. No further funding will be available as part of this competition after this single phase contract.

Each contract will be up to £300,000 inclusive of VAT, and cover each project for up to 9 months. We expect to fund 4 projects.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations
  • apply a portfolio approach across multiple aspects including but not limited to technology, markets, business maturity, and geographies

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design, and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to Subsidy Control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Your proposal

Text update 11 February 2022:slight edit made to clarify the relevant sectors as the net zero energy and associated sectors

Open software, hardware and data solutions are proven to increase quality, speed of development, security, improve customer protections and reduce costs with the principals of open collaboration and transparency.

Open approaches can accelerate digitalisation whilst prioritising system security and protecting customers.

You must demonstrate that your open approaches and solutions can:

  • help citizens and organisations accelerate to a net zero energy system
  • stimulate collaboration across net zero energy and associated sectors to accelerate the development of shared and open digital resources
  • increase the transparency of digital solutions in net zero energy and associated sectors to improve security, quality, and value
  • create business growth opportunities based on supporting and adopting open principals and solutions
  • drive interoperability across organisations and solution providers

Your project must:

  • develop original open software, hardware or data solutions that accelerate the transition to net zero energy in the UK
  • embrace open principals including appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition stewarded by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and have suitable open licencing, such as OSI approved licences.
  • actively foster the development of a community to support and adopt the open solution
  • include a first user as part of the project
  • demonstrate a credible and practical route to industry adoption
This competition will be supported by the Energy Systems Catapult. They will:

  • provide light touch support on the application process
  • provide projects with technical support throughout their duration
  • support collaborative working between successful projects
  • support open community building

You can email the Energy Systems Catapult to ask for application support and how the Catapult could support your project at

Your project must also:

  • use high quality user research and user experience techniques
  • use state of the art analytical techniques and methods for enriching data to gain information and insight, for example: data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence or statistical mathematics techniques
  • identify and design solutions that best utilise digital information exchange across the energy industry data ecosystem, and other sectors
  • foster innovation and lower information-related barriers by increasing visibility of data and data processing methods, and ease of data access
  • follow energy data best practice guidance
  • demonstrate how you are utilising diversity and inclusivity, both in your project delivery team and the users group you are designing a solution for
This programme will not fund any proprietary development, however you can pursue business models and development outside of this funding such as open core approaches.

Specific themes

You can develop an open solution, across the value chain, for any of the following net zero energy sectors:

  • power
  • hydrogen
  • carbon capture, use and storage
  • heat
  • transport
  • buildings
  • industry
  • whole system integration

Your open solution can be:

  • software
  • hardware
  • firmware
  • data solution

The themes listed are not exhaustive and applications are welcome from open solution proposals that can make a significant contribution to decarbonising energy.

Example open solutions could include:

  • heat pump controller
  • wind turbine location optimisation software
  • digital twin
  • smart sensors
  • battery management system
  • building heat loss software
  • heat network control system

Research categories

Prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • have total project costs in excess of £300,000 inclusive of VAT
  • do not meet the scope of the competition
  • develop proprietary solutions
  • have not identified a first user and explained how they will be engaged as a key stakeholder during the project
  • the solutions provided do not meet the principles of openness and comply with appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition.
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes (such as on the environment or society) would be managed
  • seek to develop solutions associated with key digital infrastructure requiring action or investment by government or the regulator with changes to policy or regulation

31 January 2022
Competition opens
9 February 2022
Innovate UK KTN briefing event: watch the recording
9 March 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
13 April 2022
Invites to interview

28 April 2022
Interviews day 1
29 April 2022
Interviews day 2
5 May 2022
Applicants notified
1 June 2022
Contracts awarded

Before you start

By submitting an application you agree to the terms of the draft contract which is available once you start your application. The final contract will include any details you have agreed with the funding authority and will be sent to you if your application is successful. The contract is binding once the contract is returned by the applicant and signed by both parties. The terms and conditions included in the draft contract should not substantially change.

When you start an application on the Innovation Funding Service you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite colleagues from your organisation to contribute to the application.

What happens next

A selected panel of assessors will review and score your application and the winners of contracts will be selected. All applicants will be provided feedback.


If your application is successful at this stage, you will be invited to attend an online interview where you must give a presentation.

Before the interview and by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

List of attendees

Agree the list with project team. Up to 3 people from your project can attend, ideally one person from each organisation. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 10 minutes
  • have no more than 10 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You cannot change the presentation after you submit it or bring any additional materials to the interview.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 2 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend 20 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on the information you provided in your application form, presentation and the response to feedback.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1.Project details.

2.Application questions.


1. Project details

These sections are not scored.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Who made you aware of the competition?

Select a category to state who made you aware of the competition. You cannot choose more than one.

How long has your organisation been established for?

Select a category to state how long has your organisation been established for. You cannot choose more than one.

What is your organisation’s primary area focus?

Select a category to state your organisation’s primary focus area. You cannot choose more than one.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

All participants must complete this EDI survey and the lead applicant must then select ‘yes’ in the application question. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

Project summary

Please provide a short summary of your project and describe how it meets the scope of the competition.

Be clear about what makes it innovative and how it relates to the scope of the competition. How does it tackle different aspects of the challenge and how will it provide an integrated solution?

Give details of the lead organisation. Before you submit, we expect you to have discussed your application within your own organisation and any other relevant organisations.

List any organisations you have named as subcontractors.

Your answer for this section can be up to 800 words long.

This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits the scope of the competition. If it does not, it may be rejected.

Public description

Please provide a brief description of your project. If your application is successful, we will publish this description. This question is mandatory but we will not assess this content as part of your application.

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. We have the right to amend the description before publication if necessary but will consult you about any changes.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 2 to 10, question 1 is not scored.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name of your organisation along with your full registered address.

You must also state the name and full registered address of all your subcontractors.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.

Question 2. Proposed Open Solution

How does your project address the challenges described in the competition scope? Provide a brief description of your proposed open solution.

Describe the current state of development or readiness of the idea.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF containing images and diagrams to support your answer. It can be no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘How well does the proposal meet the challenge?’

Question 3. Technical project summary

Give a short background to the main technical challenges you are looking to address.

Describe or explain:

  • how you will address the challenge
  • what the innovation is
  • the main technical deliverables

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How valid is the technical approach?’

Question 4. Open solution impact

How will the proposed open solution accelerate the delivery of net zero energy in the UK and internationally?

Describe or explain:

  • what the impact of the solution will be on carbon emissions in energy
  • how big is the potential community of solution users in the UK and internationally

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘What impact will the solution have on accelerating the delivery of net zero energy?’

Question 5. Open solution community adoption

How will you approach building a community of users and adopters to develop and support the open solution during and after the project period?

Describe or explain:

  • how will you build a community to support and adopt the solution as part of the project
  • how big is the potential community of solution collaborators in the UK and internationally
  • how have you built a community around an open solution in the past
  • why you think this solution is best developed in an open manner

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘Will the solution be supported and further developed by a large community of collaborators in the UK and internationally?’

Question 6. Open principals

How will you adopt open principals as part of delivering the project?

Describe or explain how you will:

  • work in a transparent way
  • publish outputs
  • conduct effective governance of your project
  • licence outputs

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘Will the project apply open principals?’

Question 7. Project plan and methodology

Describe your project plan and identify the main milestones.

Your plan must be comprehensive. The emphasis throughout should be on practicality. We are seeking evidence that the technology works, can be made into a viable product and can achieve the proposed benefits.

You should describe or explain:

  • what resources will be needed to deliver the project
  • what the main success criteria would be
  • the identified project management processes that will ensure you achieve the milestones
  • the main technical, commercial and environmental risks and what you will do to mitigate them
  • how you would handle any IP issues which might arise during the project

Ensure that if you are working with subcontractors you explain how you will maintain freedom to operate and fulfil the IP requirements detailed in the contract.

You must upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your milestones must be:

  • clear
  • defined using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) criteria
  • associated with the appropriate deliverables and payments

You must indicate your required payment schedule by month.

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed milestones and associated payments stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

This question will be assessed against these assessment criteria: ‘Does the proposal show a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility and the development of a working prototype? Is there a clear management plan What are the main technical, commercial and environmental risks to project success? Will these be effectively managed? Are the milestones and evaluation procedures appropriate?’

Question 8. Team and expertise

Provide a brief description of your team. Include the expertise of each team member or subcontractor that is relevant to your application, outlining why they are critical to the project’s success and how much of their time will be spent on the project.

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘Does the applicant have the skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the intended benefits?’

Question 9. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost? How does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs, inclusive of VAT, you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer

You can submit a single appendix as a spreadsheet no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a “fair market value” and not include profit.

Full Economic Cost (FEC) calculations are not relevant for SBRI competitions. SBRI is a competitive process and applications will come from a variety of organisations. Whatever calculation you use to arrive at your total eligible project costs your application will be assessed against applications from other organisations. Bear this in mind when calculating your total eligible project costs. You can include overheads but remember that this is a competitive process.

Total costs must include VAT. VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business, and applications must list total costs inclusive of VAT. You will be asked if you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

The assessors are required to judge the application finances in terms of value for money. In other words, does the proposed cost for effort and deliverables reflect a fair market price? They will score your finances against this assessment criterion: ‘Are the budget and costs realistic, justified and appropriate for the aims and methods?

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed costs stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 10. Business model

What is the proposed business model for driving forward the support and development of your open solution after the project period?

Describe or explain how your solution will be supported after the project period.

This question will be scored against the assessment criterion: ‘Is there a sustainable business model proposed to scale the use, support and development of the proposed open solution?’

3. Finances

Enter your project costs, organisation details and funding details.

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

If you are VAT registered, then you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you are not VAT registered, then you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. You will not be able to increase invoice values to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

For full information on what costs you can claim, see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

About Small Business Research Initiative competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

The SBRI programme:

  • supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services through the public procurement of R&D
  • generates new business opportunities for companies
  • provides a route to market for their ideas
  • bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies

SBRI competitions are open to all organisations that can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. The SBRI scheme is particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses, as the contracts are of relatively small value and operate on short timescales. Developments are 100% funded and focused on specific identified needs, increasing the chance of exploitation.

Suppliers for each project will be selected by an open competition process and retain the intellectual property generated from the project, with certain rights of use retained by the contracting authority. This is an excellent opportunity to establish an early customer for a new technology and to fund its development.

Data sharing

This competition is operated by Innovate UK (an agency).

Your submitted application and any other information you provide at the application stage can be submitted to each agency on an individual basis for its storage, processing and use. Any relevant information produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to government departments and regulators and vice versa.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. It is held in accordance with its Information Management Policy.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Further help and information

If you want help to find a project partner, contact Innovate UK KTN and the Energy Systems Catapult.

If you have any questions about the scope requirements of this competition, email

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

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