Funding competition SBRI: Net Zero heat and power upgrades for demand reduction phase 1

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £5 million to develop data driven approaches for upgrading portfolios of buildings. This will accelerate the shift to a net zero economy and reduce carbon emissions, heat usage and energy demands.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by Innovate UK, which will invest up to £5 million over two phases.

The aim of the competition is to accelerate the shift to a net zero economy by developing and testing scalable service propositions. These must reduce bills and carbon emissions from buildings with the intention of commercialising the results beyond phase 2 of the competition.

Projects must take a data driven approach to assessing and defining appropriate pathways for:

  • the upgrading of building portfolios
  • targeting decarbonisation
  • energy demand reduction
  • market demand certainty
  • heat efficiency

You must work with relevant supply chains and the owners of portfolios of public, commercial and domestic buildings to develop and test an approach to delivering future building upgrade programmes.

This is phase 1 of a 2 phase competition.

For phase 1, you must deliver a feasibility study that:

  • outlines your approach
  • identifies a building portfolio owning partner
  • describes supply chain partners and outlines how this service could be commercialised more broadly after the end of the project

For phase 2, successful projects from phase 1 will be invited to apply for funding to test their approach. Success in the phase 2 competition will depend on a subsequent assessment process.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the date of the deadline.

Funding type


Project size

Phase 1 projects can have total costs of up to £22,000, inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Projects must:

  • have total costs of up to £22,000, inclusive of VAT
  • start by 1 April 2023
  • end by 30 June 2023
  • last up to 3 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be scalable or replicable across the nations of the UK


To lead a project, you must:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors
  • be responsible for, or work with organisations that have, access to a portfolio of buildings for demonstrations in your phase 2 project

You can work with businesses, local authorities, charities, housing associations or registered social landlords.

The term Local Authority includes:

  • county councils
  • district councils
  • unitary authorities
  • metropolitan districts
  • London boroughs

Regional collaborations coordinated through bodies such as Combined Authorities are also eligible.

We particularly welcome collaborative applications between multiple authorities, where one approach can be demonstrated in diverse contexts.

This competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can engage specialists or advisers.

This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.


Innovate UK, will invest up to £5 million over the two phases of this competition.

A total of up to £450,000 inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £22,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to 3 months. We expect to fund up to 20 projects.

A further £4.55 million is allocated to phase 2.

Phase 2 involves up to 5 contracts being awarded to organisations chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £1.5 million inclusive of VAT can be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake real world testing for up to 18 months.

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

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • apply a portfolio approach

The contract is completed at the end of phase 1, and successful organisations can be invited to submit an application into phase 2.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

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

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

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, 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. Your total project costs must not exceed £22,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £22,000.

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 Project

The aim of the competition is to accelerate the shift to a net zero economy, by developing and testing scalable commercial service propositions. These must reduce bills and carbon emissions from buildings with the intention of commercialising the results beyond phase 2 of the competition. Your project must take a data driven approach to assessing and defining appropriate pathways for:

  • the upgrading of building portfolios
  • targeting decarbonisation
  • energy demand reduction
  • market demand certainty
  • heat efficiency

In phase 1 you must undertake a feasibility study and produce a feasibility report that outlines:

  • how you anticipate your proposed approach will work
  • how your proposed approach will be scalable and replicable across the UK building stock
  • how your proposed approach will be inclusive and sensitive to the diversities and vulnerabilities of occupants and building users
  • which organisations you will partner with in phase 2, with access to a portfolio of buildings to demonstrate your proposed approach
  • how you will gain access to local install supply chains in Phase 2
  • how you will adopt a data-driven approach that enables the organisation of information so that it is structured, interoperable and supports process improvement
  • how you will build upon Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), Reduced Data SAP (RdSAP) and PAS2035 processes with the goal of better decision making to benefit customers and consumers
  • how you will commercialise your proposed approach, including how your proposition will be investable, with an onward investment plan
  • how you will access additional investment in building upgrades to build on your phase 2 funding, for example, the department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund
  • a demonstrable organisational approach to supporting equality, diversity and inclusion within all participant organisations, including career development and employment opportunities
  • a focus on supporting a just transition to net zero, including innovation design that considers diversity, vulnerability and inclusion

Your project must:

  • have approaches that unlock private investment in building upgrades
  • have solutions that take an archetypal or typology based approach
  • have approaches that enable a just and equitable transition, particularly where they enable access to products and services for low income households

  • use evidence based design to optimise for the best outcomes or benefits throughout the whole building
  • help people to reduce and optimise their demands, to reduce their outgoings
  • give people more control over their comfort and automation of simple tasks
  • allow people generate and use their own energy, to reduce their imports of energy from the networks and ease potential constraints
  • remove barriers to accessing services that reward positive behaviours, including flexibility or agile tariffs
  • tailor solutions to work for everyone by design, irrespective of their needs or vulnerabilities

At this stage contracts will be given to successful applicants for phase 1 only.

Successful projects from phase 1 will be invited to a separate phase 2 competition. Your phase 2 application must show how you will engage, develop and test in a representative environment, according to the strategies outlined in your phase 1 project.

Your phase 2 project must:

  • include approaches to assessing, specifying, costing and delivering integrated refurbishment and energy reduction measures to upgrade buildings within your portfolio
  • provide a choice of potential upgrades for each building within your portfolio, based upon data on the current state of the buildings
  • consider whole building upgrade options, including building fabric, heat, power, storage, mobility and user needs
  • provide data on the impact of upgrade options on installation costs, carbon emissions, energy demand, operating costs and other co-benefits, for example: indoor air quality, overheating risks, security of supply, access to new products and services
  • provide pathways to reach a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of C as a minimum, with higher EPC targets desirable to ensure a successful contribution to net zero aims
  • include approaches to proactively engage users, occupiers or residents of buildings during design, specification and construction, including those with vulnerabilities or protected characteristics
  • include approaches to monitoring and evaluating the realised performance of upgrades to inform onward investment plans
  • be relevant to domestic, public or commercial buildings (industrial buildings and industrial clusters are outside of the scope of this funding)
  • utilise existing open-source information so that building and upgrade measures can be consistently categorised and shared

This will involve:

  • developing the proposed approach
  • working with their partner building portfolio owners, including local authorities, charities, housing associations or registered social landlords

  • delivery of building upgrade measures on real-world buildings
  • working with tenants and building occupiers on appropriateness of solutions
  • working with relevant supply chains to install measures
  • testing of the data driven solution that suggests building upgrade measures on real-world buildings
  • adopting a data standardisation approach to support interoperability

This will also involve, delivering monitoring and evaluation of solutions to:

  • provide evidence for future building upgrade investment decisions
  • assure comfort and usability of the solutions
  • inform and improve future development of the data driven solution

All phase 2 projects awarded contracts, will be given further guidance on how to adopt such approaches.

Research categories

Phase 1: technical feasibility studies

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

In phase 1 the supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution concept. The outcome of phase 2 will be a demonstrated prototype of the solution.

Phase 2: 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 and demonstrate their ability to address sector needs.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • focus on highly bespoke designs for a single building or customer
  • focus on industrial buildings
  • encourage incremental near-term retrofits, rather than substantive upgrade pathways
  • use proprietary monitoring standards or closed ecosystems that lock users into a specific technology solution
  • only address the needs of early adopter households
  • do not demonstrate significant support and engagement from potential future customers throughout the project
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes (such as on the environment or society) would be managed
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • 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
  • include hydrogen for heating

28 November 2022
Competition opens
6 December 2022
KTN briefing event: watch the recording
11 January 2023 11:00am
Competition closes
17 February 2023
17 February 2023
Applicants notified
1 April 2023
Phase 1 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 terms of the contract are non-negotiable and are included in the draft contract. We reserve the right to change the terms and conditions if necessary.

The final contract will include any milestones you have agreed with the funding authority and will be sent to you if your application is successful. The contract is binding once it is returned by you and signed by both parties.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Using your account, you will be able to track your applications progress.

As the applicant you are 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. You will be notified of the outcome and feedback will be provided. Contracts for this phase 1 will then be issued to all successful applicants.

For phase 2 assessors will also take into account the phase 1 end-of-phase report. They might ask a number of finalists to attend an interview or give a demonstration.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit the application before the competition deadline.

Accessibility and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes providing support, in the form of reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us. Read more on how we are making our application process more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

You must contact us as early as possible in the application process. We recommend contacting us at least 15 working days before the competition closing date to ensure we can provide you with the most suitable support possible.

You can contact us by emailing or calling 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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.

Project and scope summary

Please provide a short summary of your project.

Describe your understanding of the aims of this competition and outline how your feasibility project aligns with the competition scope. 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 your organisation. Before you submit, we expect you to have discussed your application within your organisation.

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 could happen before you start your project. This question is mandatory, but we will not assess this content as part of your application.

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. 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.

Applicant location

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 any potential or confirmed subcontractors.

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all of your questions.

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. Proposed idea or solution

How does your proposed approach meet the challenge described in the competition scope?

Provide a description of your proposed idea or solution that addresses the building portfolio upgrade challenge. Briefly outline the target markets for the solution.

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 this assessment criterion: ‘How well does the proposed solution address the defined challenge?’.

Question 2. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take in Phase 1 and where will the focus of the innovation be?


  • the technical approach for Phase 1, including the main objectives of the work
  • how you will respond to the opportunity identified, in terms of engaging building portfolio owners, stakeholders and supply chains
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • the research and development that will prove the environmental and commercial merit of the project
  • what might be achieved by deploying the innovation to address the selected challenge

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘Will the outlined Phase 1 approach and outputs be appropriate to take forward for a subsequent application to Phase 2 for demonstration?’.

Question 3. Team, expertise and resources

Who is the likely project team and what are their roles? What expertise do they offer?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the current relationships between project lead and subcontractors and how these will change as a result of the project.

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

Question 4. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in your team and project

How is equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) incorporated into your proposed project?


  • your consideration of incorporating EDI in the design, development and delivery of your innovation (for example, involvement of diverse end users to understand their needs)
  • any potential risks or negative EDI outcomes of your project, coupled to any mitigations you plan to take (for example, unintended exclusion of specific groups)
  • how you will ensure that the expected project outputs are inclusive and accessible (for example, in terms of future commercialisation)
  • your plans to increase diversity in the composition of the project leaders, team and sub-contractors, taking into consideration any challenges in your sector (for example, recruitment and staff development)
  • how you will create an equitable and inclusive work environment for your team and partners (for example any policies and principles of your organisations)

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘Has the applicant created the right environment for equality, diversity and inclusion in their delivery team?’

Question 5. Project plan and methodology

Describe your project plan for Phase 1 and identify the main milestones. The emphasis throughout should be on practicality of delivery within the 3 month feasibility timescale.

You must:

  • describe what the main success criteria will be
  • describe the main technical, commercial and environmental risks and what you will do to mitigate them

Your milestones must:

  • be clear
  • be defined using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) criteria
  • recognise that the feasibility study is a maximum 3 month duration

You must explain how you would handle any intellectual property (IP) issues which might arise during the project.

Include details of how you will maintain freedom to operate and fulfil the IP requirements detailed in the contract if you are working with subcontractors.

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question.

Question 6. Commercialisation, adoption and scale

How will your solution offer investable, scalable, commercial outcomes that can be procured by public and private sector organisations to address their building portfolio upgrade needs?


  • how you will identify a lead customer (local authority or housing association) to work with
  • how you will approach and work with a range of stakeholders and adopters for your innovation
  • your engagement plan
  • how your solution will be commercialised and what will the business model be
  • how you will stimulate further investment in your solution and what is your investment plan

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

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 eligible organisations that can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. Under current regulations, SBRI contracts are open to applications from organisations registered in the UK, European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). 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.

SBRI is a procurement of R&D services. If successful, you will receive a contract to deliver the proposed activity. You will submit an invoice for the work undertaken. If you are VAT registered, your total costs are expected to include VAT that you would charge as a service provider. VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business, and applications are expected to list total costs inclusive of VAT.

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.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with our own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application. Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy is accessible here.

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.

Next steps

If you are successful with this application, you will be asked to set up your project.

You must follow the unique link embedded in your email notification. This takes you to your IFS Set Up portal, the tool that Innovate UK uses to gather necessary information before we can allow your project to begin.

You will need to provide:

  • the name and contact details of your project manager and project finance lead
  • a redacted copy of your bank details

In order to process your claims, we need to make sure that the bank details you give to us relate to a UK high street bank that is regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The account must have a BACS clearing facility and be in the same company name as your application.

If you have any doubts that your bank account will not meet Innovate UK's funding criteria, you can use the sort code checker. If you input the sort code and find a tick next to the ‘BACS Direct Credit payments can be sent to this sort code’, this will give you an indication that the bank account you hold is acceptable.

Finance checks

We will carry out checks to make sure you are an established company with access to the funds necessary to complete the project.

You must check your IFS portal regularly and respond to any requests we have sent for additional information to avoid any delays. We will also review your milestones, which, if not suitable, will need to be amended during project setup.

Failure to complete project setup may result in your contract being withdrawn.

Your Contract

Once you have successfully completed project setup, we will issue your contract.

The contract will be made available on your IFS portal. You will need to sign and upload this before you start your project, and this must be completed within 30 days of being notified your application was successful.

Your contract will show the start date for your project, do not start your project before this date. Any costs incurred before your start date cannot be claimed as part of your contract.

If your application is unsuccessful

If you are unsuccessful with your application this time, you can view feedback from the assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.

Sometimes your application will have scored well, and you will receive positive comments from the assessors. You may be unsuccessful as your average score was not above the funding threshold or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if this is applied for this competition.

Further help and guidance

If you want help to find an organisation to work with, contact the Innovate UK KTN.

Contact us

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 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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