Funding competition Detailed designs of smart, local energy systems

UK organisations can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop clean, cheap local energy systems that create prosperous, resilient UK communities. This funding is from the ISCF’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution challenge.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest up to £30 million in revolutionary designs for local energy systems. Designs must deliver cleaner, cheaper energy services and create more prosperous and resilient communities across the UK.

This competition is part of a wider Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) programme called Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER).

The aim is to create a pipeline of highly innovative, ambitious and investable local energy system designs that will be ready to roll out across the UK in the 2020s. We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories.

This competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

You can claim up to £3 million in grant funding. Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £2 million and £20 million.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure, please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

As industrial research and development, funding under this competition is applicable to Article 25 of the General Block Exemption Regulation.

Your project

Projects must start on 1 January 2020 and end by 31 December 2021. All projects should last no longer than 24 months.

We will consider proposals wishing to claim in excess of £3 million and up to £5 million in grant funding. This is if the project is of exceptional scale and ambition and you can demonstrate that extra funding will drive substantially higher leverage and value for money. You must provide full justification by email to at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Projects should provide private funding that at least matches public funding, but our independent assessors will see private funding leverage as important evidence of value for money. It is hoped that projects will have at least a 2:1 leverage of grant funding overall. That means that we would like you to provide an investment of at least 2 times the amount you are being funded.

You must carry out your project work in the UK and intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.

Your detailed design proposal can use existing UK test facilities in academia, research and technology organisations (RTOs) or elsewhere to test important parts of your proposition. Your eligible costs can account for minor adaptations or extensions of existing facilities. This must be shown to be necessary and within the normal rules for claiming capital usage in projects.

Lead applicant

To lead a project you must be a:

The lead organisation must claim grant through this competition. At least 2 other organisations in the consortium must also claim grant.

If an RTO or public sector organisation is the lead they must collaborate with at least 2 businesses, including at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). You must explain in your application why it is not appropriate for the project to be business-led.


All projects must be collaborative.

To collaborate with the lead applicant you must be a UK based :

  • business
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • public sector organisation
  • or research and technology organisation (RTO)

We expect collaborations to include:

  • at least one SME
  • at least one RTO or public sector organisation
  • representatives from the energy, information and communication technologies sectors

Partners with no funding

Projects can include partners that do not receive any funding, such as non-UK businesses, public sector organisations, industry associations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), or bodies involved in setting regulations, standards or codes. Their commitments will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

Multiple applications

Any one business, RTO or public sector organisation can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications.

If an RTO or public sector organisation is not the lead on any application, they can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Ineligible organisations and individuals

The Energy Systems Catapult is not eligible to collaborate with the lead applicant because of a potentially conflicting role in co-ordination and analysis across the programme (other than in pre-approved activities). However, the Catapult can be sub-contracted to specific services.

Individual academics who are contracted to the EnergyRev research consortium are also ineligible. Their institutions can apply as long as the application clearly states how any potential conflicts of interest will be reviewed and handled across the organisation.

Previous applications


If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.

We will not accept resubmissions in this competition.

Applicants to the 2018 ‘Smart local energy systems: concepts and designs’ competition are welcome to apply for this competition, whether you were successful or not. However, you must have developed your project proposal significantly, taking into account the longer duration and extra funding in this competition.

If we decide not to fund your proposal, you can only use it to apply once more through other Innovate UK competitions. Your resubmission can:

  • take into account the feedback received from the assessors
  • be for another competition

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision.

We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


We have allocated up to £30 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

You could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

You are responsible for ensuring your project and its organisations are fully compliant with state aid rules. Your funding must meet the standard collaborative research and development rules, as specified in the general guidance.

We reserve the right to use a portfolio approach. This is to make sure that the strategic criteria described are met for all projects considered to be above the quality threshold. This will be as a result of independent expert assessment.

We are not looking to fund the established consortia that were successful in securing funding from the Smart Local Energy Systems Demonstrators competition. However, we want individual companies who are receiving funding through the demonstrator competition to be eligible for funding, as they may bring valuable skills to another consortium.

Your proposal

Your proposal must be focused on a specific, named, UK location. The locality must be at least the size of a town but our ambition is to fund ground breaking local energy systems projects up to city or region scale (or equivalent industrial, rural or other area in terms of energy capacity).

Your consortium must demonstrate the ambition, expertise and ability needed to drive fundamental change in the energy system of the locality. You must be able to replicate this change in another locality in the coming decade. It must incorporate a wide range of consumer types and demonstrate a significant change in scale and impact against comparable projects internationally.

Your project must:

  • develop revolutionary market and business model approaches for the provision of smart energy systems
  • develop a detailed understanding of energy supply, distribution and consumption patterns in your locality
  • understand the current and future energy assets, networks and consumer needs in your locality
  • integrate new energy technologies across heat, power and transport in a way that is replicable and scalable to multiple areas across the UK
  • reduce the whole system costs of energy provision, resulting in significantly smaller bills for the end consumer
  • validate the revenue streams and value proposition of the proposed business model
  • write sound financing and investment proposals for the implementation of the energy system design which share the benefits and risks fairly between investors, consumers, utilities and authorities
  • show an integrated approach to managing energy supply, distribution and consumption across heat, power and transport
  • consider the future role of gas as well as electricity systems
  • describe how you will aim for an open data and systems design policy wherever possible
  • include a finance and investment work package (covering, as a minimum, the relevant points raised in questions 1 and 5 of the application)
  • show you understand the impact that varied boundaries of local authorities, gas and electricity distribution networks, and mobile energy assets (such as vehicles) have on the national and local energy system
  • consider the policy and regulatory conditions needed to design the local energy system
  • consider how you will work with local authorities, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), OfGem and Code Administrators to implement your design

Your detailed design proposal should demonstrate:

  • use of techniques and expertise from neighbouring industries, such as digital and technology, finance, entertainment or transport
  • collaboration with other Prospering from the Energy Revolution projects to develop common standards and insights

You will be expected to work and share data with the Energy Systems Catapult’s Energy Revolution Integration Service (ERIS) and the Energy Revolution Research Consortium EnergyRev, who will provide vital assistance to your project, and draw insights from across the programme. We recommend you contact the ERIS team at to discuss the assistance you will receive.

Your design should be ready for implementation in the 2020s. On completion of the 24 month project you must provide compelling, quantified evidence that your design can:

  • deliver bill reductions of at least 25% for the end consumer
  • unlock substantial private investment to build and replicate the approach in the 2020s and beyond, showing that your business model proposition can attract up to 10 times more investment in energy systems technologies (compared to business as usual) once implemented
  • create high value local jobs and UK supply chain growth
  • reduce energy emissions (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, tCO2e) for the locality to below Carbon Budget 5 levels, and present a feasible route towards net-zero emissions
  • improve efficiency and productivity of the local energy system
  • improve energy security and resilience, both short and long term
  • build world-leading expertise in smart energy, and develop components (products, services and skills) with high export potential

Research categories

We will fund detailed designs at the rates of industrial research projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that do not meet the aims of the competition, for example proposals that:

  • do not include details of smart local energy system design, project scale, location, technical configuration, innovations adopted or details of project management
  • do not develop a compelling business model-led approach that can attract sustainable investment in the 2020s
  • do not identify significant economic, environmental and societal benefits at local and national scales, including improving user experience
  • do not consider heat, transport and power
  • focus on component product development or manufacturing support, unless clearly linked to innovative whole energy system business or regulatory models for deployment
  • involve niche configurations, unlikely to be replicable or scalable across the UK in the 2020s
  • are incompatible with Carbon Budget 5 or air quality targets
  • are unlikely to make a material impact on the growth of the UK smart energy systems sector or drive inward investment and export opportunities for UK businesses

30 April 2019
London briefing event
7 May 2019
Competition opens
7 August 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
20 September 2019
Invite to interview
14 October 2019
Interview panel week begins
29 October 2019 5:03pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

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. 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 to make contributions
  • other organisations to collaborate with you

Collaborating organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.


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

Before the interview, 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 your consortium. Up to 6 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 20 minutes
  • have no more than 20 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 10 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend 30 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split in to 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please 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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 700 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Description of project

Provide details of the project, its outputs and the main inputs, activities and deliverables that will deliver these outputs.

Describe the scale and scope of the project including:

  • the location, giving an overview of current and future energy assets, networks, and numbers or types of consumers
  • challenges faced due to daily, weekly and seasonal patterns in generation, supply, distribution and consumption
  • disruptive events or trends that may happen from very short timescales (seconds or minutes) to very long timescales (several years)
  • specific societal challenges faced by the locality (such as. fuel poverty or air pollution)
  • quantified evidence, or justified targets, of the outcomes that your design may achieve in terms of lowering consumer bills, emissions reductions and so on
  • the role of the new market arrangements, business models, technologies and/or regulatory models, explaining why these are suitable for you chosen approach and location
  • the main innovations that will be adopted or trialled
  • how you will develop and test user propositions that underpin a profitable business model and are attractive to consumers
  • how your business models and market approaches can be financed and invested in when scaled or replicated, including how you plan to work with private and institutional investors
  • options for learning and rapid feedback between the project and the wider market

Explain the feasibility in your chosen locality, and in the wider private sector, to contribute inputs (such as data, infrastructure or funding) to the project. Describe any completed or ongoing local work that has either built capability or contributed directly to the project in another way.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than10MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer. Images, maps and tables are welcome. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 2: Delivering your project

How will you ensure an effective approach to project delivery which supports your project description?

Describe or explain:

  • the challenges and requirements and how your methodology meets these issues
  • your approach to assessing the potential technologies or innovations which could be deployed at scale as a result of your detailed design
  • the work packages and main tasks of the project, the lead partner assigned to each, the cost of each one, and the deliverables
  • your approach to project management, including tools or mechanisms that will be used
  • how project partners will manage internal and external stakeholders
  • how monitoring and evaluation will be built into the project
  • how will you work with other projects within the Prospering from the Energy Revolution programme to ensure that systems you develop are interoperable, and to develop common standards

Describe your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages, deliverables or milestones. Include assumptions, uncertainties, decision points, milestones for planning, and/or regulatory and investment approvals.

Highlight the critical path and identify a minimum of 2 stage gates over the project duration. These will have to be agreed with UK Research and Innovation if you are successful and describe outputs that can be shared with ERIS and EnergyRev. They will be formal review points with UK Research and Innovation and potential external experts.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than10MB and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. Images, maps and tables are welcome. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Driving growth in the industry

How will your proposal drive the growth of the UK smart local energy systems industry?

Provide evidence for:

  • the level of private sector and other funding available for future development of your proposal
  • the local and UK-wide supply chain growth potential opportunities linked to the project
  • how this project will build opportunities to research, test and support the evolution of technologies, standards, codes, and business or regulatory models
  • how repeatable and scalable the project is across the UK, giving named examples of where your project could be replicated, with justification
  • the opportunities for commercial exploitation (domestic and international) by project partners, defining target markets and explaining how you will develop this during the project
  • opportunities to improve technology and market readiness
  • opportunities for UK business growth and creation of local jobs linked to this project
  • your estimated inward investment and export opportunities

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4: Improving user experience

How much will your proposal improve the experience of a range of users of the energy system?


  • how you will engage with different stakeholders through the course of this project, including use of best practices where possible
  • what user groups and interactions will be targeted
  • how their experience will change

We strongly encourage a user-centric approach to developing detailed designs proposals. You must provide evidence for how you will do this.


  • how you will access consumers and test your approaches with them
  • what community representative groups exist in your locality and nationally, and how you will leverage their expertise

Question 5. Impact on the local energy market

What effects do you expect your project to have on the energy market in your chosen locality?


  • how your proposal will reduce whole energy system costs
  • by how much you expect to reduce them
  • which organisations or consumers will benefit from these improvements
  • how your proposed business models or market approaches fairly distribute risk, investment and benefit across consumers, utilities and financiers
  • how will your business model attract finance and investment
  • what the expected outcomes of implementing your design are and how will it will improve the deployment of technologies
  • how you will work with other projects to ensure interoperability of approaches in other localities

You must justify your answers relative to business as usual, and outline any assumptions or uncertainties.

You may want to consider potential improvements in total energy system costs, investment costs, operating costs, sector productivity, competitiveness or fuel poverty.

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF no greater than 10MB and and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6. Environment and energy system resilience

How will your proposal improve climate related environmental outcomes and energy system resilience?


  • how you will ensure improvements to the environment, for example in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air quality or other aspects of the natural or built environment
  • to what extent this project could accelerate national progress to meeting the UK’s Carbon Budget 5 and air quality targets
  • how the proposal will increase energy security and resilience to technological, societal and environmental changes, including for example innovations for managing cybersecurity and climate change adaptation
  • how your detailed design will aid the implementation of circular economy principles, and mitigate the risk of negative full lifecycle costs of deploying technologies at scale

Please quantify where possible, justifying any estimates, timescales, assumptions or interdependencies, and indicating how you will overcome any limitations or uncertainties on data availability and reliability.

Question 7. Innovation and ambition

How innovative is your proposal?

How is your project more ambitious and at a greater scale than existing energy systems projects?

Describe how your proposal will be world-leading in its scale, ambition and impact. Give comparison against other projects both in the UK and internationally.

Describe the innovation that is included in your proposal, including for example:

  • new business models or market systems, such as energy-as-a-service, peer-to-peer, insurance models, financing for distributed energy resources, energy aggregation systems for highly dispersed assets
  • how your innovative business model makes products or services attractive to the consumer, utilities and financiers
  • new energy technology, such as storage, local generation, deployment of low carbon gases, efficiency measures, vehicle-to-grid, micro combined heat and power
  • new smart systems, such as Internet of Things connectivity, new sensor solutions, smart controls and automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics
  • new societal engagement tools, such as gamification, voice control and integration with users preferred technology interfaces

Question 8. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles required for developing the detailed energy systems design
  • the skills and experience of the team
  • the resources and equipment needed for the project and how and when you will access them
  • what test facilities or infrastructure you will need to use, and how will you gain access and/or build upon existing facilities capabilities
  • the details of any external parties, including sub-contractors, you will need to work with
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • the management reporting lines you will use
  • the track record the team has in working together to respond efficiently and effectively to the challenges arising on a high-profile and fast-paced multi-disciplinary project
  • the risks and timescales for critical resources
  • how your consortium has the vision and ability to drive real change in the local energy system following this design project
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled, and how and when you will fill them

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer, including the CVs of the most important personnel. We welcome diagrams or tables. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Risks

What are the main risks for this project, and how are you going to manage these?

You must include a detailed risk register covering the main assumptions, risks and issues involved in delivering your project. Explain or describe:

  • the probabilities, severity and uncertainties of the main risks
  • how risks will be monitored and mitigated, with details of contingency plans
  • how the risk register will be monitored and updated throughout the project

Some of the risks you should consider include, but are not limited to:

  • project inputs, including procurement, recruitment, installation, commissioning, obtaining matched funding, recruitment of participants or consumers, and the availability of equipment and/or resources (such as personal data)
  • project outputs and the likelihood they will achieve the desired scale and quality in the target location and set realistic expectations for repeatability, scalability and follow-on private sector investment
  • wider economic, environmental and societal impacts not being achieved
  • how the project will ensure maximum value and minimum liabilities of the project once public funding ceases

Describe whether stakeholders’ attitudes fit with the project, and how. Explain how this might affect your risks. You must give an indication of the project critical path against your project plan given in question 3 and the risks associated with it.

You must also detail risks that will need to be managed by the government, UK Research and Innovation, or other stakeholders outside of the project partnership.

You can additionally upload a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer. We welcome risk registers, diagrams or tables. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value of public funding

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and, if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 11. Costs and value for money

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

Describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • uncertainties and contingencies in costs, and how these will be managed
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the distribution of costs and grant across the project partners, including
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project
  • how much will be put towards capital expenditure, and how any hardware or infrastructure investments will support the proposed design.

The value of capital listed must be depreciated over the duration of the project and costed accordingly, as described in the finance guidance.

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF no greater than 10MB and and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic insitutions will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

The Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) challenge is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge fund.

The PFER challenge has several components that successful applicants will be expected to work with. These components include:

  1. Large scale smart, local energy systems demonstration projects, concepts and designs projects, and a portfolio of innovation Accelerator projects.
  2. The Energy Revolution Integration Service (ERIS), run by the Energy Systems Catapult.
  3. EnergyRev, an academic consortium focused on funded projects and fundamental research.

Extra help

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

You are advised to contact the Energy Revolution Integration Service team to discuss the assistance they can provide at

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357.

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