Funding competition Energy catalyst round 7: mid stage

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £32 million across 3 strands to help provide clean, affordable and secure energy in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) will invest up to £32 million. This is in innovation projects as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme.

The aim of this competition is to support highly innovative, market-focused energy solutions in any technology or sector.

Projects must encourage the development of products and services that help countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both regions access secure, low cost and low carbon energy. They must be targeted at people, public services and local enterprises who are unable to afford or access existing solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions.

Proposals must also address all 3 elements of the energy ‘trilemma’:

  1. Cost.
  2. Emissions.
  3. Security of supply and energy access.

There are 3 options to apply into this competition. These are referred to as strands and will be run in parallel. The strands are dependent on the stage your project is at:

  1. Early stage for feasibility studies.
  2. Mid-stage for industrial research (this strand).
  3. Late stage for experimental development.

This is the mid stage competition for industrial research. It is your responsibility to make sure you submit your application to the correct stage.

Funding type


Project size

Your mid stage project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £1.5 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.

Your project

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £1.5 million.

Your project:

  • must intend to use the results to help deliver clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both
  • must involve at least one partner with a legal entity in one of the focus countries in Africa and South Asia, this could include in country offices
  • must include a UK-based administrative lead
  • must involve at least one SME, from anywhere in the world

Project’s must start by 1 April 2020 and end by 31 March 2022. It can last between 12 and 24 months.

If your project falls outside of our scope for cost, length or applicable country, please email at least 10 days before the competition closes.

We use the EU definition of an SME to determine company size for both EU and international companies.

Lead applicants

The administrative lead:

  • must be UK based
  • will be the recipient of the award and will distribute funding to international partners (hub and spoke model)
  • UK business (of any size)
  • will manage and be accountable for the finances of the project in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
  • must claim funding through this competition

The technical lead:

  • can be from anywhere in the world
  • will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective
  • can be a business (of any size)
  • must claim funding through this competition

UK-based businesses of any size can be both the administrative and technical lead.


You must work in collaboration with others (businesses, research base or third sector).

Your project must involve some research and development, testing or demonstration work in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. This can be done by either a UK or international partner.

The lead organisation must claim funding through this competition. If the project is collaborative, at least one other organisation in the consortium must also claim funding. This can also be the administrative lead if they are involved in the technology development.

International partners

We strongly encourage international partners (business or other), where relevant to the project. They will be funded, through the UK lead partner on the same grant percentage terms as UK organisations.

Previous applications


You can use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you've submitted before. It can be updated based on the assessors' feedback.

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 £32 million to fund innovation projects in this competition across all 3 strands.

You must be able to demonstrate that there is a clear economic and societal benefit to one or more of the targeted countries. This is because the funding forms part of the UK government’s official development assistance budget (ODA).

If projects are judged to be non-compliant with ODA, Innovate UK will not submit the application for assessment.

Capital usage

Expenditure on capital usage is eligible for funding. All materials must be directly related to and essential to the goals of the project.

Portfolio approach

We reserve the right to use a portfolio approach. This is to make sure that the strategic criteria described in the competition brief is met for all projects considered to be above the quality threshold. This will be as a result of independent expert assessment. This may include balancing by technology areas, geographic region, and stage of project.

Research organisations

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 is shared between them.

State aid

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘standard CR&D’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

BEIS energy storage (The following paragraph was inserted on 27 August 2019.)

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is providing £10 million of international climate finance (Official Development Assistance) to fund innovative energy storage projects that will lead to climate change mitigation and wider development benefits in developing countries. This funding is available to projects operating in any country on the OECD’s DAC list and is focused on technology innovation for energy storage. This funding has to be spent in the financial year of 2020 to 2021 so we are particularly encouraging 12 month projects able to start 1 April 2020.

Your proposal

The Energy Catalyst is open to any energy technology from any sector. However, to be in scope for round 7 your project must address the following areas:

The energy ‘trilemma’

Your proposal must tackle all 3 areas of the energy 'trilemma':

  1. Clean
  2. Affordable
  3. Security of supply and energy access

Energy access

Your project must aim to speed up access to affordable, clean energy services for poor households and enterprises in Sub-Saharan-Africa or South Asia. It must do this by supporting the development, testing and/or scale up of innovative technologies and business models. It is open to both on-grid and off-grid solutions but will be aimed at delivering Global Goal 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.


To be in scope, your project must target one or more of the following countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa:
  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Eritrea
  • Eswatini/Swaziland
  • Ethiopia
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
South Asia:
  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam


Your application must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues. You must:

  • identify the main beneficiaries
  • describe how you will mitigate any negative effects
  • provide a plan of how to address both gender and social inclusion during the life of your project
  • explain how your project will encourage equality

DFID storage funding

Any type of energy storage which meets the above criteria is in scope. However, DFID is providing £7 million of funding specifically for energy storage. DFID is particularly interested in supporting projects in the following countries although outstanding projects in other geographies may be considered

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Myanmar
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Rwanda
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Specific themes

Your project could focus on, for example:

  • making new solutions more affordable
  • integrating technologies in new systems or business models to help unlock finance and deployment
  • developing technologies or partnership business models that address other barriers to deployment, such as skills required to develop or maintain technologies
  • unlocking underserved market segments that existing solutions are not reaching at scale, such as rural areas, frontier markets or specific energy end-users

Research categories

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

Grant awards to international partners will be at the same percentage as equivalent UK organisations.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • innovations unlikely to contribute significantly to energy affordability, security and reduced carbon emissions
  • innovations that do not improve energy access in either Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia
  • projects that do not address all areas of the energy ‘trilemma’: cost, emissions and security of supply
  • projects that do not take into account and plan to manage gender equality and social inclusion issues

11 June 2019
Glasgow briefing event
13 June 2019
London briefing event recording
17 June 2019
Competition opens
20 June 2019
Birmingham briefing event
24 June 2019
Newcastle briefing event
28 June 2019
St Asaph briefing event
14 July 2019
to 19 July 2019: Ethiopia mission
21 July 2019
to 26 July 2019: Kenya mission
18 September 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
13 December 2019 4:05pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for grant applicants before you start.

The UK administrative lead is responsible for the following:

  • collecting the information for the application
  • submitting the finished application
  • representing the consortium if your application is successful

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section sets the scene 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. Is the application a resubmission?

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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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.


Scope is assessed under all of the following areas:

  • project scope
  • question 1: gateway question A: ODA compliance
  • question 2: gateway question B: gender equality and social inclusion

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition, remembering that:

  • all applications must address the energy ‘trilemma’ and the energy access needs in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both
  • applicants must show that a clear majority of the project’s objectives and activities are aligned with the competition brief

If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding. Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers, unless the question is unscored. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 500 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers.

Question 1. Gateway question A: ODA compliance

To be eligible for a GCRF grant, you must clearly explain and give evidence for why and how your project is in scope for Official Development Assistance and ODA compliance. You must also complete the additional appendix (including logic model) referenced below.

What beneficial outcomes do you expect the project to deliver in terms of energy access to poor households, businesses and services in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both, and over what timescale?

Your proposal will be out of scope if it does not:

  • show how it will improve energy access amongst poor households, businesses and so on in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both
  • improve the welfare of people in the targeted country, including considering the impact on gender inequality issues

You must give sufficient detail and data on how your project outputs are likely to create a positive socio-economic outcome. You must explain what those expected outcomes are. Explain your rationale on how the expected outputs will achieve the expected outcomes, and the assumptions you are using to move from outputs to outcomes (the logic model).

Describe the benefits to those inside (project partners) and outside the consortium and make a clear distinction between the 2. Be clear about what stakeholder groups you expect to benefit from this project and avoid making generic statements.

You must state the testing and or demonstration work that is being carried out in country.

You must show you are eligible for ODA by providing further information in the appendix, including a basic logic model. The appendix must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 2. Gateway question B: gender equality and social inclusion

How is your project helping to encourage gender equality and social inclusion?

You must describe:

  • who is expected to benefit directly and indirectly from the project (such as employees and contractors, end users or policy makers)
  • how they will benefit
  • how your project will address issues of gender equality and social inclusion issues, including poorer consumers, disabled people and older people
  • how your project might negatively affect gender diversity and social inclusion and explain how you might mitigate against this
  • the strategies for maximising inclusion and leaving no-one behind, including the specific risks to particular social sub-groups arising from the project
  • if or how your specific solution is helping to address gender equality and social inclusion

You must provide a logic model in the appendix to show your rationale and assumptions. It must include:

  • activities: what are the actions that you are going to take in this project?
  • outputs: what are the direct deliverables and outputs from your activities that your project has control over?
  • outcomes: what are the outcomes which you expect to see as a result of your activities and outputs, which can reasonably be expected if you deliver your outputs as intended, but which you have only limited control over?
  • impacts: what are the impacts you expect your project to have in terms of the energy trilemma and for people, businesses and services in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both?

The appendix must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Country (unscored)

Which eligible country will your application mainly be focusing on?

Please choose from the list on the scope page.

Question 4. Technology types (unscored)

Choose up to 3 of the technology types which best apply to your project and type your answer into the text box.

Choose from:

  • solar photovoltaics (such as photonics, photocatalysis technologies)
  • renewable heat (such as solar thermal, sustainable cooling, heat-pumps, thermal storage, geothermal, biomass)
  • onshore wind (utility to small scale)
  • offshore renewables (marine wind, wave or tidal) and hydroelectricity fuel cells, flow-batteries, batteries and other electrochemical generation or storage
  • hydrogen generation (such as electrolysis, reforming), storage and transport
  • electricity grid, networks, system and supply chain (such as distribution network operator interactions, generation-demand-storage-timeshift integration and management); and heat networks
  • fuel processing technologies (such as pyrolysis, gasification, reforming, synthetic fuels, biofuels)
  • combustion (non-engine)
  • engines and thermodynamic cycles
  • industrial process improvement (such as large-scale energy efficiency)
  • energy efficiency (including appliances, cooking, smaller-scale, component and device level)
  • processing of materials for energy applications (such as manufacture, synthesis, deposition, fabrication)
  • operations, maintenance, testing (as appropriate to individual energy sectors)
  • enabling infrastructure, deployment, decommissioning, handling and so on (as appropriate to individual energy sectors)
  • digital and ICT technologies (such as software, IT, communications, data management, sensors, systems control, instrumentation, hardware) as appropriate to individual energy sectors

Question 5. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the evidence that your innovation is relevant and appropriate to needs and the market of the developing country or countries being focussed on
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 6. Approach and innovation

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

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • how it will build partnerships and capabilities in the focus countries
  • 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
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

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

Question 7. Team and resources

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

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the connection with, and representation of, nationals of the focus countries (for collaborative projects a participant from a focus country is a requirement)
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • (if your project is collaborative) the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

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

Question 8. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • your current position in relation to these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 9. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and realise the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 10. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts (separated by gender where possible), either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 11. Project legacy

What will the effect of the project be on energy access in the target country beyond the lifetime of the project?

You are expected to consider how you will contribute to improving wider energy access in the target country, outside of technology development.

For example, describe or explain:

  • the continued benefit to the target country in relation to the wider energy access agenda and delivery of Global Goal 7 (including renewable energy and energy efficiency)
  • the connections and networks made through the project and consortium
  • skills development and training in country

Question 12. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. The appendix must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 13. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise and data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

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

Question 14. Added value

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 15. 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 eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

UK academic institutions will need to complete and upload a Je-S form.

All international partners must apply via the innovation funding service. To receive the same grant percentage terms as UK organisations:

  • international businesses must apply as a business
  • international academics must apply as a ‘non-J-eS registered organisation’
  • international RTOs must apply as an RTO

Background and further information


Your project manager, and others as may be agreed from time to time, will meet with your MO once a calendar quarter (or agreed period) to review your written report for the period since the last monitoring meeting. You should deliver this report to your MO no later than 14 days before the scheduled monitoring meeting. Overseas partners are required to dial into these meetings every quarter.

Additional reporting is required to comply with DFID’s request surrounding key performance indicators (KPIs) and data capture for impact analysis. Your MO will discuss the extra requirements at your initial meeting and a plan will be put in place to capture this information quarterly. The project will also be required to complete a survey 1 to 2 times a year to support DFID annual reporting. Quarterly claims are not approved until reporting is completed to a satisfactory level.

Your obligations

The project, or a representative of the lead company must attend the annual rushlight show (a mandatory investor event)

Payment of grant

If a project has an international partner then all partners will receive their grants via a hub and spoke model. This means grant claims and payments to partners are submitted via the lead organisation.

Business incubation is offered to projects where available and will be fulfilled under de minimis aid. Projects can opt out if they have already reached their de minimis aid limit.

Financial support for the project forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. This is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Extra help

If you have any problems opening or reading the PDFs for the international missions in the dates tab, email for Ethiopia and for Kenya.

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

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

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