Funding competition Driving the electric revolution: building regional centres of excellence

Up to £30 million is available to create regional centres of excellence for the development, prototyping and scale up of power electronics, machines and drives technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is to invest up to £30 million in a single project to create a network of regional centres. The centres will be used by industry and researchers for the development and scale up of power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) technologies. The funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

The aim of this competition is to provide funding to establish the centres, building on existing capabilities and expertise where it already exists. The centres will support the industrialisation of PEMD technologies to help accelerate the growth of the UK’s supply chains for PEMD. The centres must be open access facilities that support the development, prototyping and scaling of PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes.

We will fund:

  • the investment in capital equipment needed to create the centres
  • operational costs to enable the centres to become established up to the end of 31 March 2024

You must provide the remaining operational investment necessary over the centres’ lifetimes, which is expected to be at least 10 years, through your own investment and leveraging industry funding.

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

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs are expected to be up to £50 million.

Who can apply

State aid

The successful project will be funded as either:

  • a research organisation as defined in the Research, Development and Innovation Framework (2014) and therefore classed as non-state aid
  • a predominantly commercial undertaking either under the GBER (2014) or a model that is exempt from consideration as state aid by the European Commission

In either case applicants must demonstrate how their proposal complies with the definition under GBER, both in the establishment of a centre and in their operation of it.

The centres must remain compliant with their status under the award, for the duration of the UK Research and Innovation funding period.

Your project

We expect your total eligible project costs to be up to £50 million by 31 March 2024.

We are funding a single project that will create between 2 and 4 regional centres around the UK.

Funding from UK Research and Innovation must end by 31 March 2024. This will be the end of ‘the project’ with regard to the grant draw down. The centres must operate for 10 years in total from the date of the funding agreement being signed.

The centres -should invest their funding in capital equipment, ideally within the first 18 months. This is to enable themselves as operational and open for business. You must set this out in your application, including a detailed plan for the investment necessary to equip the centres.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, a research organisation or a research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • show you can leverage industry investment alongside the ISCF funding
  • demonstrate clear industry support for your application
  • have demonstrable expertise in power electronics, machines and drives
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions cannot work alone.

The lead organisation must demonstrate ability and experience in running large-scale research and innovation grant awards, including large capital investments.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, research organisation, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or RTO
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If your project is a collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

The winning proposal for this competition will form a major part of the delivery of the overall Driving the Electric Revolution challenge and as such will be expected to work with the other parts of the programme in a collaborative manner. The centres will be expected to attend all cohort meetings with other collaborative projects funded by the Challenge to share non-commercially sensitive results and best practice, and to encourage further collaboration and project opportunities.

Multiple applications

Any one business, RTO or research organisation can lead or collaborate on any number of applications.

Any eligible collaborators can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation 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 a single project in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, has the right to consider alternative funding mechanisms, such as a loan or repayable grant. This will be dependent on:

  • the business model proposed by the successful applicant
  • the level of non-economic activity anticipated
  • considerations of state aid compliance
  • best value for the taxpayer

Along with the independent assessment we will also review applications for compliance. If necessary, we will contact applicants directly. We might ask you to provide further information during this process.

You can apply for funding support of up to 100% of your eligible project costs if you are a non-profit distributing research organisation. In this case, you must demonstrate how the co-funding for investment in the centres will be contributed to the project.

We expect investment levels from industry and other sources to be significant. We have a target of £82 million of leverage from industry up to March 2024. The successful application must show how the proposed centres will operate at all times in compliance with its proposed status, whether as a research organisation or another compliant model, for the duration of the Innovate UK funded period. Your project’s compliance will be checked through periodic audits.

You must state how much economic and non-economic activity you will undertake as part of your operating model. Set out how this will be managed, reported and audited to Innovate UK.

There is more information on the industry leverage in the competition guidance for applicants.

Competition aims

The aim of this competition is to provide funding to establish a network of flagship physical centres. These are for the development and scale up of PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes, building on existing capabilities and expertise. They will undertake industrialisation activities to support the growth of the UK’s PEMD supply chain, providing a location, equipment and staff expertise to undertake projects. They will not perform fundamental research as this is already funded through existing centres.

The centres

The centres must focus on all 7 of the industry sectors identified by the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, including all levels of their supply chains from Tier N suppliers to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). These are:

  1. Aerospace.
  2. Automotive.
  3. Energy (generation and distribution).
  4. Industrial (such as production equipment, robots or lighting).
  5. Marine.
  6. Off highway (such as construction or agricultural equipment).
  7. Rail.

The centres must help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop and scale new PEMD technologies. You must state how you aim to achieve this.

The centres must leverage a further £82 million of industry investment alongside the ISCF funding by March 2024. This can be directly into the capital assets of the centres at their inception, such as funding equipment or the costs associated with the host buildings, or through project activity 100% funded by industry. Further details on what can be counted as co-investment from industry is provided in the specific guidance for applicants for this competition.

We expect the centres to establish themselves as quickly as possible, reflecting the urgent needs of industry and the rapid pace of electrification. Therefore, within 18 months of grant award we expect the winning proposal to have invested in the equipment, commissioned it ready for use and opened the centres.

The centres must:

  • be open access
  • work with all parts of the UK’s PEMD supply chain, from SMEs to OEMs
  • work with a range of PEMD technologies from opening, based on the needs of users
  • resemble and operate as industrial scale manufacturing and development facilities, but with greater flexibility
  • support activities and projects (funded by industry or other sources and supported by industry) that develop future PEMD solutions and manufacturing processes
  • build on existing centres of excellence already operating
  • use capability and knowledge from within your organisation or your consortium partners
  • link to and work with other locations, universities or centres that undertake fundamental research in PEMD
  • not directly replicate existing capabilities in the UK
  • commit to work with other partners, stakeholders and organisations around the UK not involved in the consortium but who still offer critical capabilities in PEMD

Centre locations

The centres are expected to work as one joined up single entity during their creation and operating lifetime, with a single process to work with users of the facilities, regardless of location. We expect the centres to undertake business development activities to find users, including working with partners to promote the centres in the UK and internationally.

We envisage between 2 and 4 regional centres, reflecting the UK’s existing PEMD clusters. This does not mean that the ISCF investment is only in these physical locations or in just these buildings or sites. One regional centre could mean investment in a small number of sites within that region if that reflects the best delivery structure. You must justify why the locations proposed are appropriate to achieve the overall ambition of the centres and contribute to the UK’s PEMD community and growth.

You can get industry investment into the centres and we encourage it. However, economic activity is limited to 20% of the centres’ annual capacity under the provisions set out by the Research, Development and Innovation Framework (2014).

Once established, the centres will be expected to play a major role in the remainder of the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge until March 2024, and beyond during its operational phase. This will include the centres joining the challenge’s Programme Board within UK Research and Innovation. The centres will also be encouraged to apply to undertake collaborative R&D projects through future competitions delivered by the challenge, on an equal competitive basis with other applicants. The centres (and/or the legal entities that underpin them) will also be expected to bid into other programme for relevant funding.

Your proposal

Your proposal must set out:

  • how your team are building on existing investments and capabilities to deliver a world class network of centres for PEMD development and scale up
  • why your organisation or the organisations in your collaboration are the best placed to deliver the regional centres and contribute to the overall objectives of the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge
  • what you will invest the ISCF funding in and what it will buy across the locations proposed, including how this aligns with your project team’s existing assets, capability and knowledge
  • your co-investment from industry and other sources
  • your operating model, for at least 10 years
  • how you will work with users of the centres, from SMEs to large businesses
  • the support you have had from, and work you have done with, industrial users of the proposed equipment and capabilities to demonstrate the clear industry need for the proposed facilities
  • how you will work with the wide ‘ecosystem’ of existing stakeholders, research centres and programmes

There is more information and additional scope requirements in the guidance for applicants for this competition about:

  • the objectives of the challenge
  • the capabilities required of the centres
  • the governance of the centres
  • leveraging industry funding
  • confidentially and intellectual property
  • communications and marketing
  • equality, diversity and inclusion
  • the centres’ role in PEMD skills and training

Specific themes

Reflecting the research and innovation topics covered by the challenge, the centres could structure themselves to support materials, machines, drives, prototyping and scale up across all 7 sectors. Your proposal must set out how the centres will organise themselves to achieve this.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • collaborative research and development for industrial research or experimental development projects
  • centres that propose to carry out fundamental research, as this is already carried out in existing centres funded by UKRI
  • projects that duplicate capability or conflict with existing investments and capabilities, whether funded by UK Research and Innovation or not
  • projects that require ISCF funding for new buildings to be built
  • skills and training activity
  • projects that do not establish open access facilities focused on the development and scale up of PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes
23 October 2019
Competition opens
29 October 2019
London briefing event
27 November 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
11 December 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
8 January 2020
Invite to interview
20 January 2020
Interview panel (week commencing)
21 February 2020
Applicants notified

Before you start

Registration closes at midday 12pm UK time on the registration deadline stated. Only the lead applicant is required to register for the competition.

To apply:

  • register online using the green button above
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • attend the briefing event listed in ‘Dates’
  • complete and upload your online application to our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality your application. You must use Microsoft Word for the application form or your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

The Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge was launched in July 2019 by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The ISCF provides funding and support to UK businesses and researchers. The fund is designed to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The fund is being administered by UK Research and Innovation.

The Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge is an investment of £80 million over 4 years. It was set up to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy. It aims to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of power electronic, machines and drives (PEMD) across 7 sectors.

The challenge will create world leading supply chains in the UK and expertise for the manufacture of power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD).

The UK is working to meet its carbon reduction targets agreed nationally and internationally. As part of this it will require electrification in many sectors, which this challenge will directly support and enable. Developing this competency in the manufacture of PEMD in the UK will drive demand for £5 billion more PEMD by 2025 and up to £80 billion by 2050, creating growth and highly skilled jobs across the UK.

The challenge will be delivered over the next 4 years by 3 main pillars of activity:

  1. £19 million for projects to fill gaps in the PEMD supply chain and deliver quick benefits to the UK’s economy.
  2. £35 million investment in regional centres of excellence in PEMD, based at existing areas of expertise. These regional centres will support R&D and enable businesses and researchers to develop and scale new PEMD technologies and manufacturing processes. Approximately £5 million of this investment is for PEMD skills and training development to support the UK PEMD community. This approximately £5 million investment will follow in due course in 2020.
  3. £20 million programme of collaborative research funding to help businesses create future supply chains in both the high volume and low volume PEMD supply chains that are needed by the sectors mentioned above. These projects will develop innovative new processes for the next generation of PEMD technologies.

Detail of the objectives of the challenge can be found in the guidance for applicants for this competition.

Extra help

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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