Funding competition SBRI: modernising energy data access and information, phase 1

In this first phase applicants can apply for a share of up to £480,000 for modernising energy data access. This is being funded by Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, in collaboration with BEIS and Ofgem.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This competition is funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). It is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition.

It aims to solve the fundamental problem of exchanging digital energy information between energy organisations and with other stakeholders by supporting the development of products or services which can later be commercialised and employed to solve similar problems elsewhere.

Up to £1.9 million is available for projects which will accelerate the development of tools and processes to modernise data services for the energy sector.

For the UK to achieve its net zero emission ambitions, we must further decarbonise our energy supply and demand across heat, power and transport.

Your proposal must demonstrate how you can achieve an efficient exchange of information in a way that minimises the technical burden of the solution and provides an effective user experience. Solutions must meet the needs of people within the energy sector and those from other sectors, so that they can more easily deliver products and services.

The challenge will be delivered in 3 phases. Successful applicants in each stage will be eligible to apply for subsequent phases.

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

Funding type


Project size

In phase 1 your total eligible project costs must be between £100,000 and £160,000, including VAT.

Who can apply

We expect to fund up to 3 phase 1 projects (subject to quality criteria being met). Your project must have total eligible costs between £100,000 and £160,000, including VAT.

Phase 1 projects must start by 6 April 2020 and can last no more than 6 weeks.

Lead applicant

You can work alone or collaborate with others as subcontractors.

To lead a project, you must:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, the research base, the public sector or the third sector as subcontractors

Project team

We will only award discovery contracts to lead applicants. However, if you can show that collaboration will benefit your project, you can subcontract specific tasks. Ideally subcontractors will be sector specialists. Any subcontracted work is the responsibility of the lead applicant.

Previous applications


You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you have submitted before.

If you submit a new proposal this time you will be able to use it in no more than one future competition that allows resubmissions.

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.


This is a 3-phase competition with a total allocation of up to £1.9 million, including VAT. Projects will be 100% funded.

Your application must have at least 50% of its contract value attributed directly and exclusively to research and development (R&D) services. R&D can cover solution exploration and design. It can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service.

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

Phase 1: discovery contracts

A total of up to £480,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1 to focus on supporting feasibility studies. We expect to fund up to 3 projects in phase 1 (subject to them meeting our quality criteria).

Phase 2: alpha contracts

A total of £520,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 2. We expect to fund 2 contracts of up to £260,000 each, including VAT (subject to them meeting our quality criteria).

Phase 3: private beta contracts

A total of £900,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 3. We expect to fund 1 contract of up to £900,000, including VAT (subject to it meeting our quality criteria).

Your proposal

Your project must accelerate the development of tools and processes to modernise data services for the energy sector. Successful applicants will have access to advice, industry experts and representative datasets.

Your proposal must allow the owners and users of digital energy information to collaborate and develop efficient solutions to achieve the UK’s decarbonisation ambitions. You should keep costs low and maintain energy system reliability.

Your proposal must:

  • be flexible and easy to reuse, regardless of the source of the data
  • enable digital information exchange across the energy industry data landscape, using the representative data sets provided by Innovate UK
  • demonstrate a rational process to move from the current fragmented data landscape to one that is more transparent and efficient
  • encourage innovation by increasing data visibility and ease of access to energy data
  • involve interested private sector organisations, such as the Energy Networks Association (ENA), distribution network operators (DNOs), the electricity system operator (ESO), in modernising the energy data landscape
  • show that data sets based on different standards, formats and technologies can be made to work together at minimum cost and complexity
  • make sure data is compatible with national reference data which is relevant to the energy system (for instance from the Office for National Statistics)
  • produce open source (or a format with a similar principle) outputs which can be used by both the energy industry and other sectors and create opportunities for commercial exploitation
  • consider the data security implications of the solution and ensure security mindedness is incorporated throughout

This phase will aim to prove the validity of the common data architecture concept, or disprove it by identifying a superior alternative. By the end of this phase you must produce these outputs and others as appropriate, in accordance with Government Digital Service (GDS) agile principles:

  • an approach and design
  • user personas and journeys
  • delivery risk documentation
  • road map and initial epic backlog
  • proposed team

The other 2 phases are described in supporting information.

Specific themes

We particularly encourage you to design and build ways in which each user can search and access relevant data. For example this could be by:

  • location or geospatial reference
  • asset type
  • other characteristics

Your proposal should use state-of-the-art data science techniques and these should be an important part of the proposed solution. These techniques must support and enable ongoing initiatives across the energy sector, such as the Open Networks Project and other activities being conducted by the ENA.

Your solution must promote interoperability of data whilst recognising the various standards and technologies in use across the energy industry. You must also aim to ensure interoperability with data from outside the energy sector.

Research categories

In phase 1 we will fund feasibility studies, as defined in the general guidance. These should result in a technical and commercial specification, detailed design package and test plan for a technical solution.

In phase 2 we will award alpha contracts to develop and field test prototypes. This will demonstrate the effectiveness of the solution.

In phase 3 we will award a private beta contract to develop the solution, including detailed field testing with real end users, using real data.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • projects that sit outside of the scope
  • proposed and/or existing front end user applications
  • solutions that focus solely on a single data source, such as smart metering data

16 October 2019
Briefing event
16 October 2019
Competition opens
2 January 2020 12:00pm
Registration closes
8 January 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
25 February 2020
Applicants notified

Before you start

To apply:

  • register online using the green button
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • consider attending 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. Innovate UK may share details of your application with BEIS and Ofgem, in keeping with our privacy notice. BEIS and Ofgem will also see your project’s progress reports and will be invited to the quarterly progress meetings.

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality of your application. You must use the unique application form sent to you, and complete it in Microsoft Word or your application will be ineligible. Subject to meeting the quality threshold, we reserve the right to manage the portfolio to achieve the correct balance of projects and funding.

Interviews and next steps

There is no interview stage for phase 1 of the competition.

If we award you funding for phase 1 we will send you the competition documentation for your application to phase 2. In order to be considered for Phase 2 funding you must complete this as an output to your phase 1 project and submit it by 15 May 2020.

As part of phase 1 you must present a discovery show and tell sometime during the week of 18 May 2020.

There will be an interview stage as part of the phase 2 application. As part of the application process for Phase 2 you must make a 30 minute presentation to independent assessors on your findings from Discovery and plans for Alpha.

The same process will be repeated for phase 3.

Background and further information

Extra help

If we award you funding you will have access to a number of resources. BEIS, Ofgem and the Energy Networks Association (ENA) will give consultative support on domain-specific topics. This includes the legal aspects of data management and access to representative data that allows for end-to-end feature testing (data ingestion, integration and visualisation or modelling).

If you want help to find a project subcontractor, 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.

Structure of challenge

After phase 1 the challenge will broadly follow the structure below, in accordance with GDS agile principles.

Phase 2: alpha (3 months)

You will aim to prove that a solution can be built by delivering a piece of functionality that validates the approach and roadmap. We plan to select 2 of the 3 phase 1 projects to take part. The main output of the phase will be an alpha, which will follow GDS principles including these elements and others as appropriate:

  • prototype
  • de-risking evidence
  • refined approach and design
  • refined user personas and journeys
  • refined roadmap, epics, and initial stories
  • refined team for next phase

Phase 3: private beta (6 months)

You will deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) and invite real users, although it will not be opened to the public. We plan to select one project from Phase 2 to participate in this phase. The phase will follow GDS principles, and the main outputs will include these elements and others as appropriate:

  • MVP and further iterations
  • roadmap to live
  • stakeholders communications plan
  • user feedback
  • key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • future vision
  • ‘art of the possible’


In June of 2019, Energy System Catapult UK published the Energy Data Taskforce: A Strategy for a Modern Digitalised Energy System report. In this report, Catapult UK advocates for energy data, asset and infrastructure visibility. They outline 3 building blocks to support the realisation of this vision:

  1. Asset registration strategy.
  2. Data catalogue.
  3. Digital system map.

Together BEIS, Ofgem and Innovate UK have performed an initial analysis and have endorsed enabling these building blocks. Further work has identified all of the building blocks need a common data architecture.

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