Energy Catalyst round 8: clean energy access, feasibility projects
Organisations can apply for a share of up to £20 million to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions for clean, affordable and secure energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or South East Asia.
- Competition opens: Tuesday 16 June 2020
- Competition closes: Wednesday 16 September 2020 11:00am
This competition is now closed.
The aim of this competition is to support highly innovative, market-focused energy solutions in any technology or sector.
Your project must encourage the development of products and services that help countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South East Asia or multiple 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.
Your proposal must also address all 3 elements of the energy ‘trilemma’:
- 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:
- Early stage for feasibility studies (this strand).
- Mid-stage for industrial research.
- Late stage for experimental development.
This is the early stage competition for feasibility studies. It is your responsibility to make sure you submit your application for the correct stage.
Your early stage project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £300,000 as part of a feasibility study.
The competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.
Your early stage project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £300,000.
Who can apply
To be eligible for funding you can be from any country. If you are an international organisation you must partner with a UK administrative lead and must be one of the following types of organisation:
- research technology organisation (RTO)
- academic organisation
public sector organisation
International organisations must partner with a UK registered administrative lead. If you are a UK SME, you can apply on your own.
Your project must involve a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), from anywhere in the world, either as a technical lead or consortium member.
Any UK registered business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. It is not possible to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty. However, if you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance on state aid.
Your project must:
- have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £300,000
- start by 1 April 2021
- end by 31 March 2022
- last up to 12 months
- intend to use the results to help deliver clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and/or South East Asia
- include a UK registered administrative lead
- involve at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), from anywhere in the world
We use the EU definition of an SME to determine company size for both EU and international companies.
If your project’s total eligible costs or duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to email@example.com at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.
To lead an application in this competition strand you must be an SME, academic organisation, or RTO.
The administrative lead:
- must be registered in the UK
- will be the recipient of the award and will distribute funding to the international partners (known as a ‘hub and spoke’ model)
- must be a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), academic organisation or RTO
- will manage and be accountable for the finances of the project in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
- must claim grant 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 an SME, academic organisation, or RTO
- must claim grant funding through this competition
UK registered SMEs, academic organisations or RTOs can be both the administrative and technical lead.
If you are a UK SME you can apply without collaborators as you can be both the administrative and technical lead.
If you are an SME from outside the UK you cannot apply on your own as there must be a UK administrative lead.
If you are from a large business you must be invited by the lead applicant to participate.
The lead organisation must claim grant funding through the Innovation Funding Service in 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.
Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Partners must enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.
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.
Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the world. We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.
We strongly encourage the inclusion of international partners (business or other), where relevant to the project.
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 have submitted before. It can be updated based on the assessors' feedback.
Previous projectsUnder the terms of Innovate UK funding, you must 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 £20 million to fund innovation projects across the 3 strands in this competition. £5 million of this funding is provided by the Department for International Development (DFID).
If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.
For feasibility studies, you could get grant funding for your eligible project costs of:
- up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
- up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
- up to 50% if you are a large organisation
Grant awards to international partners will be at the same percentage as equivalent UK organisations. International partners will be funded through the UK lead partner.
The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum is shared between them.
Official development assistance budget
You must be able to demonstrate that there is a clear economic and social 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.
Expenditure on capital usage is eligible for funding. All materials must be directly related to and essential to the goals of the project alongside meeting ODA requirements.
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 competition strands, technology areas and geographic region.
Energy Catalyst Grant Funding: State aid
This competition provides state aid grant funding under article 25, ‘standard collaborative research and development CR&D’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.
Energy Catalyst Accelerator: de minimis
The technical leads of successful Energy Catalyst applications will be enrolled in the Energy Catalyst Accelerator. One to one support for this programme will be provided through de minimis aid. The guidelines for de minimis must be followed. You must declare any previous de minimis aid received in the past 3 fiscal years and keep all relevant documentation for 3 years.
The Energy Catalyst Programme is open to any energy technology from any sector. However, to be in scope for round 8 your project must address the following 3 subjects:
- Energy access.
- The energy ‘trilemma’.
- Gender and social inclusion.
1. Energy access
Your project must aim to speed up access to affordable, clean energy services for poor households, enterprises and social institutions in sub-Saharan-Africa, South Asia, or South East Asia. It must do this by supporting the development, testing and/or scale up of innovative technologies and business models.
Energy Catalyst is open to both on-grid and off-grid energy solutions which are aimed at delivering Sustainable Development Goal 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Your project must target one or more of the following countries.
- Burkina Faso
- Cabo Verde
- Central African Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Eswatini (Swaziland)
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
Department for International Development (DFID) funding
DFID is providing up to £5 million of funding in this competition. Although DFID is willing to consider funding any technology which meets the above criteria, up to £3 million will be prioritised for projects specifically for energy storage.
DFID is also particularly interested in supporting projects in the areas of:
- modern cooking
- sustainable cooling
- next generation solar
- efficient and productive appliances
- technologies and business models which help leave no-one behind
However, DFID will consider outstanding projects in other areas.
DFID is particularly interested in supporting projects which focus on the following priority countries, although outstanding projects in other geographies may be considered:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Sierra Leone
- South Sudan
2. The energy ‘trilemma’
Your proposal must tackle all 3 areas of the energy ‘trilemma’:
- be clean
- be affordable
- enable security of supply and energy access
3. Gender and social inclusion
Your application must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues. You must demonstrate the following in your response and logic model:
- 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
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 under-served market segments that existing solutions are not reaching at scale, such as rural areas, frontier markets or specific energy end-users
We will fund feasibility studies, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.
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, South Asia or South East Asia
- projects that do not address all areas of the energy ‘trilemma’: cost, emissions and security of supply
- projects which are not Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant
- projects that do not take into account and plan to manage gender equality and social inclusion issues
- 16 June 2020
- Competition opens
- 29 June 2020
Online brokerage: register to attend
- 29 June 2020
- Online briefing: view recording
- 16 September 2020 11:00am
- Competition closes
- 14 December 2020
- Applicants notified
Before you start
You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.
Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty.
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 ask you
The application is split into 3 sections:
- Project details.
- Application questions.
1. Project details
This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.
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.
Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. 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.
Write the names of the people who will do the following roles on the project:
- administrative lead
- technical lead
List the following information:
- country or countries the project will focus on, from the list in ‘Scope’.
- technology sector
2. Application questions: gateway
These questions provide background for the assessors to make sure your project is eligible and complies with Official Development Assistance (ODA), gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) and the competition scope.
These questions will be scored on a pass or fail basis.
If your project does not pass all 3 questions, it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment.
Question 1. Official Development Assistance (ODA)
To be eligible for Energy Catalyst grant funding, you must clearly explain and give evidence for why and how your project is in scope for Official Development Assistance. You must also complete the additional appendix referenced below.
Describe how your project will promote the social welfare and economic development of an eligible country for this competition, by addressing a development need in that country.
Describe the benefits to project partners and to those people outside the consortium (in the developing country, particularly people in poverty and underserved groups). Make a clear distinction between the two. Be clear about what stakeholder groups in the developing country you expect to benefit from this project. Avoid making generic statements.
You must explain how the project will, or has the potential to, deliver outcomes and impact in terms of energy access to poor households, businesses and services in an eligible country, and over what timescale?
You must give sufficient detail and data on how your project outputs are likely to create socio-economic impacts, whether they are positive or negative. You have an opportunity to explain your rationale on how the expected outputs and impacts in the appendix, including a basic logic model.
You must download the ODA template and complete it. Upload it as a PDF and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 2. Meeting the energy trilemma
Describe how your project fits the energy triliema requirements described in the scope. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
Question 3. Gender equality and social inclusion (GESI)
How is your project helping to promote gender equality and social inclusion?
Your answer is a mandatory requirement for all Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) programmes under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act, 2014. You can read further guidance on UKRI’s approach to the Gender Equality Act.
Who is involved?
To make sure that your innovation has the highest chance of being successfully adopted, you will need to understand the cultures, attitudes and other context specific factors in the developing country you are focusing on.
In order to deliver the desired economic and societal impacts, you will need to take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues by:
- highlighting any relevant diversity and social inclusion experience or expertise within the core project team and their businesses
- providing information on any partner organisations you are already working with and their role and expertise related to gender equality and social inclusion, such as community groups, NGOs or government stakeholders
- identifying where you see the need to build new links with partner organisations and why
How will you factor this into your project plan?
- how your project will address gender equality and social inclusion issues, including for poorer consumers, disabled people and older people
- how you will measure this
- how this will feed into the overall project plan in question 10
What is the potential?
Describe your current understanding of:
- the expected outcomes of your project and benefits of your innovation on gender equality and social inclusion
- the potential negative effects of your project and innovation, and how you plan to mitigate against these
2. Application questions: detailed
The assessors will score your answers for the following questions. You will receive feedback from them for each one.
Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.
Question 4. Equality, diversity and inclusion (not scored)
We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.
You must complete this EDI survey and type ‘EDI survey completed’ within your answer. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.
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 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
- 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 can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. 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 can submit one appendix to support your answer. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long. 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 (domestic, international or both) 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
- the current UK position in targeting 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 to 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 exploit 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 such as productivity increases and import substitution, to:
- external parties
- others in the supply chain
- broader industry
- the UK economy
Describe, and where possible, measure:
- 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, either positive or negative on, for example:
- quality of life
- social inclusion or exclusion
- jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
- public empowerment
- health and safety
Question 11. 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. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 12. 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 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, 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. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. 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:
- whether 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?
In terms of the project goals, describe or explain:
- the total eligible project costs
- the grant you are requesting
- 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
Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.
Background and further information
Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), Department for International Development (DFID), as part of the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will invest up to £20 million.
Your project manager, and others as may be agreed from time to time, will meet with your monitoring officer (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: Energy Catalyst Accelerator
All successful projects will be enrolled onto Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst Accelerator. The technical lead on each project, and where relevant their project partners, will need to engage with this accelerator. Accelerator support aims to improve the likelihood of successfully commercialising these innovative solutions for clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia.
The Energy Catalyst Accelerator one to one support for this programme will be provided through de minimis aid. Companies in receipt of this support will be required to provide a de minimis aid declaration before receiving this support.
Payment of grant
If a project has an international partner then all partners will receive their grants through a hub and spoke model. This means grant claims and payments to partners are submitted through the lead organisation.
Business support is offered to projects where available through the Energy Catalyst Accelerator 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).
To support the requirement of collaborative applications and the understanding of energy access in a variety of countries, Innovate UK is hosting an Energy Catalyst b2Match platform. This platform is free to access. Registration is available now, with country specific webinars and one to one brokerage sessions available throughout June. Full details are provided on the platform.
If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.
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