Funding competition Zero emission road freight strand 1: electric road systems

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £10 million for feasibility studies into an electric road system demonstration.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Department for Transport (DfT) will work with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to invest up to £10 million in innovation projects.

This investment is for advanced feasibility studies into zero emission road freight. This competition will conduct pre-deployment work for a possible future electric road system demonstration.

The competition strands are:

There is a related SBRI procurement competition supporting uptake of battery electric trucks.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £500,000 and £2 million.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £2 million
  • start by 1 July 2021
  • end by 31 March 2022

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

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered businesses, RTOs, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

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.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case for why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

Academic institutions, public sector organisations and charities can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

European Commission State aid

You must apply under European Commission State aid rules if you are an applicant who is conducting activities that will affect trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU as envisaged by Article 10 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In certain limited circumstances, the European Commission State aid rules may also apply if you are an organisation located in England, Wales, or Scotland and conduct activities that affect the trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. For further information, please see section 7 of the BEIS technical guidance.

For further information see our general guidance on state aid and BEIS guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For applicants subject to the European Commission State aid rules, applicants will be required to prove that they were not an “Undertaking in Difficulty” on the date of 31 December 2019 but became a UID between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2021. We will ask for evidence of this.

Further information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, please take independent legal advice.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


We have allocated up to £10 million to fund innovation projects across the 3 strands of this competition.

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 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

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to fund ambitious feasibility studies for a future zero emission road freight demonstration using an electric road system (ERS).

Your study must determine and present the feasibility of a scaled demonstration. You may wish to define and explore multiple scenarios, scales, and locations to suit different funding options. This could include a minimum viable product and an ideal demonstration scenario.

You must ensure that your project engages with stakeholders who are critical to any future deployment. These include Highways England and National Grid.

You must be available to attend 3 meetings over the course of your project. These will be with at least, the DfT and Innovate UK, and possibly other stakeholders.

You may also be required to engage with contractors from Innovate UK and the Department for Transport who are exploring complementary factors associated with the future demonstration.

Your project must:

  • include planning, preliminary engineering designs and site (demonstration route) surveys
  • include full costing for the demonstration
  • factor in any contingency with links to projects risks identified
  • include steps to ensure the pre-authorisation or approvals have been considered in depth and progressed to a satisfactory (but non-committal) point

Vehicle-specific requirements

Your project must:

  • target a solution for 44-tonne trucks
  • consider the truck and battery practicalities when the vehicles are not connected to the electric road system, for example, truck charging at a depot or charging at strategic points within the demonstration area
  • include vehicle parameters to enable the trucks use on UK roads
  • consider factors for international freight such as interoperability with other electric road systems and standards

Your project can propose a fully zero tailpipe emission demonstration.

If you believe that a fully zero emission demonstration will not meet any operational requirements, you can use hybrid or a mixed demonstration of hybrid and zero emission trucks.

Your approach to vehicles must be scalable. Scale can be achieved through:

  • supply by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • the adaptation of a vehicle obtained from an OEM to enable it to connect to an electric road system
  • the fitout of a new ‘glider’ with a zero-emission power train and electric road system hardware

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Scale of demonstration

Your project must:

  • propose a quantity of trucks which match the scale and ambition of each scenario whilst maximising learning and providing value
  • conduct pre-deployment work for a demonstration which is expected to run for 5 years
  • consider the electric road system infrastructure, the associated trucks and a real-world operational demonstration
  • consider a minimum of 30 kilometres of electric road system as part of your minimum viable product - the 30 kilometres distance can be achieved in a single direction or out and back on the same road
  • use electric road systems consisting of overhead systems, or in-road rails, or inductive coils
  • demonstration location and the associated technical and operational factors
  • required electric grid connections, including cost and the economic viability of the system

You can consider how rapid charging could be used to extend the operational window of the demonstration vehicles.

Broader context

You must:

  • include use cases, such as regional or national distribution and those who will use the demonstration once operational
  • consider alignment with other schemes which target net zero such as Project Rapid and the All Electric Bus Town programmes
  • include an end to end operational safety and regulatory framework
  • consider public acceptance, including road users and those living near the proposed demonstration
  • include training and familiarisation with the electric road system for example emergency services and highway authorities
  • include a comprehensive risk analysis with considered and realistic mitigations
  • describe how you plan to monitor and evaluate your proposed demonstration
  • describe and provide costs for any decommissioning that is needed at the end of the demonstration (infrastructure which can viably be repurposed does not need to be decommissioned)
  • maximise UK value in terms of supply chain and deployment
  • describe the additional activities needed by the project after the study is completed but before breaking ground
  • justify your approach and decisions and clearly communicate any assumptions you make

During the feasibility study you must engage with interested operators that could use your proposed demonstration to deliver a real-world road freight requirement.

You can include a highway access programme to enable construction and system optimisation with minimum disruption to other road users.

Innovations you plan as part of a future deployment must not increase risk of delay or obstruct the demonstration.

We want to fund a portfolio of projects across the three strands of this competition.

The programme reserves the right to adjust the distribution of funding across zero emission road freight competitions.

Demonstrations are not expected to be ready for immediate deployment at the conclusion of your feasibility study.

Specific themes

Your project must deliver an advanced feasibility study on the future deployment of an electric road system for 44 tonne zero emission road freight.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • focus exclusively on the use of electric road systems as a range extender in conjunction with internal combustion engine trucks unless this is necessary to achieve feasibility
  • address the procurement of sites, hardware, or vehicles within the project’s lifetime
  • intend to use vehicles which have been retrofitted to replace an existing powertrain
  • dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country.
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage - for example if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

23 March 2021
Online briefing event: watch the recording
23 March 2021
Competition opens
5 May 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
9 June 2021
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

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

Application team

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

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

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 then select yes in the application question. 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.

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. 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.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 1 to 10, question 11 is not scored. You will receive feedback from them for each scored question.

Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Need or challenge

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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 2. Approach to challenge and innovation

What approach will you take?

Your answer can be up to 800 words long.

Describe or explain how you will approach the entirety of the need, challenge or opportunity identified in question 1 and the competition scope.

Please also cover:

  • your proposal’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • how you will define potential locations and sizes of any trials
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • how the project will strike a balance between the application of existing technologies in new areas against development of new technologies, and any risks associated with this approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how you will engage with operators as part of your project
  • 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. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 3. Team and resources
Who is in the project team and what are their roles? Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
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
  • any track record or experience that the project team has in undertaking complex feasibility studies or in preparation for on-highway trials
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them, including if there is a continued prevalence of restrictions associated with COVID-19
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • the justification if you intend to use any overseas subcontractors (see eligibility requirements for details on subcontractors)
  • how the project will achieve effective project team integration between the partners, as well as the supply chain and any other key actors
  • 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
  • the extent of links (if any) with collaborative research and development (CR&D) projects and the impact

You can submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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

Question 5. Viability of output

How will the consortium ensure that the output generated is valid, viable and deployable?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

In terms of the output that would be produced by your feasibility study, please define your approach to the following:

  • any assumptions that will be made in developing cost estimates, schedule estimate, approval requirements, and how these will be assessed for validity
  • what the project will do to de-risk the required permits and approvals needed for any future installation and operation of an on-road trial (noting that feasibility studies cannot make commitments beyond the duration of the project)
  • how you will ensure that your solution provides value to your target customers or end users, for example, why they would use or buy your proposed solution
  • your projects willingness to engage with any ongoing standards, safety, and regulatory work

To illustrate your response you could define hypothetical scenarios or detail examples from relevant commercial experience.

Question 6. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Describe, and where possible, measure the economic benefits from the project such as productivity increases and import substitution, to:

  • external parties
  • customers
  • 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
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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
  • how you will manage collaboration across your consortium
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones, taking into account the impact of possible continued prevalence of restrictions associated with COVID-19

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project? What is the project’s risk management strategy?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Considering only this project, and not any potential follow on work which could take place after the project, describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, rated high/medium/low or otherwise, includethe technical, commercial, managerial, external and environmental risks
  • how you will mitigate significant and relevant risks, and reappraise the risk following the proposed mitigation, such that the residual risks are apparent
  • any project management tools, mechanisms and/or legal/contractual arrangements that will be used to minimise operational risk and promote a successful project outcome, including arrangements for the project team and partners
  • 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 and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Describe or explain:

  • why the government funding for your project represents good value for money
  • 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
  • the financial benefits inside and outside of the consortium should the project go ahead (additional to benefits that would be achieved through the scenario of funding not being awarded)
  • 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 10. 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?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

In terms of the project goals, describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and proposed spend profile per month or work package
  • 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 subcontractor costs and why they are proportionate and critical to the project

Question 11. Project partners location (not scored)

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Please state the name of each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

3. Finances

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

The funding for this competition is from the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of commitments defined in the November 2020 policy paper ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’.

This technology requires investigation in the context of the United Kingdom strategic road network to define the pathway towards net zero.

This competition is linked to other competitions in the zero emission road freight programme and is supported by supply chain technology feasibility studies and industrial research.

Applicants will not be asked to deliver the demonstration as part of this project. Subject to funding, successful projects will be invited to a future competition phase where a commitment to deploy will be given.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Finding a project partner

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

Your details will be shared with the Knowledge Transfer Network once you commence an application on this strand and you may be proactively contacted to assist with arranging project partners.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE
If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Need help with this service? Contact us