Notice

Competition brief: energy catalyst round 5

Updated 9 May 2017

1. Dates and deadlines

Competition opens Monday 24 April 2017
Briefing event for applicants Online webinar available to view
Brokerage events London 26 April 2017
Birmingham 3 May 2017
Glasgow 9 May 2017
London 19 May 2017
Registration deadline Midday Wednesday 21 June 2017
Application deadline Midday Wednesday 28 June 2017
Results notification September 2017
Expected project start 1 January 2018

2. The competition scope

The Energy Catalyst competition supports innovators addressing business opportunities created by the global need for clean, affordable and secure energy. Proposals must address all 3 elements of this energy trilemma: cost, emissions, and security of supply.

The aim of the competition is to accelerate the commercialisation of the very best of UK energy innovation. We expect applicants to have a clear understanding of their specific business opportunity and the route to growth, even at the earliest stages of research and development.

Applications may involve any technology, come from any sector and address any business opportunity.

Within this broad scope, co-funders have different priorities. The Department for International Development (DFID) will fund research and innovation that has relevance to the energy trilemma in developing countries. DFID’s priority is affordable and reliable access to clean energy for poor households, communities and enterprises in rural, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This does not exclude engagement with markets or partners in other regions and countries. DFID encourages the involvement of international partners where they will strengthen the project outcome.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) may prioritise funding of projects with higher technology and commercial readiness, relevant to the UK energy system.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will target its funding at universities (whether partners or leads) undertaking work of scientific excellence within EPSRC’s energy remit area.

Funding may be prioritised towards technologies and sectors for which alternative sources of public funding are not available.

Funding may also be prioritised to innovations and organisations with a track record of success.

3. Projects that we won’t fund

In this competition, we are not funding:

  • innovations unlikely to contribute significantly to energy affordability, security and reduced carbon emissions
  • incremental innovations unlikely to significantly contribute to UK economic and business growth
  • projects that cover only 1 or 2 aspects of the energy trilemma

Projects must address all 3 elements: cost, emissions, and security of supply, though they may prioritise 1 or 2 of these.

4. Find out if you are eligible to apply

Any UK organisation may participate in Energy Catalyst competition projects, and these may also include international partners. However, the 3 competition streams have different specific eligibility requirements for lead partner, duration and project size (see below).

5. Funding and project details

DFID, BEIS and EPSRC are co-funding the Energy Catalyst competition, run by Innovate UK.

We have allocated up to £13 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funders reserve the right to adjust their funding contributions at any time in response to the quality and number of applications received.

There are 3 options to apply into this competition, referred to as streams, and run in parallel. The streams are dependent on the stage your project is at: early stage, mid-stage or late stage. You should choose the stream that broadly reflects the technical and commercial readiness of your project.

5.1 Early-stage competition stream

You can apply for and lead an early-stage project if you are a:

  • UK research organisation working in partnership with any UK business
  • UK small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) working alone
  • UK SME working in partnership with any other organisation

We expect projects to last up to 1 year, with total costs ranging from £50,000 to £300,000.

The majority of the project activity should focus on the technical feasibility of the innovation. You could get:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business
  • up to 100% of your eligible project costs if you are a research organisation

5.2 Mid-stage competition stream

You can apply for and lead a mid-stage project if you are a:

  • UK business working in partnership with any other UK organisation

We expect projects to last up to 3 years, with total costs ranging from £50,000 to £1.5 million.

The majority of the project activity should focus on industrial research. You could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business
  • up to 100% if you are a research organisation

5.3 Late-stage competition stream

You can apply for and lead a late-stage project if you are a:

  • UK business working in partnership with any other UK organisation

We expect projects to last up to 3 years, with total costs ranging from £50,000 to £10 million.

The majority of the project activity should focus on experimental development. You could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business
  • up to 100% if you are a research organisation

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

5.4 International partners

Any project application may include international partners. But, international partners will only be eligible to receive funding if the project is relevant to the needs of developing countries and selected for funding by DFID. In this case:

  • grant awards to international partners will be at the same percentage as equivalent UK organisations
  • the lead partner will be responsible for financial checks on international partners and for distributing grant payments to all partners

In all other cases, international partners may be included in the consortium and in the calculation of total project costs, but will not be eligible for grant funding.

6. How to apply

To apply:

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

External, independent experts assess the quality of your application. We will then select the projects that we fund, to build a portfolio of projects as described in the competition guidance for applicants. Please read this carefully before you apply.

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

To improve your chances of submitting a high-quality application, review presentations from one of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) grant writing workshops.

7. Background and further information

Energy systems around the world are changing rapidly. There is a global need for clean, affordable and secure energy. This energy trilemma has already led, for example, to the rapid and disruptive scaling of distributed renewable energy, clean conversion and storage technologies. How will innovations impact upon energy supply chains for industry, transport and domestic heat?

Unit costs and selling prices for many emerging energy technologies are decreasing by around a quarter for every doubling of installed capacity. Reliability and performance improvements provide bankability, so new energy system and business model paradigms are inevitable. Such disruptive change and uncertainty bring new customer needs, and these create a huge range of business opportunities.

The aim of the Energy Catalyst competition is to enable UK businesses to seize the global opportunities created by the energy trilemma. It helps accelerate and grow the development and deployment of business innovations and business models.

The Energy Catalyst competition is co-funded by DFID, BEIS and EPSRC.

In the 4 previous rounds, the competition has funded more than 200 projects, deploying more than £75 million of grants and leveraging about £45 million of private funding. You can see the range and type of projects that Energy Catalyst has supported to date by searching Innovate UK’s full list of funded projects. Filter the spreadsheet database by Energy Catalyst and then enter the project number into the Gateway to Research search line.

You can see background information and materials from previous brokerage events for rounds 1 to 4 on KTN’s Energy Catalyst webpage. Note: this webpage is no longer updated.

Get more information on DFID’s Transforming Energy Access programme.

View presentations from a DFID brokerage event on 4 July 2016.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the KTN.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at support@innovateuk.gov.uk.