Energy Catalyst: what it is and how to apply for funding

An overview of the Energy Catalyst programme and the opportunities for UK businesses to accelerate their growth and tackle the biggest energy challenges.


The Energy Catalyst is a programme that supports UK-based businesses to develop highly innovative, market-focused energy technologies.

Businesses can apply into funding competitions to get a grant to carry out an innovation project, regardless of the stage that project is at.

Energy sustainability is based on 3 pillars – cost, emissions and security – so the Energy Catalyst is specifically interested in projects that tackle the challenges these pose.

This guidance is designed to help UK businesses find and access funding opportunities, and to develop and commercialise their ideas much more quickly than they otherwise would.

What is the Energy Catalyst?

There is a global need for clean, affordable and secure energy – and a significant market opportunity for those that are able to rapidly develop and scale disruptive renewable energy, conversion and storage technologies.

The Energy Catalyst aims to accelerate UK innovation in the energy sector from its earliest stage through to commercialisation. The ultimate goal is to help the UK meet its target to generate 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and put the UK at the forefront of this growing sector.

It does this by offering UK businesses regular opportunities to apply for project funding. They can collaborate with other businesses, research organisations and international partners to develop and quickly take new products, processes and services to market.

Grants are available for projects at different stages of development, from early feasibility studies through to late-stage prototyping and demonstrators, and for any technology or industry area.

The programme is run by Innovate UK and is co-funded by partners including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Department for International Development and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Who can apply

You can apply for funding to lead a project if you’re a business of any size. You’ll need to be based in the UK and also intend to carry out your project here.

Depending on the stage of your project and the size of your business, you can work alone or collaborate with others.

The opportunities for UK businesses

Competition themes

UK businesses can apply with projects that tackle the biggest challenges faced by the sector, described by the World Energy Council as the ‘energy trilemma’.

These are:

  • cost – reducing the price of energy to make energy, including the heating and powering of homes and buildings, accessible to everyone, at a price that’s reliable and affordable
  • emissions – generating cleaner energy in order to minimise emissions and to protect the environment, which is necessary to meeting the government’s green targets and growing a sustainable economy
  • security of supply – ensuring the supply of energy to people and businesses is supported by infrastructure that is reliable and secure and prevents the disruption, theft or potential shortage of energy

Funding is only offered to projects that address all 3 pillars. However, as this programme is co-funded, the scope may sometimes be expanded, which will be detailed when a competition round is announced.

Type of research and innovation

Businesses can get funding for their project at any stage of the innovation lifecycle.

Early-stage projects

Funding in the early-stage is for technical feasibility projects that explore and evaluate the technical potential of an idea.

Mid-stage projects

Funding in the mid-stage is to for research and development activities, including laboratory studies, system development and testing, as well as verification and evaluation in simulated environments.

Late-stage projects

Funding in the late-stage is for experimental development projects. This can include prototyping and pilot testing of technology in realistic operating environments.

How to apply

You can apply for a grant through an Energy Catalyst competition. Competitions typically run once a year. It is a competitive process and applications cannot be made outside of this time.

To apply into a live opportunity, you’ll need to read the specific competition brief and guidance, which is made available via the Innovation Funding Service.

Applications must be submitted through the Innovation Funding Service before the stated deadline.

New rounds of the Energy Catalyst are announced on Innovate UK’s website. You can sign up to be notified of the latest competitions.

Success stories from previous grant holders

To date the Energy Catalyst has invested around £100 million across 250 projects and more than 750 organisations. Around £45 million of match funding has also been provided from industry.

Many businesses have gone on to achieve success in the UK and internationally.


A Heriot-Watt University-led consortium has developed a cloud-based irrigation system that could save energy and improve yields for small farms in India. Energy Catalyst funding enabled the running of trial at a small farm in Tamil Nadu, India, and saw reduced water and energy use of up to 80% and the doubling of some crop yields.


Engineering specialist OakTec has developed an innovative bio-gas engine that offers a low-cost, environmentally-friendly alternative for powering vehicles that it’s on the verge of commercialising. Funding supported OakTec in broadening the engine’s capabilities to generate electricity by burning bio-gas produced by micro-digesters.

Anvil Semiconductors

Anvil Semiconductors and its partners have developed a first-of-its-kind technology to make LED lighting better and more efficient without increasing cost. The Energy Catalyst funded projects that enabled Anvil to show it could grow cubic gallium nitride – a semiconductor that supports higher efficiencies than silicon – on a traditional silicon wafer, meaning highly efficient LEDs could be produced for the same cost as traditional LEDs.

Published 7 August 2018