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Energy Catalyst round 8: Clean energy access, feasibility projects


Organisations can apply for a share of up to £20million to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions for clean, affordable and secure energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or South East Asia.

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 three elements of the energy ‘trilemma’:

  • Cost
  • Emissions
  • Security of supply and energy access

There are three 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:

  1. Early stage for feasibility studies (this strand).
  2. Mid-stage for industrial research.
  3. Late stage for experimental development.

This is the early stage competition for experimental development. 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.

Open Date:


Close Date:


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 three subjects:

  1. Energy access.
  2. The energy ‘trilemma’.
  3. 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 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.”

Eligible countries

Your project must target one or more of the following countries.

Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Eritrea
  • Eswatini (Swaziland)
  • Ethiopia
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

South Asia and South East Asia

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bhutan
  • Cambodia
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Department for International Development (DFID) funding

DFID is providing up to £5million of funding in this competition. Although DFID is willing to consider funding any technology which meets the above criteria, up to £3million 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 eligible geographies may be considered:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Rwanda
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia

2. The energy ‘trilemma’

Your proposal must tackle all three 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

Specific themes

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

To be eligible for funding, you can be from any country. If you are an international organisation, you need to partner with a UK administration lead and must be one of the following types of organisation:

  • Business
  • Research technology organisation (RTO)
  • Academic organisation
  • Charity


  • 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.

State aid

Any UK-registered business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time Innovate UK 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

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

Lead applicants

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 size 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. Innovate UK would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

International partners

Innovate UK strongly encourage the inclusion of international partners (business or other), where relevant to the project.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £20million to fund innovation projects across the three strands in this competition. £5m of this funding is provided by the Department for International Development (DFID).

State Aid

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.

Research organisations

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.

Capital usage

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.

Portfolio approach

Innovate UK 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 three fiscal years and keep all relevant documentation for three years.

Innovate UK 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

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.