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Zero emission road freight strand 1: Electric road systems


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

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

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

Open Date:


Close Date:


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 three 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 five 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.

Innovate UK 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.

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £2million
  • Start by 1 July 2021
  • End by 31 March 2022

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.

Innovate UK expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. Innovate UK 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 two 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.

Innovate UK 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. Innovate UK 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 the 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. Innovate UK 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 Innovate UK need to change the terms of this competition, they will tell you as soon as possible.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £10million to fund innovation projects across the three 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.

Innovate UK 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 it was insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

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.