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Zero emission road freight – Strand 2: hydrogen fuel cell vehicles


UK-registered businesses or organisations can apply for a share of up to £10million for feasibility studies into a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle 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 for zero emission road freight. This competition will conduct pre-deployment work for a possible future hydrogen fuel cell truck demonstration.

The feasibility study competition strands are:

There is a related SBRI competition on 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 of hydrogen fuel cell trucks.

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 deployments. These include Highways England and other relevant infrastructure and refuelling suppliers.

You must be available to attend three meetings over the course of your project. These meetings 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 and refuelling infrastructure) 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:

  • Propose a fully zero tailpipe carbon emission demonstration
  • Consider hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and infrastructure
  • Use ‘green’ hydrogen produced solely from renewable sources for the trucks
  • Use a quantity of trucks which match the scale and ambition of each scenario whilst maximising learning and providing value
  • Target a solution for 44-tonne trucks
  • Include full costing for the demonstration factoring in any contingency with links to projects risks identified

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

  • Supply by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • The fit-out of a new ‘glider’ with a hydrogen fuel cell power train

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Scenarios and scale

You must:

  • Focus on demonstration of zero emission trucks in favour of production of hydrogen
  • Ensure the demonstration you propose is supported by a strategic network of hydrogen refuelling stations
  • Describe the planning and preliminary engineering stages for hydrogen refuelling stations including new facilities and those which complement existing infrastructure
  • Describe the planning, preliminary engineering designs and site (demonstration route and refuelling infrastructure) surveys
  • Consider real-world operation demonstration
  • Conduct pre-deployment work for a demonstration which is expected to run for five years
  • Describe the hydrogen distribution and refuelling infrastructure which is required to meet the proposed demonstration
  • Consider demonstration locations, routes and the associated technical and operational factors

Location factors could include proximity to hydrogen production locations, compatibility with hydrogen distribution pathways, and relevant considerations around depot operation.

Broader context

You must:

  • Include use cases, such as regional or national distribution and including those who will use the demonstration once operational
  • Consider the total cost of ownership for the hydrogen fuel cell trucks
  • Explain the factors for international freight using hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, including interoperability and standards
  • Consider the safety and regulatory framework for the use and refuelling of hydrogen trucks
  • Provide a comprehensive risk analysis with considered and realistic mitigations
  • Consider training and familiarisation with hydrogen fuel cell trucks and refuelling infrastructure, for example for operators, emergency services and highway authorities
  • Describe any decommissioning that is required at the conclusion of the demonstration (infrastructure which can viably be repurposed does not require decommissioning)
  • Maximise UK value in terms of supply chain and deployment
  • Consider accessing existing or planned hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in addition to bespoke installations and mobile refuelling
  • Identify the number of stations needed for your scenario and recommend an appropriate utilisation of each station
  • Justify your approach and decisions and clearly communicate any assumptions you make
  • Consider opportunities for collaboration with other hydrogen hubs or initiatives for example the Teeside Hydrogen Hub, Holyhead Hydrogen Hub and the Clean Maritime Demonstration competition applicants

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

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 focus on delivering an advanced feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for zero emission road freight.

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £2million
  • Start by 01 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, academic institutions, charities, not-for-profit, public sector organisations, research organisations or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

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 in this competition but can be included as a collaborator in a further two applications.

Academic institutions, research organisations, public sector organisations, research and technology 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 on use of hydrogen internal combustion engines or usage of hydrogen in conjunction with internal combustion engines
  • Focus on hydrogen which is derived from fossil fuels
  • Consider niche applications of trucks such as for refuse collection
  • Propose to procure sites or vehicles within the project’s lifetime
  • Include the production of hydrogen as part of the project or future demonstration
  • Are 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
  • Are 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.