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Energy Catalyst Round 10: Late Stage

General & Misc
Project Size:
Grant award: £50k-£1.5 million

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to invest up to £10 million in innovation projects. This funding is part of the Ayrton Fund.

The aim of this competition is to accelerate the innovations needed to create new or improved clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or Indo-Pacific regions. Creating a just and inclusive energy transition, and extending the benefits of clean energy to all to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) 7 and 13.

Your proposal must focus on:

  • improving energy access in Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Indo-Pacific regions
  • having a technology or business model which is affordable, reliable and low carbon

This competition is split into 3 strands:

It is your responsibility to ensure you submit your application to the correct strand for your project. You will not be able to transfer your application and it will not be sent for assessment if it is out of scope.

Innovate UK runs many different competitions, and each will have different eligibility and scope requirements. The guidance in this competition brief will always supersede any other guidance. If you are unsure or have any questions, please contact our Customer Support Service who will assist you further.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

The aim of this competition is to accelerate the innovations needed to create new or improved clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific region. Creating a just and inclusive energy transition, and extending the benefits of clean energy to all to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) 7 and 13.

To be in scope for Energy Catalyst round 10 your project must address both energy access and clean energy.

1. Energy access

Your project must aim to speed up access to affordable, clean energy services for poor households, enterprises and social institutions in official development assistance (ODA) eligible countries in sub-Saharan -Africa, the Indo-Pacific region, or South Asia. It must do this by supporting the development, testing or scale up of innovative technologies or business models.

A clear social or economic benefit in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific Region is required.

This can include:

  • creating new energy access in unserved regions
  • improving existing access to provide a more reliable service

Your project must target one or more of the following eligible 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 (may be ineligible from 13 December 2024)
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

South Asia:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • India (only as part of multi country projects)
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka

Indo-Pacific (ODA eligible ASEAN):

  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste (not officially part of ASEAN)
  • Vietnam

Indo-Pacific (Pacific Islands):

  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall islands
  • Papua New Guinea (PNG)
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands (may be ineligible from 13 December 2024)
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

While projects can focus on any ODA eligible country, we are particularly keen to receive projects which focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

2. Clean Energy

Your technology or business model must create clean energy which is:

  • Affordable
  • Reliable
  • Low carbon

While any technology which meets the above criteria is in scope, priority will be given to the following Ayrton Challenge priority areas:

  • next generation solar technologies and business models: enabling new, locally manufacturable, cost effective alternatives
  • smart green grids: including mini and main grid related technologies
  • energy storage: enabling higher intermittent renewable energy penetrations on the grid, and improving access in areas unserved, or poorly served, by the grid
  • green hydrogen: developing relevant technologies and value chains to bring forward zero carbon hydrogen fuels
  • modern cooking: unlocking the transition from biomass to genuinely clean cooking, delivering major health and environmental benefits
  • low energy inclusive appliances: improving the efficiency, performance, availability, and affordability of end use domestic and productive appliances adapted to developing country needs
  • leave no one behind, specifically technologies and business models: ensuring the benefits of the clean energy revolution reach the poorest and most marginalised, including women, those with disabilities, people in humanitarian contexts, and those accessing healthcare in unelectrified clinics
  • sustainable cooling: to help meet growing global cooling demand in a warming world, in a sustainable way

Innovate UK and The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), have allocated funding for projects specifically aimed at replacing diesel and petrol generators with sustainable alternatives, ideally integrating several of the technologies above.

Over 50% of your project must focus on energy access and energy innovation to be in scope. This is determined from your project costing and work packages.

If your project falls out of scope, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

Portfolio approach
We want to fund a variety of projects across the three stages of the competition, different technologies, markets, technological maturities, geographical regions and research categories. We call this a portfolio approach.

This is to make sure that the strategic criteria for the competition brief is met by successful projects considered to be above the quality threshold. This will be as a result of independent expert assessment.

Research categories

We will fund experimental development projects as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We 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 the Indo-Pacific region
  • projects that do not address clean energy requirements
  • 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 (GESI) issues
  • projects where energy innovation and energy access are not the primary focus (if more than 50% project is focussed on other innovations)

We cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

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