African Innovation Collaborations for Net Zero Places

Key Features

UK registered businesses, in collaboration with African partners, can apply for a share of up to £2 million for collaborative, urban innovation projects. This will support the transition to net zero, both within the UK and Africa.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of £2 million

Opens: 9th Oct 2023

Closes: 22nd Nov 2023

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £2 million in innovation projects. This activity forms part of the Net Zero Living programme.

These projects will build innovation partnerships and demonstrate urban solutions to accelerate a just transition to net zero. We are looking for demonstrations of the collaborative solutions developed, that target clearly identified challenges or needs, in the UK market, the African partners market, or both.


The aim of this competition is to:

  • accelerate the innovations needed to create new or improved net zero solutions in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and the UK
  • test and demonstrate solutions which support a just and inclusive net zero transition
  • create equitable partnerships between net zero innovators in the UK, and their counterparts in three target African markets
  • share lessons and experience on how challenges are addressed in different innovation ecosystems in order to develop more successful joint approaches, and to broaden the reach of existing approaches

Your project must:

  • address the need of urban areas to move towards net zero
  • focus on one or more critical system challenges in urban environments, such as power, heating and cooling, mobility, sustainable manufacturing, resource management, environmental improvement, citizen engagement and behaviour change
  • demonstrate a technology that will help the target countries of the UK, Kenya, South Africa or Nigeria with their transition to net zero
  • incorporate a trial of your project solution in the UK market, or the collaborating African market, or both
  • pay particular attention to driving a just transition to net zero by considering how best to meet the needs of underserved demographic markets in a net zero way
  • test the more innovative deployment of complex net zero solutions, for example, by making it more cost effective, enhancing the co-benefits, or adopting principles of frugal innovation
  • consider how to use and adapt the lessons of trials deployed in the African market to the net zero challenges in the UK
  • demonstrate accessibility and inclusion in the project, including for those in the systems and end users
  • be delivered within an urban area, as defined by your project, and the size and scale must be appropriate to your objectives and budget
  • take a systems based approach to net zero that supports and enhances system interoperability where appropriate
  • have a fair partnering arrangement, collaborative relationship and clear roles between UK and African partners, for example, complimentary technology or enhanced offerings which must demonstrate clear benefits for both parties
  • meet a clear need in the target market


Your project must:

  • have total eligible project costs between £150,000 and £300,000
  • have one or more partner businesses that are registered and operating in one or more of the three target African markets
  • have partner costs for the African partners that are between 40% and 50% of the total eligible project costs
  • last between 6 and 12 months
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK or Africa
  • start by 1 April 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

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.

You must involve at least one UK business and at least one African business from the markets of interest.

All businesses in a consortium must be separate legal and non-linked entities.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example, organisations from non-eligible countries. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the world and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

A UK business acting as an administrative lead, can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in up to three applications.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Innovate UK are not funding projects that are:

  • not addressing real challenges in an urban environment
  • not based in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria or UK
  • not part of a net zero transition
  • related to improvements in the fossil fuel sector

Innovate UK 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

Funding Costs

Up to £2 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, 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

Research participation

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. Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.