Energy Catalyst Round 10: Late Stage

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £10 million in total across the 3 stages, to create new or improved clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific regions.

Programme:     Innvovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £10 million

Opens: 27th Feb 2023

Closes: 28th Jun 2023

! This scheme is now closed


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 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.

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 region
  • improving existing access to provide a more reliable service

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.

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


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £50,000 and £5 million
  • start on 1 April 2024
  • end by 31st March 2027
  • last between 6 months and 36 months
  • help deliver clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or the Indo-Pacific
  • involve at least one partner with a legal entity in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific region, this can include in-country offices
  • Involve testing and or demonstration work in an eligible ODA country
  • include a UK registered administrative lead
  • if you are an international organisation, partner with a UK administrative lead
  • involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), from anywhere in the world
  • involve at least one legally separate collaborator

Your project can also involve any organisation from any country.

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 and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

There are two types of leads in the energy catalyst programme, an administrative lead, who will complete the application and a technology lead.

An administrative lead is there to act as the recipient of the award and will distribute funding to all other partners. This is known as a ‘hub and spoke’ model. The administrative lead will manage and be accountable for the finances of the project in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award.

The administrative lead must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • claim grant funding through this competition

A technology lead will lead on the development of the scope, work packages and any other technical work.

The technology lead:

  • can be a business of any size
  • can be from anywhere in the world
  • must claim grant funding through this competition

UK registered organisations can be both the administrative and technology lead if the criteria is met for both types of leads.

International Partners

There needs to be at least two grant claiming participants who are working on the project. This can include the administrative lead if they are doing technical work outside of the project administrative responsibilities.

You must involve at least one partner with a legal entity in one of the focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific, this can include in-country offices.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. 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.

All eligible organisations can lead or collaborate on any number of applications.

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


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 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)

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 £10 million has been allocated in total across the 3 stages to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

The total funding available for this competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the funding allocations between the three competition stages
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

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 experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

This funding is part of the UK government’s official development assistance budget (ODA). You must be able to demonstrate that there is a clear economic and social benefit to one or more of the targeted countries. This includes a need to outline how your project and innovation will positively impact Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI).

If projects are judged to be non-compliant with ODA, Innovate UK will not submit the application for assessment.

If you plan to leave capital equipment in the ODA eligible country you can, in principle, fully depreciate the costs.

Assets can be transferred but before Innovate UK can agree to this, you must provide evidence that:

  • the asset will be put to a good developmental purpose
  • the recipient has adequate resources to maintain and operate the asset, including purchase of any consumables
  • the item will not be sold or disposed of, or diverted for another purpose, within a reasonable time period
  • the recipient has adequate controls in place to ensure that the assets are used as intended
  • any local requirements, regarding duties and taxes, or any other formalities, on transfer will be met
  • IT Equipment is disposed of in line with EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations and all personal data will be removed

This evidence should take the form of an end-of-life plan. If you are successful in being awarded funding, our project finance team will ask for this evidence to sign off your finances as part of project set up.

Expenditure on capital is eligible for funding. All materials must be directly related to and essential to the goals of the project.

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 UK Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, NGO or research organisation

Energy Catalyst Accelerator Programme (ECAP): Minimal Financial Assistance

The technology 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 minimal financial assistance (MFA). This allows public bodies to award up to £315,000 to an enterprise in a 3-year rolling financial period.

You will be contacted if you are successful and will be provided instruction on how to obtain this support.

Before receiving the support, you will be asked to declare previous funding received by you. To establish your eligibility, we need to check that our support added to the amount you have previously received does not exceed the limit of £315,000 in the ‘applicable period’.

The applicable period is made up of:

(a) the elapsed part of the current financial year, and

(b) the two financial years immediately preceding the current financial year.

You must include any funding which you have received during the applicable period under:

  • Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights)
  • De Minimis Regulation

You do not need to include aid or subsidies which have been granted on a different basis (such as an aid award granted under the General Block Exemption Regulation).

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.