Energy Catalyst Round 7 – Early Stage

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £22 million across 3 strands to help provide clean, affordable and secure energy in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both. This is the early-stage strand.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £22 million

Opens: 17th Jun 2019

Closes: 18th Sep 2019

! This scheme is now closed


The aim of the competition is to support highly innovative, market-focused energy solutions in any technology or sector or international market. Focusing on the needs of poor households, businesses and services in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, projects must be targeted at people who are unable to afford or access existing solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions.


The Energy Catalyst is open to any energy technology from any sector. However, to be in scope for round 7 your project must address the following energy ‘trilemma’ areas:

  • cost
  • emissions
  • security of supply and energy access

Your project must aim to speed up access to affordable, clean energy services for poor households and enterprises in Sub-Saharan-Africa or South Asia. It must do this by supporting the development, testing and/or scale up of innovative technologies and business models. It is open to both on-grid and off-grid solutions but will be aimed at delivering Global Goal 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Your application must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues. You must:

  • identify the main beneficiaries
  • describe how you will mitigate any negative effects
  • provide a plan of how to address both gender and social inclusion during the life of your project
  • explain how your project will encourage equality

Your project could focus on, for example:

  • making new solutions more affordable
  • integrating technologies in new systems or business models to help unlock finance and deployment
  • developing technologies or partnership business models that address other barriers to deployment, such as skills required to develop or maintain technologies
  • unlocking underserved market segments that existing solutions are not reaching at scale, such as rural areas, frontier markets or specific energy end-users

Your project:

  • must intend to use the results to help deliver clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or both
  • must include a UK-based administrative lead
  • must involve at least one SME, from anywhere in the world

To view the list of eligible countries in Sub-Sarahan Africa and South Asia – please click here.


To be eligible for funding you can be from any country, and must be a:

  • micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • research technology organisation (RTO)
  • academic organisation
  • charity
  • or public sector organisation

The administrative lead:

  • must be based in the UK
  • will be the recipient of the award and will distribute funding to the international partners (hub and spoke model)
  • must be an SME, academic organisation or RTO
  • will manage and be accountable for the finances of the project in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
  • must claim funding through this competition

The technical lead:

  • can be from anywhere in the world
  • will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective
  • can be an SME, academic or RTO
  • must claim funding through this competition

UK-based SMEs, academics or RTOs can be both the administrative and technical lead.

Funding Costs

Your early stage project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £300,000.

The project must start by 1 April 2020 and finish by 31 March 2021. It can last up to 12 months.

Early stage projects should be focused on feasibility studies – you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

Grant awards to international partners will be at the same percentage as equivalent UK organisations.


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 or South Asia
  • projects that do not address all areas of the energy ‘trilemma’: cost, emissions and security of supply
  • projects that do not take into account and plan to manage gender equality and social inclusion issues