Energy Catalyst Round 9 – Mid Stage

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £20 million to create new or improved clean energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific regions.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £20 million

Opens: 18th May 2022

Closes: 10th Aug 2022

! 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) as part of the Ayrton Fund to invest up to £20 million in innovation projects.


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 extend the benefits of clean energy to all to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) 7 ‘end energy poverty’ and 13 ‘climate action’.

To be in scope for Energy Catalyst round 9, your project must address all three of the following areas:

1. Energy access

Improving energy access in official development assistance (ODA) eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific region.

Your project must aim to speed up access to affordable, clean energy services for poor households, enterprises and social institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific region. 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

2. Clean Energy

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

1. Affordable.

2. Reliable.

3. Low carbon.

3. Gender equality and social inclusion (GESI)

Your application must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues. You must demonstrate all of the following in your response and logic model:

  • 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

Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funding

FCDO is providing up to £10 million of funding in this competition. Although FCDO is willing to consider funding any technology which meets the above criteria, including solution integrations across multiple technology areas, they are prioritising projects focused in the following Ayrton Challenge areas:

  • next generation solar technologies and business models
  • smart green grids, including mini and main grid related technologies
  • energy storage, including batteries and mechanical storage
  • low carbon hydrogen
  • modern cooking
  • low energy inclusive appliances
  • leave no one behind, specifically technologies and business models
  • targeting poor or marginalised groups or fragile contexts
  • sustainable cooling

Portfolio approach

Innovate UK reserve the right to use a portfolio approach to fund a variety of projects across the strands of the competition, different technologies, markets, technological maturities, geographic regions and research categories. We call this a portfolio approach.


Innovate UK are not funding projects that are:

  • 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
  • not addressing clean energy requirements
  • not Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant
  • not taking into account or do not plan to manage gender equality and social inclusion issues
  • dependent on export performance
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £50,000 and £1.5 million
  • start by 1 April 2023
  • end by 31 March 2026
  • last between 6 and 24 months
  • intend to use the results to 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 one of the focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or the Indo-Pacific region, this could include in-country offices
  • 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

Your project can also involve organisations 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 entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

There are two types of leads in energy catalyst, an administrative lead, who will start 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 when there is an international partner in the consortium. 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 registered in the UK
  • claim grant funding through this competition

A technology lead will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective.

The technology lead:

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

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

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • non-governmental organisation (NGO)
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

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 region, this could include in-country offices

Innovate UK strongly encourage the inclusion of international partners (business or other), where relevant to the project.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project.

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.

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.

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

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

Funding Costs

Up to £20 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 Mid Stage 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

Official development assistance budget

You must be able to demonstrate that there is a clear economic and social benefit to one or more of the targeted countries. This is because the funding forms part of the UK government’s official development assistance budget (ODA).

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

Capital expenditure

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

Energy Catalyst is funded by the official development assistant (ODA) budget. 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 12 month period of the end of your project
  • 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.

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 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 technical 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.

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.