SBRI: Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen), Demonstrator

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop renewable integrated replacements for fossil fuel generators in Official Development Assistance (ODA) countries.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £2 million

Opens: 6th Nov 2023

Closes: 13th Dec 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition is part of the Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen) programme which aims to support renewable energy based alternatives to fossil fuel generators.

This competition is delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of the Department for Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development office (FCDO). The programme forms part of the Ayrton Fund and Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programmes.


The aim of this competition is to demonstrate the capability, applicability and scalability of integrated renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuel generators.

This competition is part of the Zero Emissions Generators (ZE-Gen) programme which aims to advance renewable energy-based alternatives in countries that currently depend on fossil-fuelled generators.

In this competition, your project must:

  • be an integrated technology capable of replacing one or more fossil fuel generators
  • be safe, flexible and appropriate to multiple applications
  • plan to be installed in an ODA eligible country for testing and validation within 6 months from the project start date
  • be affordable, reliable and low carbon
  • target commercial, domestic, public sector or humanitarian use cases where fossil fuel generators are the only source of electricity or used as back up for an unreliable grid
  • charge using AC or DC renewable generation technologies or from the grid as a backup
  • be capable of storing energy
  • be scalable
  • utilise local supply chains where possible
  • adequately replace fossil fuel generators
  • plan to manage the reuse and end-of-life processing of the replaced fossil-fuel generators
  • propose an end-of-life plan for the renewable alternatives developed with this funding

Contracts will be given to successful applicants.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

For a list of eligible countries, please see here

Research Categories

Prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.


Projects must:

  • start on or after 1 April 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • last between 6 to 12 months
  • involve prototyping, demonstrating or field testing of your innovation in an eligible official development assistance (ODA) country in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or the Indo-Pacific
  • plan to be installed in an ODA eligible country for testing and validation within 6 months from the start of the project
  • ensure the ODA eligible country is the primary beneficiary of the innovation
  • be compliant with ODA funding
  • provide access for external impact verification


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

Organisations do not have to be registered in the UK to lead a project but must be a registered organisation. We will undertake viability and due diligence checks before awarding a contract.

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

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can engage specialists or advisers. The project and delivery against the project milestones will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.


Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • are not original, not in scope and duplicate someone else’s work
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions
  • will not contribute significantly to energy affordability, security and reduced carbon emissions
  • do not address clean energy requirements
  • are not Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant
  • do not take into account and plan to manage Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI)
  • aim to improve fossil fuel generators
  • use combustion technologies
  • are inflexible and tailored to a specific use
  • do not plan to manage the reuse and end-of-life processing of replaced fossil-fuelled generators
  • do not propose an end-of-life plan for the renewable alternatives developed with this funding
  • are large scale infrastructure projects, including industrial processes and utility scale solutions

Funding Costs

A total of up to £2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition.

For this competition up to £1 million inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 12 months.

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

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach to achieve a balance of organisations, technologies and regions in the funded portfolio

The contract is completed at the end of the competition, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £1 million.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £1 million.

Research and development (R&D)

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

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.