Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen) Accelerator Phase 1: Discover

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £2 million for feasibility studies to develop renewable replacements for fossil fuel generators in Nigeria or the Philippines.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £2 million

Opens: 20th Nov 2023

Closes: 31st Jan 2024

! This scheme is now closed


The ZE-Gen technology accelerator programme aims to accelerate the innovations needed to effectively replace fossil fuel generators with renewable alternatives.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to invest up to £2 million in innovation projects in Nigeria and the Philippines.

This competition is a technology accelerator which is a part of the Zero Emission Generators (ZE-Gen) programme.


The aim of this competition is to support feasibility projects developing a range of technology and business models focussed on Nigeria or the Philippines.

Your project must:

  • develop an integrated technology which directly replaces one or more fossil fuel generators
  • be safe, flexible and appropriate to multiple applications
  • 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 source of energy
  • be capable of storing energy
  • be scalable
  • utilise local supply chains where possible
  • propose an end-of-life circularity plan for the renewable alternatives developed with this funding

At the end of phase 1, successful projects will be invited to apply for the phase 2 competition.

Using a competitive down selection process which involves a short application form and a formal interview, Innovate UK will progress the high-quality projects using a portfolio approach to the next stage of the accelerator. A similar process will then be used for future phase 2 projects invited to progress to phase 3.

Funding on a previous phase does not guarantee funding for a subsequent phase. This will be dependent on the success and quality of the project.

Innovate UK has funding allocated to all three phases and reserves the right to adjust funding to other schemes.


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £50,000 and £150,000
  • last for 10 months only
  • start on 1 June 2024
  • end on 31 March 2025
  • ensure Nigeria or the Philippines is the primary beneficiary of the innovation
  • be compliant with ODA funding
  • include a UK registered administrative lead
  • partner with a UK administrative lead, if you are an international organisation
  • involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME), from anywhere in the world

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

Lead organisation

There are two types of leads in the ZE-Gen Accelerator programme, these are:

  • an administrative lead
  • a technology lead

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

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:

  • complete the application
  • be a UK registered organisation
  • claim grant funding through this competition

The administrative lead organisation cannot be an academic institution.

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

The technology lead must claim grant funding through this competition.

The technology lead can:

  • be from anywhere in the world
  • be a business of any size

The technology lead organisation cannot be an academic institution.

Project team

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

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in the Innovation Funding Service. They are responsible for entering their own project costs in the application.

International Partners

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

Non-funded partners

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.

Number of applications

All eligible organisations can lead or collaborate on any number of applications. We will take a portfolio approach to the funded projects to ensure a diversity of organisation, technologies and regions are funded.

Ignite – Brokerage

A central part of this accelerator is consortium building with partners in Nigeria or the Philippines. For funded projects, a representative from the Technology Lead organisation is required to attend a funded in person visit to either Nigeria or the Philippines depending on your country of focus which is decided at the point of application.

Innovate UK are calling these activities “Ignite” and are to enable the delegation of funded projects to find local collaborators in their focus region ahead of applying to phase 2 of the accelerator in November 2024. It is expected that a representative of the technology lead organisation will:

  • attend the visit in person
  • attend pre and post visit activities
  • present their project to overseas stakeholders
  • network with local partners
  • effectively and professionally represent the ZE-Gen programme

Innovate UK will fund travel and subsistence and organise the agenda with input from the phase 1 consortium of projects. We are planning for the visits to take place in October 2024. More specific details will be shared with successful applicants.

This programme is similar to Innovate UKs Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP) and Energy Catalyst’s brokerage activities. Failure to attend could lead to the removal of the project from the accelerator programme.

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


Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • 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) issues
  • are projects where energy innovation is not the primary focus (if more than 50% project is focussed on other innovations)
  • aim to improve fossil fuel generators
  • use combustion technologies
  • are inflexible and tailored to a specific use
  • do not propose an end of life circularity plan for the renewable alternatives developed with this funding
  • are large scale infrastructure projects, including industrial processes and utility scale solutions

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. We expect to fund 20 projects.

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, 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

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, in this case, Nigeria or the Philippines. 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.

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.