Zero emission road freight strand 1: electric road systems

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £10 million for feasibility studies into an electric road system demonstration.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £10 million

Opens: 23rd Mar 2021

Closes: 5th May 2021

! This scheme is now closed


The Department for Transport (DfT) will work with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to invest up to £10 million in innovation projects.

This investment is for advanced feasibility studies into zero emission road freight. This competition will conduct pre-deployment work for a possible future electric road system demonstration.

The competition strands are:

  • electric road system demonstration feasibility studies – strand 1 (this strand)
  • hydrogen fuel cell vehicles demonstration feasibility studies – strand 2
  • supply chain technology feasibility studies and industrial research – strand 3

There is a related SBRI procurement competition supporting uptake of battery electric trucks.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.


The aim of this competition is to fund ambitious feasibility studies for a future zero emission road freight demonstration using an electric road system (ERS).

Your study must determine and present the feasibility of a scaled demonstration. You may wish to define and explore multiple scenarios, scales, and locations to suit different funding options. This could include a minimum viable product and an ideal demonstration scenario.

You must ensure that your project engages with stakeholders who are critical to any future deployment. These include Highways England and National Grid.

You must be available to attend 3 meetings over the course of your project. These will be with at least, the DfT and Innovate UK, and possibly other stakeholders.

You may also be required to engage with contractors from Innovate UK and the Department for Transport who are exploring complementary factors associated with the future demonstration.

Your project must:

  • include planning, preliminary engineering designs and site (demonstration route) surveys
  • include full costing for the demonstration
  • factor in any contingency with links to projects risks identified
  • include steps to ensure the pre-authorisation or approvals have been considered in depth and progressed to a satisfactory (but non-committal) point

Vehicle-specific requirements

Your project must:

  • target a solution for 44-tonne trucks
  • consider the truck and battery practicalities when the vehicles are not connected to the electric road system, for example, truck charging at a depot or charging at strategic points within the demonstration area
  • include vehicle parameters to enable the trucks use on UK roads
  • consider factors for international freight such as interoperability with other electric road systems and standards

Your project can propose a fully zero tailpipe emission demonstration.

If you believe that a fully zero emission demonstration will not meet any operational requirements, you can use hybrid or a mixed demonstration of hybrid and zero emission trucks.

Your approach to vehicles must be scalable. Scale can be achieved through:

  • supply by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • the adaptation of a vehicle obtained from an OEM to enable it to connect to an electric road system
  • the fitout of a new ‘glider’ with a zero-emission power train and electric road system hardware

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Scale of demonstration

Your project must:

  • propose a quantity of trucks which match the scale and ambition of each scenario whilst maximising learning and providing value
  • conduct pre-deployment work for a demonstration which is expected to run for 5 years
  • consider the electric road system infrastructure, the associated trucks and a real-world operational demonstration
  • consider a minimum of 30 kilometres of electric road system as part of your minimum viable product – the 30 kilometres distance can be achieved in a single direction or out and back on the same road
  • use electric road systems consisting of overhead systems, or in-road rails, or inductive coils
  • demonstration location and the associated technical and operational factors
  • required electric grid connections, including cost and the economic viability of the system

You can consider how rapid charging could be used to extend the operational window of the demonstration vehicles.

Broader context

You must:

  • include use cases, such as regional or national distribution and those who will use the demonstration once operational
  • consider alignment with other schemes which target net zero such as Project Rapid and the All Electric Bus Town programmes
  • include an end to end operational safety and regulatory framework
  • consider public acceptance, including road users and those living near the proposed demonstration
  • include training and familiarisation with the electric road system for example emergency services and highway authorities
  • include a comprehensive risk analysis with considered and realistic mitigations
  • describe how you plan to monitor and evaluate your proposed demonstration
  • describe and provide costs for any decommissioning that is needed at the end of the demonstration (infrastructure which can viably be repurposed does not need to be decommissioned)
  • maximise UK value in terms of supply chain and deployment
  • describe the additional activities needed by the project after the study is completed but before breaking ground
  • justify your approach and decisions and clearly communicate any assumptions you make

During the feasibility study you must engage with interested operators that could use your proposed demonstration to deliver a real-world road freight requirement.



Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • focus exclusively on the use of electric road systems as a range extender in conjunction with internal combustion engine trucks unless this is necessary to achieve feasibility
  • address the procurement of sites, hardware, or vehicles within the project’s lifetime
  • intend to use vehicles which have been retrofitted to replace an existing powertrain
  • dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country.
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage – for example if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product


Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £2 million
  • start by 1 July 2021
  • end by 31 March 2022

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered businesses, RTOs, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

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

Innovate UK will not award you funding if you have:

  • failed to exploit a previously funded project
  • an overdue independent accountant’s report
  • failed to comply with grant terms and conditions

Funding Costs

Innovate UK have allocated up to £10 million to fund innovation projects across the 3 strands of this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

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

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.