Energy Catalyst

The Energy Catalyst programme is a recurring programme to support highly innovative, market-focused solutions that aim to address the global need for clean, affordable and secure energy. The competition is open to any UK organisation and may also include international partners. The programme covers early stage research (technical feasibility studies) through to industrial research and piloting. Projects can last up to 3 years, with total costs ranging from £50,000 to £5 million depending on the research maturity. Round 8 for clean energy access is open now. Deadline 16 September 2020.  Interested? Feel free to contact us.


Organisations can apply for a share of up to £20 million to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions for clean, affordable and secure energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or South East Asia.

There are 3 strands available, being run in parallel:

  • Feasibility projects: £50-300K; up to 12 months duration;
  • Industrial Research: £50K-1.5M; between 12 and 24 months;
  • Experimental Development: £50K-5M; between 12 and 36 months.


  • Competition closes: 16 September 2020, 11am
  • Applicants notified: 16 November 2020
  • Project start date: 01 April 2021


The Energy Catalyst Programme is open to any energy technology from any sector.  Project must also address the following 3 subjects:

  1. Energy access

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 South East Asia. It must do this by supporting the development, testing and/or scale up of innovative technologies and business models. Energy Catalyst is open to both on-grid and off-grid energy solutions which are aimed at delivering Sustainable Development Goal 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Up to £3 million will be prioritised for projects specifically for energy storage.

DFID is also particularly interested in supporting projects in the areas of:

  • modern cooking
  • sustainable cooling
  • next generation solar
  • efficient and productive appliances
  • technologies and business models which help leave no-one behind
  1. The energy ‘trilemma’

Your proposal must tackle all 3 areas of the energy ‘trilemma’: be clean; be affordable; and, enable security of supply and energy access.

  1. Gender and social inclusion

Your application must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues (GESI). You must demonstrate 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.

Specific Themes

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

Projects that will not be funded

  • 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 South East Asia
  • projects that do not address all areas of the energy ‘trilemma’: cost, emissions and security of supply
  • projects which are not Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant
  • projects that do not take into account and plan to manage gender equality and social inclusion issues

Eligible Countries

Projects must target one or more of the following countries:

Sub-Saharan Africa: Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cabo Verde; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Comoros; Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Eswatini (Swaziland); Ethiopia; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tome and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

South Asia & South East Asia: Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Laos Malaysia; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Philippines; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam.


  • Projects must include a UK registered administrative lead and involve an SME from anywhere in the world;
  • State aid funding rules apply;

Funding Rates

Organisation size Feasibility Industrial Research Experimental Development
Micro/small business <70% <70% <45%
Medium sized business <60% <60% <35%
Large business <50% <50% <25%

Research organisations collaborating as part of your consortium can share up to 30% of the UK total eligible project costs. (This maximum is to be shared between all participating research organisations).

Need help?

Our experts would be glad to make time for an informal chat. They can help you write a successful proposal. Feel free to contact us.

More details and other funding opportunities from Innovate UK can be viewed here.