£20m UK aid funding available for innovative energy projects

The UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, is offering £20m of UK aid funding to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions for clean, affordable and secure energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia or South East Asia.

The competition, Energy Catalyst round 8 – which is open now and runs until September 16th – seeks to encourage the development of products and services that help countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, South East Asia or multiple regions access secure, low cost and low carbon energy.

They must be targeted at people, public services and local enterprises who are unable to afford or access existing solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions.

The Energy Catalyst’s mission is to accelerate the innovation needed to end energy poverty. By providing financial and advisory support to innovators we help create strategic partnerships, uncover insights and develop business models to improve lives in Africa and Asia.

The challenges of energy poverty include: over one billion people do not have access to electricity; over three billion people rely on solid fuels and kerosene for cooking and heating; grid based systems face economic and governance barriers;  and the vast majority (80%) of those gaining access to electricity worldwide are in urban areas.

Funding is available through Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

To be eligible projects must address: energy access needs of sub-Saharan Africa / South and South-East Asia; all three areas of the ‘Energy trilemma’ – cost, emissions, and security of supply/energy access; or gender equality and social inclusion.

The competition is also co-funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (Dfid). Up to £3m 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 appliances and business models that help leave no-one behind.

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “As we recover from coronavirus, it is vital that we prioritise changing our relationship with the planet for good. Finding innovative and affordable ways to help people use clean energy will make a real difference in this mission. As COP26 president, the UK will be bringing countries together to take action on climate change, including by committing to greener energy sources.”

The previous seven rounds of the Energy Catalyst has seen a commitment of £140m funding – with an additional £60m of co-funding and £75m private funding– of 345 projects with 1,040 partners of which 113 have been non-UK based.