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  • Writer's pictureDamon Butcher

SBRI Competition – Open Digital Solutions for Net Zero Energy

Updated: Apr 22, 2022



Organisations can apply for a share of £1.2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop open solutions to accelerate decarbonisation of energy in the UK

Open date: 31/01/2022

Close date: 09/03/2022

Max Grant Size (SME): £300,000

Funding Percentage: 100%

Collaboration: Single or collaborative

Funding Type: Government Contract

Fund Provider(s): Innovate UK

Industry: Net zero, digital



Text update 11 February 2022: slight edit made to clarify the relevant sectors as the net zero energy and associated sectors his is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The aim of the competition is to develop open software, hardware and data solutions that address the challenges off transforming to a net zero energy system in the UK. The competition will stimulate the development of collective equity for the sector and the creation of communities to support the development of reusable and open net zero energy solutions. Your open solutions should accelerate the delivery of net zero energy in the UK. The outputs should be adopted by first users and have potential to be supported and adopted by the wider community and other users across the net zero energy and associated sectors. Projects in this competition must follow appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition stewarded by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and have suitable open licencing, such as OSI approved licences. You must consider business model innovation options to support scaling and commercial growth based on open solutions. The contract is completed at the end of the project. The successful organisation is expected to pursue the support, development, adoption and scaling of the open solution. In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Who can apply Your project Projects are expected to:

  • start by 1 July 2022

  • end by 31 March 2023

  • last up to 9 months

Applicant 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

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, you can employ specialist consultants, advisers or partnering organisations as subcontractors. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor. We are looking for proposals that involve all the necessary stakeholders relevant to the proposed innovation, including a first user of the solution if that is not the lead organisation.

Funding A total of up to £1.2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition. No further funding will be available as part of this competition after this single phase contract. Each contract will be up to £300,000 inclusive of VAT, and cover each project for up to 9 months. We expect to fund 4 projects. The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations

  • apply a portfolio approach across multiple aspects including but not limited to technology, markets, business maturity, and geographies

Research and development 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.

Your proposal Text update 11 February 2022:slight edit made to clarify the relevant sectors as the net zero energy and associated sectors Open software, hardware and data solutions are proven to increase quality, speed of development, security, improve customer protections and reduce costs with the principals of open collaboration and transparency. Open approaches can accelerate digitalisation whilst prioritising system security and protecting customers. You must demonstrate that your open approaches and solutions can:

  • help citizens and organisations accelerate to a net zero energy system

  • stimulate collaboration across net zero energy and associated sectors to accelerate the development of shared and open digital resources

  • increase the transparency of digital solutions in net zero energy and associated sectors to improve security, quality, and value

  • create business growth opportunities based on supporting and adopting open principals and solutions

  • drive interoperability across organisations and solution providers

Your project must:

  • develop original open software, hardware or data solutions that accelerate the transition to net zero energy in the UK

  • embrace open principals including appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition stewarded by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and have suitable open licencing, such as OSI approved licences.

  • actively foster the development of a community to support and adopt the open solution

  • include a first user as part of the project

  • demonstrate a credible and practical route to industry adoption

This competition will be supported by the Energy Systems Catapult. They will:

  • provide light touch support on the application process

  • provide projects with technical support throughout their duration

  • support collaborative working between successful projects

  • support open community building

You can email the Energy Systems Catapult to ask for application support and how the Catapult could support your project at Your project must also:

  • use high quality user research and user experience techniques

  • use state of the art analytical techniques and methods for enriching data to gain information and insight, for example: data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence or statistical mathematics techniques

  • identify and design solutions that best utilise digital information exchange across the energy industry data ecosystem, and other sectors

  • foster innovation and lower information-related barriers by increasing visibility of data and data processing methods, and ease of data access

  • follow energy data best practice guidance

  • demonstrate how you are utilising diversity and inclusivity, both in your project delivery team and the users group you are designing a solution for

This programme will not fund any proprietary development, however you can pursue business models and development outside of this funding such as open core approaches.

Specific themes You can develop an open solution, across the value chain, for any of the following net zero energy sectors:

  • power

  • hydrogen

  • carbon capture, use and storage

  • heat

  • transport

  • buildings

  • industry

  • whole system integration

Your open solution can be:

  • software

  • hardware

  • firmware

  • data solution

The themes listed are not exhaustive and applications are welcome from open solution proposals that can make a significant contribution to decarbonising energy. Example open solutions could include:

  • heat pump controller

  • wind turbine location optimisation software

  • digital twin

  • smart sensors

  • battery management system

  • building heat loss software

  • heat network control system

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 we will not fund We will not fund projects that:

  • have total project costs in excess of £300,000 inclusive of VAT

  • do not meet the scope of the competition

  • develop proprietary solutions

  • have not identified a first user and explained how they will be engaged as a key stakeholder during the project

  • the solutions provided do not meet the principles of openness and comply with appropriate open approaches such as the Open Source Definition.

  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver

  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions

  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes (such as on the environment or society) would be managed

  • seek to develop solutions associated with key digital infrastructure requiring action or investment by government or the regulator with changes to policy or regulation


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