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‘Virtual trade missions’ to India and Thailand for Energy Launchpad International

Rapid growth and development in Asia and Latin America have resulted in huge increases in energy demand and will continue to do so into the future. Many countries and regions are reliant on energy generation from fossil fuels  but are embracing renewables in response to climate change and to ensure security of supply.

With growing proportions of generation coming from intermittent renewable generation, some countries and regions are now looking at how to balance supply and demand. This is an area where the UK and Energy Systems Catapult are uniquely well-positioned to help.

To address this challenge Energy Systems Catapult opened a call to the UK smart energy supply chain, and we ran two simultaneous, virtual missions to India and Thailand throughout the second half of 2020-21 that featured 16 SME innovators from the UK.

We also bolstered our support to the wider UK energy supply chain by publishing 10 market factfiles and two market deep dives, a searchable database of energy stakeholders across the 10 markets and the gem in the crown – the Export Roadmap, a step by step guide to building an export strategy. All these export tools and resources are free to use for UK firms through our Energy Launchpad portal.

The Challenge

Around $27tn will need to be invested over the next 30 years to mitigate catastrophic climate change and ensure continued development, resulting in around 24 million ‘green’ jobs being created globally by 2030. Just a few highlights from our market factfiles give a flavour of the size of the challenge;

  • Thailand plans to roll out 1.2m electric vehicles by 2036
  • Vietnam has connected around 60 million people to the grid in just 20 years
  • Brazil has an interconnected grid that covers an area the size of continental Europe
  • China has a cooling demand of 400 TWh of electricity per year. That’s more than the UK’s entire electricity demand for all sectors.
  • Many ASEAN markets have sustained (pre-pandemic) average annual growth rates of up to 10%

On the other side of the equation, the UK has an ambitious programme of energy innovation and a strong ecosystem of innovative energy SMEs, but its level of export success does not reflect this. According to OECD research, the UK ranks third for start-ups, but 13th for the number of businesses that successfully scale up. The Industrial Strategy Green Paper notes not enough UK firms export and “trade as a share of the economy has grown more slowly than in our G7 competitors over recent decades”. Indeed, in 2018, SME exports accounted for around one-third (32%) of total UK exports, whereas that share was over 50% in 2008 and 2009. This suggests that UK innovators are lacking the support they need to realise their export potential and generate the economic and employment benefits the UK should expect.

The Solution

We combined our international experience of running missions with our SME incubation service that provides specialist energy systems expertise, to create a unique programme that responded to the needs of UK innovators. We drew on experts from across the Catapult and our network of delivery partners to provide an end-to-end export programme tailored to the technologies, business needs and level of maturity of our 16 SMEs in the cohorts. Our programme ran in three overlapping stages.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were unable to travel to India or Thailand. All engagement was done remotely, facilitated by our in-country partners Orissa and the UK India Business Council (UKIBC). We made the most of this by extending the engagement period, with such exceptional results that we are now planning to do some form of virtual engagement as part of all our future programmes.

Department for International Trade (DIT), OrissaUK India Business Council (UKIBC), Ernst & YoungStronger StoriesILCT Legal (Thailand) and Gemserv all contributed to the masterclass series that prepared the cohorts to meet their market.

The Catapult’s Digital & Data and Business Mode Innovation teams provided specialist energy system data audit and business model canvassing services to the cohorts.

Our International Innovator Focus Group provided early feedback on the Energy Launchpad International outputs and the Energy Launchpad Portal that was being developed separately to host them.

UK smart energy supply chain

BlockDox Conigital Digital Engineering Entrust Microgrid
GreenEnco GridDuck Noos Energy Oxto Energy
Power Transition Riding Sunbeams Ryse Energy SEaB Energy
SolarisKit Storelectric Telensa Turbo Power Systems


  • 400 potential collaboration partners identified
  • 78 organisations engaged with
  • 104 virtual meetings
  • One pilot project secured with a local stakeholder
  • 21 non-disclosure agreement signed or in progress
  • One reseller agreement in place

Highlights from SME survey

  • 100% said they could see the value of a programme like this for other markets.
  • 73% scored 8/10+ on how useful overall the programme has been.
  • 87% said they saw the value of continuing the programme after the pilot phase.
  • 100% said the programme increased their visibility of opportunities.
  • 87% scored the application process 8/10+.
  • 80% scored the onboarding process 8/10+.

Most SMEs were able to manage the commitment, but many fed back that they would have appreciated an even longer programme.

UK overseas government feedback was also very positive, with 100% reporting that the programme adds value. We also received high scores for the quality of our market research. We aim to continue building the relationships we’ve formed with overseas posts in support of our mutual aims of assisting other countries with a clean energy transition and supporting UK firms to export.


We are better placed to enter the export market. We have a better understanding of who and where the market is, and its requirements. This means we can modify our business accordingly to help solve the problem(s) that country is facing – after all business is about solving problems. The support has also made us more focused – the business plan and our proposition is more focused.”

Entrust Microgrid

“The storytelling support was extremely valuable for the whole business, not just the India market. We have woven it into our overall narrative that we use as a company and have improved our pitches as a result.

“We have commitments from two or three companies, and from the opportunities we want three trials set up in the next 12 months.”

Power Transition

“In the next 12 months – with the entry strategy and trial projects, our turnover could increase by 2-3%.”

Turbo Power Systems

“Helping our innovative SMEs access opportunities for export, investment and partnerships in major emerging economies is a powerful way to strengthen the UK supply chain in key clean energy technologies while also enhancing decarbonisation efforts in partner countries, so I was really excited by the Energy Launchpad International concept when the team at the Catapult first proposed it. The team has done a great job delivering the pilot project despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.”

Alex Routledge
International Energy Unit
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (Project sponsor)