Innovator Challenge – Low Carbon Interoperable Energy Solutions

Energy Systems Catapult is launching an Innovator Challenge call in collaboration with Climate-KIC, inviting SMEs developing products and services targeted at Low Carbon Interoperable Energy Solutions, to receive tailored business incubation and acceleration support.

This is the 5th intake to the Energy Launchpad, which offers SMEs access to advanced energy system expertise from across the Catapult alongside a wider partner network of West Midlands based Universities, Local Authorities, Industrialist and around 40 firms offering a range of specialist business support services

The Energy Launchpad aims is to help innovators unlock new routes-to-market, secure investment and breakdown barriers to growth – with at least two innovator challenges running each year.

The Low Carbon Interoperable Energy Solutions challenge could include innovators working on:

  • Integrating innovative low carbon generation or infrastructure technologies into the building or estate fabric
  • Zero carbon domestic, commercial or industrial heating solutions
  • Leveraging data from end users, infrastructure and networks to create new services and business models that accelerate the transition to net zero
  • Enabling active, interoperable control systems that delivers more efficient and flexible operation of the whole building & estate energy system
  • Delivering cleaner transport solutions.

Green energy icon with EV car and solar networks


Innovator Challenge: Applications now closed

Low Carbon Interoperable Energy Solutions

Successful SME’s will receive a range of Incubation and Acceleration services sourced from the Catapult’s internal capabilities and its delivery support network, and opportunities to work within the West Midlands Energy Innovation Zones in the deployment of low carbon solutions.


Recognising that interoperability and control remains a barrier for integrating & capturing value, the Catapult is looking for innovations that which are taking a whole system, user centric approach to reducing fuel poverty, adopting alternative transport systems, creating digital interoperability across the energy system and helping to develop the West Midlands industrial supply networks. In so doing unlock this potential, effecting all demand side vectors and supply side technologies.

We are also looking for SMEs able to work alongside these partners to develop innovation projects in the West Midlands Energy Innovation Zones (EIZ), these five unique zones were established to support the acceleration of LC innovations to address the key challenges of this call – Integration / Heat & Fuel Poverty / Alternative Transport Solutions.

Examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Tools that collate and manage building, occupancy and energy data, enabling Demand Side Management (DSM) practices to drive energy efficiency improvements, helping track performance and supporting asset managers in planning and undertaking building maintenance (e.g. building passport type solutions), and optimising lifetime costs.
  • Products and services that unlock large-scale deployment or integration of IoT sensors to capture building performance and occupancy data. Associated services that use this data to deliver bespoke energy efficiency and low carbon retrofit recommendations and financing solutions.
  • Improvements in building design or the installation processes of low carbon heating solutions that minimise the disruption and impact to the building and building occupier during retrofit and operation leading to higher adoption rates.
  • Innovative low carbon retrofit solutions for generation, storage and efficiency.
  • Interoperable control systems for power (DC or AC), heat and transport to improve outcomes for occupants and estate owners that support the adoption of flexible local energy systems.
  • Microgrid solutions
  • Data Services that improve forecasting, balancing and investment decisions or provide user centric recommendations relating to
    • Energy as a service
    • Optimising energy distribution efficiency
    • Local area energy planning (LAEP) decisions
    • Optimisation of investment costs.
    • Building usage & utilisation through better end user experiences
  • Innovations that increase consumer engagement, leading to the adoption of low carbon energy solutions (across power, heat and transport) and behavioural change in consumption patterns and attitudes.
  • Financing solutions that deliver returns incrementally over the building, home or estate life cycle.
  • Business models with an emphasis on community energy projects emphasising local engagement, leadership and control where the local community benefits collectively.


The Energy Launchpad anticipates the following range of impacts from engagement with this challenge call:

  • The call programme has two phases, phase 1 will provide up to 12 early cycle SMEs with a programme to develop their Customer Value Proposition, Business Model and Investor Readiness delivered over a period of some 2 months. This cohort will then be invited to attend a curated Investor Pitch event to help them gain further investment and business support. Phase 2 will provide up to 4 later cycle SMEs with a tailored suit of commercialisation services delivered over a 5-month period, designed to accelerate their commercial and investor readiness.
  • Both Cohorts will be introduced to Innovation projects operating across the West Midlands and supported in accessing these projects by members of the Challenge Call’s advisory board.
  • A shortlist of SMEs will be generated and must be available to attend a workshop at the Catapult innovation hub in Birmingham on the 16th and 17th of June 2020. Closing date for applications is noon on Monday 1 June 2020, 5pm.
  • The SME will gain a greater understanding of the board needs & responsibilities of social housing landlords and how these needs influence and shape the commercialisation journey.
  • The Catapult will deepen its learning of the challenges facing innovators in establishing new markets, and the priorities required to accelerate their opening.

Services to be drawn from Catapult Capabilities or its Delivery Support Network:

  • Digital and Data Systems – working with the innovator to understand the innovation opportunities. Identifying systematic gaps to be addressed in order to unleash the opportunities for specific innovations to be integrated into digital and data strategies across the sector.
  • Systems Integration – understanding of system architecture and the interfaces between the physical, digital and market systems to enable value realisation across the whole system.
  • Modelling – building on the Future Power System Architecture (FPSA) programme and working with the SME to investigate the innovations’ position and value within the energy system landscape and accordingly identifying local and national level impact.
  • Business Model Innovation – understanding user needs to build robust value propositions, using the business model canvas to develop costed and monetised delivery strategies.
  • Market, Policy & Regulation – understanding of energy market structures and regulatory structure with regards to new digital and data services.
  • Collaborative Funding opportunities and call partnering within the UK & Internationally.

Services available through the Catapult’s Delivery Support Network could include:

  • Investor readiness and introduction to investor platforms
  • Market landscaping and competitor analysis
  • Consumer Insight and market needs
  • Technology evaluation and appraisal
  • Digital platform performance and data readiness
  • Product development support
  • Customer proposition and business plan development
  • Manufacturing and production set-up advice and guidance
  • Access to specific test facilities
  • Real world Living Lab data packages to support sandbox verification testing

EIT Climate – KIC

  • Will provide the access to its range of Masterclasses and Investor forums running across Europe.

Target SMEs

Ideal SMEs responding to this challenge will be seeking to enter or are active across the Heat, LC Transport, Network Integration / Optimisations  landscape, either developing solutions to address existing energy system challenges or using existing technology to deliver new business models or solutions in an innovative way. The SME should ideally be based in the West Midlands or have the ability to participate in Innovation programmes across the West Midlands.

Applications from SMEs from areas such as telecoms, fintech and data analytics / science are encouraged to apply to this challenge call.

Energy Systems Catapult recognises that innovations come from across all sectors of society and the Energy Launchpad actively welcomes applications which will help the Catapult deliver an energy sector which is truly representative of the UK’s culturally diverse range of skills and innovators.


Applications will be evaluated using the following criteria:

  • SME impact to the development of LC energy solutions within the Building, Home & Estate market
  • Investor appetite for scope area
  • Alignment with the Catapult mission
  • Time horizon for market adoption
  • Impact on the development of an interoperable energy system
  • Acceleration of the uptake of low carbon energy products and services
  • Data availability to deliver solution
  • Commerciality of proposed solution.

A shortlist of SMEs will be generated and must be available to attend a workshop at the Catapult innovation hub in Birmingham on the 16th and 17th of June 2020.  Closing date for applications is Monday 1 June 2020, 5pm.