Innovator Challenge – Zero Carbon Housing Solutions, Smart Buildings and Estates

Energy Systems Catapult is launching an Innovator Challenge call in collaboration with Places for People, Geovation and Pineapple Partners, inviting SMEs developing products and services targeted at Zero Carbon Housing Solutions, Smart Buildings and Estates, to receive tailored business incubation and acceleration support.

This is the 4th intake to the Energy Launchpad, which offers SMEs access to advanced energy system expertise from across the Catapult alongside a wider network of around 40 firms offering a range of specialist business support.

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 Zero Carbon Housing Solutions, Smart Buildings and Estates challenge could include innovators working on:

  • Integrating innovative low carbon generation or infrastructure technologies into the building or estate fabric
  • Zero carbon domestic 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 better living environments.

Application for Innovator Challenge


Successful SME’s will receive a range of Incubation / Acceleration services sourced from the Catapult’s internal capabilities and its delivery support network, and opportunities to work with Places for People in the deployment of LC solutions.


Recognising that interoperability and control remains a barrier for integrating & capturing value from low carbon generation and infrastructure systems, the Catapult is looking for innovations that unlock this potential, effecting all demand side vectors and supply side technologies.

These products and services will aim to realise benefits across the built environment for multiple stakeholders (e.g. Building occupants, Building Owners, Building Managers, Network and System Operators, Energy Suppliers) by accelerating adoption of demand side efficiency measures, maximising financial returns over the built environment’s life cycle.

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 SME will secure a tailored range of services provided by the Catapult’s capability teams or from the Energy Launchpads delivery support network, who collectively will support the SME gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities the energy transition is creating within the smart building & estate landscape, accelerating the development of its technology and commercialisation road maps.
  • 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.

These services will be drawn from the Catapult’s core Capabilities or its Delivery Support Network:

  • 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 (PFSA) 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 Modelling – 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

Place for People

  • Will provide the voice of the customer to help SMEs understand the challenge Social Landlords face meeting the needs of their tenants, the regulatory environment and the steps Innovators need to take in servicing the Social Housing market.


  • Data will also be made available from the Geovation accelerator providing Building and Location based data sets where available, in support of an SMEs technology or commercial development.

Target SMEs

Ideal SMEs responding to this challenge will be seeking to enter or are active across the Building, Housing and Estates 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.

Applications from SMEs outside the traditional building estate marketplace 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 a flexible energy system
  • Acceleration of the uptake of low carbon energy products and services
  • Interoperability of proposed solution
  • Data availability to deliver solution
  • Commerciality of proposed solution.


A shortlist of SMEs will be generated and must be available to attend a webinar hosted by the Catapult on the 5th or 6th of May 2020, and a launch workshop in late June or early July, date to be confirmed. Closing date for applications is noon on the 14th of April 2020.