Innovator Challenge: Digital Platforms and Data Services


Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) focused on ‘digital platforms and data services’ are invited to apply for the 3rd intake of the Innovator Support Platform to receive tailored business incubation and acceleration support.

The Innovator Support Platform (ISP) offers SMEs advanced energy system expertise from across the Catapult alongside a wider network of around 40 firms offering a range of specialist business support.

Application form for Innovator Challenge: Digital Platforms and Data Services

Entries close: Monday 30th September @ 12pm midday.


The Opportunity

The ISP aims is to help innovators unlock new routes-to-market, secure investment and breakdown barriers to growth – with two innovator challenges announced each year.

The 3rd innovator challenge is aimed at digital and data SMEs developing innovations to support the emergence of a flexible energy system marketplace and increase adoption of low carbon technology by leveraging data from networks and end users to create new market models.

What types of SMEs are we looking for?

Ideal SMEs responding to this innovator challenge will be seeking to enter or are active across the Energy System Digital Landscape as defined in the table below, either developing a digital or data solution 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 energy marketplace from areas such as telecoms, fintech and data analytics / science are also encouraged to apply to this innovator challenge call.

The following table has been prepared to help understand the digital energy ecosystem and the functions performed by the platforms and services within the layers.

Energy System Digital Landscape Assets / Platforms / Services
Consumer Services


Digital Utilities / Service Providers, DER as a Service / EV Car Sharing / Charging Platforms
Decision SupportEnergy Price Comparison
TransactionsPeer 2 Peer Trading / Market Access Platforms
Asset Control ManagementSME Systems / Predictive Maintenance / Vehicle 2 Grid / Virtual Power Plant & Load Management / Aggregators / Charge Point Operation
Local Energy Market Platforms

(includes Community Energy Trading platforms)

Microgrid Management / Constraint Management / Distributed Energy Resources Management System / Asset Register Systems
Asset Operations & DataSmart Meter Data based services / Internet of Things Manufacturers / Infrastructure Management and Monitoring
Data Management and AccessConsumer Data Access and Visualisation / Data Evaluation and Sharing / API Development for Secure Data Sharing / Utilising Data to Provide Services / Integration with Billing Services / Unstructured Data Harvesting and Analysis (public social media posts)


What solutions are we looking for?

The ISP is seeking digital platform and data service innovators that could include those working on (but are not limited to):

  • Integrated digital platforms to provide improved outcomes for consumers/users e.g. bundling services across heating, power and transport (EV) including aftersales support, insurance and financing solutions.
  • Settlement platforms that facilitate new market models and energy transactions across consumer / prosumer groups.
  • Community Energy Trading Platforms / Programmes to increase understanding of energy use and accelerate uptake of low carbon technology.
  • Insights that improve forecasting, balancing and investment decisions or provide user centric recommendations and advice relating to service or supplier options, optimising distribution efficiency and asset investment costs.
  • Data driven system operation to create value for balancing and flexibility at a local level including carbon and Peer-to-Peer trading.
  • Utilising data and digitalisation to coordinate top down optimisation of the energy system across vectors. Matching DER to local demand and utilising fuel flexibility for the benefit of the system.
  • Behind the meter energy optimisation solutions from user led to third party-controlled systems
  • Collection of energy data and sharing with trusted parties as part of enabling service and value offerings to consumers.

Innovations should seek to address whole system challenges, not just a single energy vector.

How do you qualify?

The ISP is looking for a varied range of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises that must meet the following criteria:

    • Solution must address the challenge area identified above.
    • Qualify as Micro, Small or Medium Enterprise
    • Innovations must be at least in the Technology Development stage. If pre-technology demonstration the Innovation must show significant potential or benefit to the energy system.
    • SME must be registered in the UK.
    • Confirm that they are available to participate in a workshop hosted at the Catapult’s Birmingham innovation hub on 17th and 18th October.
    • Prepared to work with the Catapult in developing (case study, lessons learned, etc).

Why should you be interested?

The ISP has been established to help innovators bridge the gap between their disruptive technologies and the established energy system.  By working with the ISP we believe SMEs can benefit in the following opportunities:

  • By leveraging the Catapult’s expert capabilities, assets and tools, SME’s can accelerate product or service commercialisation or scale up.
  • SMEs could develop a deeper understanding of market needs and consumer preferences, and opportunities to deliver digital platforms and data services.
  • Further expand learning around digital platforms and data services and their relative performance and acceptance from consumers.
  • Test and validate consumer models and technologies enabled by digital platforms and data services.
  • Engagement with Living Labs and consumer panels that provide a real-life environment for trialing consumer proposition and services.

In addition, there may be opportunities to access other Service Platforms (in addition to the ISP), that are working on: integrated energy solutions for the public sector estate, common design tools for Smart Local Energy Systems, designs for large scale trial environments in real homes under new market arrangements and connecting energy innovators to International opportunities.

More on Catapult expert: Capabilities and Assets

More on Catapult market engagement: Service Platforms

Incubation and Acceleration Support

The ISP will work directly with the innovators to understand their challenges and future plans and look to deliver a tailor-made programme of Incubation or Acceleration Support to help them develop and grow.

The support will be delivered through a combination of Catapult capabilities, assets and selected delivery partners. The ISP anticipates the following range of impacts from engagement with this innovator challenge call:

  • The SME will secure a tailored range of services to help accelerate the SME’s incubation or scale up, by developing rapid proof of concept and acceptance testing of new business propositions / models with consumers.
  • Deeper understanding of market, regulatory and policy requirements for digital solutions within the energy sector.
  • The Catapult will deepen its learning of the challenges facing innovators in establishing new markets and the priority data sets required to accelerate opening of the digital data market.

With these services being drawn from the following Energy Systems Catapult core capabilities and assets or its supplier partner framework:

  • Data Systems – working with the innovator to understand the data currently available, highlighting areas where data is required to enable innovation and identifying opportunities for specific innovations to be integrated into digital and data strategies across the sector.
  • Living Lab / Consumer Insight – capturing customer insight to rapid testing and validation of consumer acceptance of digital platforms and services.
  • Systems Integration – understanding of system architecture and the interfaces between digital and physical systems to enable value realisation across the whole system.
  • Modelling – digital platform modelling to understand the impact of the product or service at local and national level.
  • Market, Policy & Regulation – understanding of energy market and regulatory structures with regards to new digital and data services.
  • Infrastructure – leveraging digital platforms and systems to increase ability of the energy system to generate and utilise clean fuels such as hydrogen more effectively, and management of renewable generation with different storage technology.
  • Collaborative Funding opportunities and call partnering.

Services available through Catapult Delivery Partners could include:

  • Investor readiness and introduction to investor platforms.
  • Market landscaping and competitor analysis.
  • Technology evaluation and appraisal.
  • Cyber security evaluation.
  • Artificial Intelligence evaluation of performance and behaviour.

Who pays for the Incubation and Accelerator Support?

As part of ISP Incubation and Acceleration Support an innovator can expect to benefit from in-kind support that meets de minimis requirements of support for state aid.  SMEs are eligible if they have received less than €200,000 worth of public support over the last three consecutive fiscal years.

Application & Key Dates

A shortlist of SMEs will be generated and must be available to attend a workshop at the Catapult innovation hub in Birmingham on October 17th and 18th.

The workshop will be an opportunity to network, gain a deeper understanding of the Catapult capabilities, assets and the ISP support network, and engage with the ISP team directly to discuss support needs.

Following the event, a number of SMEs will be selected to receive Incubation or Acceleration Support services through the Innovator Support Platform.  An Incubation Manager will then be assigned to the SME to work together and define the package of support to be delivered under the ISP.

  • September 9th – Entries opened.
  • September 25th – Queries will be responded to up to this date.
  • September 30th 12pm Midday – Entries closed.
  • October 4th – Shortlist SMEs for workshop.
  • October 17th/18th – SME workshop.
  • October 25th – Final SMEs informed.
  • October 28th to November 29th – Due diligence and project scoping.
  • December 2019 – Contracting.
  • January 2020 – Delivery Commences.

Shortlisted SMEs invited to the SME Workshop will be part of a 2-day event with key industry leaders discussing the impact, opportunity and challenges around digital platforms and data service solutions.  Accommodation for the night between the two days will be covered by the Catapult in addition to an opportunity for some networking over dinner.

Individual surgeries and workshops with Capability and Asset experts will be available to help the SME understand their challenges and areas of support that are available.

Expectations from us

As part of the ISP programme, the Catapult is aiming to develop learnings and understanding that can help with the deployment of digital platforms and data service solutions within the UK and international markets.  To this end we anticipate that the work with the innovator will yield the following outputs:

  • Case studies covering an innovators work on digital platforms and data services;
  • Reports that identify key findings that can help the whole energy market drive towards digitalisation and democratisation;
  • The Catapult will learn of further challenges facing innovators in delivering digital platforms and data services and consider these as part of on-going work with the energy industry and policy makers;
  • Collation of evidence to support potential policy and regulation changes to aid adoption of digital platforms and data services;
  • Lessons learned that can be shared with the industry.

Dissemination of wider implications of this work forms a key part of the Catapult’s role within the energy system and due care and consideration will be taken to protect the Intellectual Property of innovators engaged within the programme as part of these dissemination activities.

Innovator Challenge: Digital Platforms and Data Services