United Kingdom

Highlights in 2018
Highlights in 2018


Mission Innovation impact case study

Power Forward Challenge: UK-Canada joint challenge on smart energy systems innovation

As electric vehicles, smart devices, storage systems and remote connectivity become more commonplace, the demands placed on our electricity grids are becoming highly complex and very different from when they were built. Through the Power Forward Challenge, the UK and Canada are jointly offering over £11 million to develop the best smart energy systems for the 21st Century with the aim of having pilot-scale demonstrations by December 2020. The Challenge is looking for innovators who can bring disruptive technologies or new thinking to develop clean, robust and flexible power grids and energy systems that anticipate and meet the needs of networks around the world, looking ahead to 2030 and beyond.

This funding competition is a result of the relationships and understanding of mutual priorities that have been developed between the UK and Canada through MI. As a result of this relationship, in September 2017, the Prime Ministers of the UK and Canada agreed a Clean Growth and Climate Change Partnership. The joint challenge was announced at the 3rd MI Ministerial in May 2018 by Minister Claire Perry, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd, Natural Resources Canada, with the challenge launched at Green Great Britain Week in October 2018.

The challenge has generated significant interest on both sides of the Atlantic with 21 UK and Canadian companies funded for the Phase 1 feasibility studies. New collaborations between UK and Canadian companies are being supported, for instance, the Maple project is exploring the feasibility of exporting smart demand balancing controls systems domestic hybrid heat pumps to Canada whilst the OpenFlex project bring proven smart grid and smart home technology from Canada to the UK and take advantage of the new UK smart metering infrastructure to deliver an open standards-based, low cost, and interoperable system for flexibility services. In phase 2, project teams can apply for up to £1.8 million (C$3m) per project for demonstration projects in the UK or Canada.

Accelerating CCUS Technologies

Accelerating CCUS Technologies (ACT) is an international initiative to facilitate research, development and demonstration (RD&D) and innovation within CO2 capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). The second phase of ACT from 2018-2022 is facilitating eleven countries to work together with the ambition to fund world class RD&D innovation that can lead to safe and cost effective CCUS technology. The ACT programme originated out of the EU’s ERANET programme.

Due to the Carbon Capture Innovation Challenge and MI, the CCUS ACT consortium opened its second call to MI countries. This resulted in two additional MI members, the US and France, joining the Call. The current Call for project proposals (closed in March 2019) included call text that actively encouraged projects to address the Priority Research Directions (PRDs) developed during the 2017 Houston Mission Innovation Workshop. The initiative now involves seven MI members (Norway, Germany, France, The Netherlands, UK, USA as well as the EU). Other countries involved are also exposed to the MI Innovation Challenge (Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Turkey, Greece).

An ACT Call was published 4 June 2018 with the total budget for the Call in the range €22.05 million to €30.05 million.

Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies

The UK has continued to make good progress on implementing our Clean Growth Strategy and have announced new initiatives to deliver this Strategy.

  • Green GB Week: We hosted the inaugural Green GB Week in October 2018 – an incredible example of Government, academia, business and civil society coming together to raise awareness of clean growth. More than 100 events were held across the UK and over 50 commitments were made from Government and business. This included holding the European launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 1.5 degrees special report to an audience of European senior government officials, climate scientists, non-governmental organisations and think tanks at Imperial College.
  • Buildings Mission: In May 2018 the Prime Minister announced the first mission under the Clean Growth Grand Challenge, which is to at least halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030. In Green GB Week, Minister Perry announced the Home of 2030 design competition, aiming to galvanise collaboration across the public and private sector to generate housing design fit for the future.
  • Clusters Mission: In December 2018, the UK’s Climate Change Minister, Minister Claire Perry, announced the UK’s second Clean Growth mission, which is to establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low carbon cluster by 2030. The UK Government will be investing up to £170m in innovation support to kick-start this mission.

Alongside the launch of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C , in October 2018 we requested the Committee on Climate Change (CCC)’s advice on the implications of the Paris Agreement for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets, which advised on the 2nd May for the UK government to set a net zero greenhouse gas target by 2050.

Major innovation initiatives in 2018/19

Basic and Applied Research

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council invested around £140m in basic and applied energy research in 2018/19, covering most energy technologies.

Built Environment

  • The Transforming Construction Challenge was launched to help companies to adopt digital and manufacturing technologies that will help them construct buildings faster and cheaper and with half the lifetime carbon emissions. The UK government will invest up to £170 million, matched by £250 million from industry, to create new construction processes and techniques.
  • Launched the £5.6m Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASSE) Competition to scale-up business energy efficiency.
  • Awarded £4.1m to 8 suppliers in theSmart Meter Enabled Thermal Efficiency Ratings (SMETER) project to develop more reliable methods to determine the energy efficiency rating of homes.
  • Awarded £6.2m of projects to develop boilers, fires and cookers certified to operate with 100% hydrogen as part of the Hy4Heat project to de-risk the use of hydrogen for heating buildings.

Smart Grids 

  • As part of the UK’s £102.5m Prospering from the Energy Revolution Challenge, we are funding the growth of smart local energy systems, with four demonstration projects across the UK announced in April 2019.
  • Through the Faraday Battery Challenge we are creating an £80 million automotive battery industrialisation centre to enable companies to quickly develop their capabilities to manufacture batteries and creating the £78 million Faraday Institution at the Harwell Science and Innovation campus to speed up research into battery technologies.
  • Launched the £4 million FleX Competition to test innovative approaches to valuing and trading flexibility and launched the £20 million Storage at Scale programme to support the delivery of large-scale, pre-commercial energy storage facilities using innovative (non-battery) technologies.

 CCUS & Industry 

  • Launched phase 2 of the £20 million Industrial Fuel Switching competition to stimulate early investment in fuel switching processes and technologies.
  • Allocated up to £20 million to design and construct CCU demonstration projects in the UK.
  • Launched a£15m Call for CCUS Innovation to offer grant funding for innovation projects that lead to a reduction in the cost of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide.

Innovation for development

The UK will invest at least £100 million in 2020-21 on projects that will help to address the clean energy needs of developing countries.

  • Held a Transforming Energy Access: Innovations towards SDG7 conference in London announcing £51m of new relevant clean energy RD&D funding via the Transforming Energy Access programme (£30m) and Africa Clean Energy (ACE) programme on Mini-Grids (£21m).
  • Supported the second round of the Global LEAP Awards to identify highly energy-efficient, durable, off- and weak-grid appropriate refrigerators.
  • Announced 10 finalists for the off-grid cold chain prize via the Ideas to Impact innovation prizes programme.

These investments are resulting in new solutions that support the economy and jobs such as Chimney Sheep, supported by the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which has produced a chimney draught excluder that is breathable and sustainable, while also blocking 93% of airflow up a chimney and Switchee, which was supported by Innovate UK to develop a smart, internet connected thermostat – one integrated solution that helps residents consume less energy and provide landlords with insights to make homes more energy efficient.

Major activities in support of the Innovation Challenges in 2018/19

The UK has actively participated in all of the Innovation Challenges in 2018-19 and co-leads the Carbon Capture (IC3) and Heating & Cooling (IC7) Innovation Challenges. A few highlights are illustrated below:

IC3 – Carbon Capture

The UK joined Saudi Arabia and Mexico as co-leads of the Carbon Capture Innovation Challenge at the 3rd MI Ministerial. Over the past year, the UK has facilitated the international expansion of the CCUS ACT Consortium that provides research and demonstration and innovation grants to collaborating countries. The second Call launched in June 2018 with a total budget of €30.05 million including £6.5 million from the UK and involving 6 other MI members and five other countries. The UK ensured that the Call text actively encouraged projects to address the Priority Research Directions (PRDs) developed during the 2017 Houston Mission Innovation Workshop. The UK is planning the next IC3 workshop in Norway in June 2019.

IC5 – Artificial Photosynthesis

The UK hosted an international meeting at Cambridge University on 25th March 2019 to agree the IC5 Global Actions for Sunlight Conversion and a plan for taking it forwards. The document was drafted by the UK IC lead Prof. James Durrant from Imperial College with Prof Leif Hammarstrom from Uppsala University, Sweden.

IC7 – Heating & Cooling of Buildings

Effort this year has focused on the development of 24 research foci in 6 priority areas and increasing communication activities. The UK represented MI and the Heating & Cooling Innovation Challenge at the launch of the Global Cooling Prize by Indian Minister Harsh Vardhan. The $3M #GlobalCoolingPrize aims to spur the development of technologies with 5x less climate impact than air conditioners being sold today by 2020. The UK has also supported workshops to develop a Technology Assessment Document on Sorption Heat Pumps, Predictive Maintenance and Operation, and the “Comfort and Climate Box”.

Other Mission Innovation related activity in 2018/19

The UK has continued to provide the Head of Secretariat for MI over the past year raising ambition through member-led initiatives. The UK also provided senior resource via a Strategic Adviser to the Head of Secretariat from August 2018 from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). We are delighted that the UK nomination of the Chief Scientific Advisor for BEIS, Prof. John Loughhead, as Chair of the Steering Committee from June 2019 – June 2020 was approved by MI members.

COP24 Events

Three clean energy innovation events were held in the UK Pavilion at COP24 on 12th December:

  • To mark the third anniversary of MI, the UK hosted a side event at COP24 entitled Mission Innovation and the role of clean energy innovation in pursuing efforts towards 1.5°C, involving both Prof John Loughhead, Vice Chair of the Steering Committee as keynote and panellist and Dr Julia Knights, Strategic Adviser to Head of Secretariat in BEIS as the Chair of the side event.
  • The Accelerating CCUS deployment event focused on the role of innovation and international collaboration in accelerating CCUS deployment globally.
  • The Low carbon cooling event launched the Global Clean Cooling Landscape Assessment discussed the key policy, innovation and financing gaps.

UK-Canada Power Forward Challenge

The winning teams from the first stage of the joint £11m UK-Canada Power Forward Challenge were announced which has brought together innovators from the UK and Canada to demonstrate our shared ability to aggregate and manage distributed generation, energy storage and flexible loads in future energy systems.

UK-South Korea Competition on Smart Energy Innovation

The winners of the £6 million UK / South Korea bilateral programme to collaboratively develop innovative smart energy solutions were announced.

UK is one of five MI governments working with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC), an initiative led by Bill Gates that includes over 30 influential investors from around the world. We are continuing to explore opportunities to boost private sector investment to support UK researchers and companies.

New collaborations

2nd Call – Accelerating CCS Technologies (ACT)
European Union, Germany, Greece, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, United Kingdom 
An international initiative to fund research and innovation projects that can lead to safe and cost-effective technology.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research, development, and/or demonstration
Duration: 2018 to 2022
Funding amount:
€30.05 million
Find out more

IC5 project through H2020 with 8 MI countries
EU Large-scale Research Initiative on the production of fuel and chemicals from sunlight.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: large-scale, long-term research
Duration: 2019 to 2020 (first stage)
Funding amount:
1M€ from the EC
Find out more

Demowind 1-2
Belgium (IWT), Denmark (EUDP), The Netherlands (RVO), Portugal (FCT), Spain (CDTI), United Kingdom
Principal objective is to fund public-private projects that develop and demonstrate offshore wind energy technologies.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research, development, and/or demonstration
Duration: 2015 to 2020
Funding amount:
25M€ from the EC (UK contribution £3M)
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Civil Nuclear Energy Research and Development (R&D) Action Plan
United Kingdom, United States
The action plan calls for working groups to address various aspects of nuclear energy research, and aims to ensure nuclear energy’s contribution to both countries’ strategic energy resources, low carbon emissions targets, nonproliferation goals, and nuclear energy safety objectives.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research
Duration: 2018 to 2022 with automatic extension
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Civil Nuclear Fission phase 5 and 6 calls
United Kingdom, Japan
Collaborative research in nuclear decommissioning technologies.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research
Duration: 2018 to 2021
Funding amount:

Civil Nuclear Energy University Programme (NEUP)
United Kingdom, United States
Collaborative research in nuclear  technologies.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research
Duration: 2019 to 2022
Funding amount:

Civil Nuclear Fission phase 2
United Kingdom, Republic of Korea
Collaborative research in nuclear decommissioning technologies.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research
Duration: 2019 to 2022
Funding amount:

Civil Nuclear Fission phase 5 Call
United Kingdom, India
Collaborative research in nuclear technologies including plant safety, nuclear engineering, thermal hydraulics and waste immobilisation.
Sectors: public-public
Type of collaboration: research
Duration: 2020 to 2023
Funding amount: