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North East SMEs invited to join Energy Innovation Challenge

North East SMEs are being invited to put forward their solutions to global energy challenges as part of the Energy Innovation Challenge. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (North East LEP’s) Energy Innovation Partnership Manager, David Lynch, explains more.

Since I started working for North East LEP in the autumn of last year, I’ve been leading the North East Energy Catalyst – a new partnership which unites the North East’s leading energy innovation, demonstration and delivery capabilities. Leading the North East Energy Catalyst has given me a unique insight into the strength and breath of what this region has to offer and it has been a fascinating journey.

Now we are stepping up the delivery phase of the North East Energy Catalyst by launching an Energy Innovation Challenge Programme, supporting regional SMEs to bring forward solutions to global energy challenges.

I’m excited to be leading a series of three energy innovation challenges throughout 2020/2021, inviting SMEs within the North East LEP area to submit responses to each challenge.

A cohort of up to 10 successful businesses per challenge will be identified by an expert panel drawing on North East Energy Catalyst member expertise. The successful cohort will receive a programme of support which will help them develop their solution and bring it to market.

Our support will comprise specialist business and commercialisation advice facilitated by the North East LEP and the Innovation SuperNetwork, along with leading regional energy specialists through the North East Energy Catalyst.

In addition to this programme of support, businesses within the cohort will have an opportunity to secure funding towards the development and commercialisation of their business. Programme partner Northstar Ventures will offer £20k investment, subject to eligibility, to ten businesses across the programme. Participant SMEs with well-developed business cases will also be invited to submit matched grant applications for Local Growth Funding (LGF) of up to a further £20k.

The first challenge is centred on finding scalable solutions for decentralised and decarbonised energy. Whilst any solutions relevant to the overarching challenge are welcomed, three specific examples are provided below to help frame the type of solutions we are looking for at different scales:

  • Micro-scale: ditching diesel generators – diesel generators are commonly used by industry to provide mobile and reactive power supply for various uses, with hundreds of off-grid homes in the North East also relying on generators for power. What innovative alternative solutions may be available for domestic or commercial premises or vehicles?
  • Community-scale: power to the people – an emerging solution to bring power generation or charging infrastructure to communities is to utilise incumbent local utility infrastructure such as community buildings, sub-stations, or water/sewage pumping facilities as a hub. What innovative concepts and solutions centred around this infrastructure could provide decarbonised and decentralised energy for community use?
  • Macro-scale: commercial energy productivity – key employment sites like business parks, and development sites such as enterprise zones, can be energy-intensive and suffer from grid-constraints. What innovative, decentralised solutions could help ensure secure, affordable and sustainable energy to attract businesses, reduce their costs, and improve energy productivity?

An application form for the Challenge can be found here.

Further guidance for applicants can be found here.

Applications will be assessed by an expert panel comprising of North East Energy Catalyst partners; Northern Powergrid; the North of Tyne Combined Authority; Northumbrian Water; the North East LEP; and Innovation SuperNetwork; and programme partners Northstar Ventures.

This is an exciting time for me and my colleagues at the North East Energy Catalyst. The North East is built upon a legacy of innovation in power, from steam to electricity and now sustainable energy – we are a force to be reckoned with and now is the time to propel the North East onto the global energy stage.


European Regional Development Fund 

North East Energy Catalyst is part funded via the Innovation SuperNetwork by the European Regional Development which includes the Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters project, which is receiving up to £1.24m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.