Time to innovate?
Article written by James Higgins published originally in the January edition of H&V News Magazine.
As part of the Clean Growth Strategy and Industrial Strategy, the Government has announced a raft of funding competitions for innovation. A significant amount of this funding is applicable to the heating industry, however on closer inspection I have been left questioning whether any of the true innovators will get their hands on the available support. Despite these reservations, set out below is some information on the current opportunities.
With a total allocation of £2.5 billion over the period 2015-21, the Government has promised to support low carbon innovation across all stages of technology development including; Basic and applied research, Technology development and Technology demonstration. The most relevant funding pots include:
- £184 million investment in research, development and deployment of innovative energy efficiency and heating technologies, and the gas network.
- £70 million in energy efficiency, including £22 million in buildings research.
- £10 million grant fund to make low carbon heating technologies more affordable, better performing, and attractive.
- £1.4 million three-year research project to address the drivers, barriers, and challenges of new low carbon homes.
- £19 million to research how people’s energy choices can help them stop wasting as much energy.
- £25 million to explore using hydrogen as an alternative to natural gas.
The obvious question for anyone interested in the above is how do I get access to this funding? The simple answer is that most of it will be deployed via competitions. By registering your details with BEIS it should be very simple to keep track of when the competitions open and to develop a bid. Unfortunately that is the easy bit!
Officials working on innovation that I have met are keen to distribute funding and to support great innovation. However they are bound by a tight set of rules designed to ensure; that competitions achieve their objective, that public money is spent appropriately and finally to comply with EU legislation (at least until BREXIT and potentially beyond). Seen from the industry side, many of the rules seem overly bureaucratic and they can quickly dampen any enthusiasm for submitting a bid.
A major concern with innovation funding is that those better able to understand the complex rules and dedicated to completing the lengthy forms are the ones most likely to secure funding. To paraphrase a CEO I have worked with, ’’innovation funding is for the academics and the professional fund raisers, the rest of us who just get on with it can’t get a look in.’’
Innovation funding matters however to the future success of the industry and also for all of us who as taxpayers are footing the increasingly large bill. I recently attended an information session for one of the funding competitions facilitated by Innovate UK for BEIS and was impressed by the content. Some of the more complex elements of the criteria were clarified for attendees whilst civil servants were available for 1-2-1 meetings to discuss potential project bids. Additionally, Innovate UK offer a free of charge ‘’proposal review’’ service for some competitions which I was previously unaware of.
In conclusion; there are now significant opportunities for innovation funding which apply to the heating sector. Keeping in touch with these is easy however the forms are unfortunately as complex as ever. At least there is new and increased support for those making an application and I would encourage all interested to take advantage of it.
It is in all our interests to ensure the best innovation receives the support that can turn an idea into a commercial proposition and I look forward to seeing how the heating sector reacts to this opportunity.