• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Collaborative R&D and feasibility studies to stimulate innovation in conventional fossil fuels.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £5m

  • Opens: 02 Mar 2015, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 09 Apr 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 15 Apr 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Cleaner, more efficient conventional fuels - Collaborative R&D


NERC logo----- NEWS FLASH - Available funding for this competition has increased from £5m to £6m thanks to £1m additional funding from NERC (Natural Environment Research Council)------
Innovate UK is to invest up to £5m in collaborative R&D and feasibility studies to stimulate innovation in conventional fossil fuels. 
The aim is to improve efficiency, reduce cost and minimise the environmental impact of coal, natural gas and oil.  Projects must be business-led and all must involve an SME. 
Unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas, shale oil and tar sands are outside the scope of this competition. 
We are allocating up to £4m of the total funding for business-led, collaborative R&D projects (industrial research), with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). We expect collaborative R&D projects to range in size from £250k to £1.5m, although we may consider projects outside this range. 

Up to £1m of the total funding will be available for smaller-scale feasibility studies (or pre-industrial research). These can be collaborative but must be led by an SME (working with large businesses, other SMEs or research organisations) or developed by a single SME. Feasibility studies also attract public funding. Innovate UK will fund 70% of eligible project costs for small enterprises, 60% for medium enterprises and 50% for large enterprises. We expect feasibility projects to range in size from £100k to £150k. 

In addition, up to £1 million is available through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for the academic element of projects that fall within NERC-remit and fulfil NERC's criteria for support and focus on translation of existing research outcomes to meet industry issues and challenges.

The competition opens for both types of project application on 2 March 2015. The deadline for feasibility studies, for which there is a single-stage process, is at noon on 10 June 2015. The deadline for expressions of interest for collaborative R&D, for which there is a two-stage process, is at noon on 15 April 2015
A briefing event for potential applicants will be held in London on 10 March 2015.


Fossil fuels provide some 70% of the UK's electricity as well as much of our domestic heating and other uses of energy. 
More efficient and sustainable use of fossil fuels is an essential part of our transition towards low carbon energy generation. This is driven by the need for energy security and affordability and to meet CO2 targets. 
Oil and gas is one of the key industrial sectors, with its own government-led strategy (UK oil and gas industrial strategy). 
Production from the UK continental shelf (UKCS) met 67% of the UK's oil demand and 53% of gas demand in 2012, supporting 450,000 jobs across the UK (Wood Review: final report, February 2014). 
There are now many more operators in the North Sea than previously. Along with the companies in their extensive supply chains, they often lack the scale to support large in-house R&D departments. 
However, the need for innovation in the North Sea has never been greater. 
Carbon abatement technologies in general, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) in particular, have an essential role in the continuing use of fossil fuels in power generation and in vital energy-intensive industries. 
The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has estimated that without CCS the cost of the UK meeting its climate change targets would nearly double (Modelling the UK energy system). 
This competition follows previous initiatives by Innovate UK on fossil 
fuels. It offers support for UK businesses, particularly SMEs, encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunities arising from a changing oil and gas sector, and from the increasing focus on the carbon-abated use of fossil fuels, through innovative technologies and sustainable UK supply chains. 


This competition will support collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies that address the high-level objectives below. 
This can mean developing innovative technologies or adapting and adopting existing technologies from other sectors. 
Our objectives are to: 
  • support SMEs developing technologies in this area to link with operators, large companies, research organisations and other SMEs
  • support the development of technologies that make most effective use of UK continental shelf resources and existing infrastructure
  • develop technologies to maximise the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of fossil fuel use
  • drive earlier maturation of next-generation technologies for carbon abatement. 
We are seeking to fund projects that address one or more of the following themes:
  • oil and gas field efficiency, management and decommissioning
  • advanced fossil-fuel process technologies and product innovation in power generation and energy-intensive industries
  • fuel switching with lower-carbon substitutes
  • carbon capture and storage in power generation and energy-intensive industries.
We are particularly keen to support projects that build on an existing
competitive advantage for the UK, for example in high-value manufacturing, ICT, sensors and electronics, and materials
technologies. Within these broad areas, projects addressing the following challenges are in scope:
Oil and gas sector
  • maximising oil and gas recovery (including production efficiency, well construction and measurement)
  • subsea technologies
  • decommissioning.
Fossil fuel power generation sector
  • carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • carbon abatement – efficiency, reliability and flexibility
  • co-firing biomass with fossil fuels.
Energy-intensive process industries
  • industry-focused carbon capture & storage (CCS)
  • fuel switching with low-carbon substitutes
  • alternative process technologies and product innovation.

Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £5m to fund collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies that address the technical challenges outlined in the scope. 
Successful applicants can attract grant funding towards their eligible project costs.  The percentage of costs that we pay varies, depending on the type of research being carried out and the type of organisation involved. 
Collaborative R&D projects
We are allocating up to £4m of the total funding for business-led, collaborative R&D projects. For these projects (industrial research), the business partner in the project can attract 50% public funding 
for their project costs (60% for SMEs). Projects must be led by a business. 
We expect collaborative R&D projects to range in size from £250k to £1.5m, with the maximum total project size being £2m. We may consider larger projects, but applicants should discuss this with us before making their application. Projects may last up to three years. Each project must include an SME. 

Application process

Collaborative R&D 
This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 2 March 2015. 
Stage 1
Applicants submit an expression of interest which is assessed. 
Stage 2
We invite selected applicants to submit a full stage application. 
The deadline for registration is 9 April 2015
The deadline for expressions of interest is at noon 15 April 2015
The second stage deadline for invited applications is at noon on 10 June 2015
A briefing for potential applicants will be held in London on 10 March 2015 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend this event. 
Note: All deadlines are at noon.

Key dates

Collaborative R&D
  • Competition briefing in London: 10 March 2015 
  • Registration deadline: 9 April 2015 noon 
  • Expressions of interest (EOI) deadline: 15 April 2015 noon 
  • Stage 2 opens for invited applicants: 4 May 2015 
  • Deadline for invited applications: 10 June 2015 noon

More information

To apply you must first register with us through the competition page on the website. Registration opens when the competition opens and closes a week before the deadline for applications.    



As part of the application process all applicants are asked to submit a public description of the project. This should adequately describe the project but not disclose any information that may impact on intellectual property, is confidential or commercially sensitive.

The titles of successful projects, names of organisations, amounts awarded and the public description will be published once the decision to offer an award has been communicated to applicants by email. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.

E-mail pressoffice@innovateuk.gov.uk with any queries.