How can we help you?
Key Innovator Questions
Where can I find key ‘Innovator Support’?
What are the best ways to access information and communicate with the energy networks?
All energy networks have a wealth of information on their websites and details of how to contact them. However, in these large organisations, it can be difficult to pin-point the most relevant information or contact the most relevant subject matter expert for your innovation.
By registering to the EIC Hub, you will benefit from the extensive knowledge and experience of our team to help you navigate through each stage of the process. They will also provide guidance tailored specifically to your innovation. The EIC Hub provides you with access to the innovation opportunities made available by our network partners.
I have an idea I want to present to the energy networks, what should I do?
There are three ways that we can help you get your idea to our energy partners.
1. Submit your idea in response to a 'Call for Innovation'. These are requests for innovation set by our network partners, across the energy sector, that aim to find potential solutions to specific current business issues. Explore current Calls here.
2. Submit your idea in response to an 'Industry Challenge'. These are requests for proposals to solve wider, more general industry challenges. Explore challenges here.
3. You can also proactively submit your idea or solution that could benefit our network partners, whether it requires development or is market ready, by joining our free innovation community here.
Kindly note that not all proposals will be successful. However, your submission starts a process which will ensure that your idea is considered by our EIC engineers.
What timescales can I expect once an idea has been submitted?
This will depend on how the idea has been submitted.
If an idea is submitted in response to a 'Call for Innovation', you will typically be notified of progression to a Presentation Day (i.e. your opportunity to deliver a direct pitch to network partners) within 2 weeks of the advertised submission cut-off date.
If you are proactively submitting an idea or solution, one of our engineers will typically get in touch within 5 working days. More information on the process and expected timescales can be found here (coming soon).
What top tips are there for innovators wanting to bring their solutions to the energy industry?
Some general tips are:
Tip 1: Consider the application of your solution from the point of view of the energy networks: What problem will it solve for them? What value or learning will be created? How will the network achieve this value? In particular, it is always a good idea to explain the value that the solution will bring for energy customers.
Tip 2: It is good practice to check that your idea has not already been explored by one of the energy networks. Past and current projects can be found on the ENA’s Smarter Networks Portal. It is often difficult to ensure that a thorough check has been made - this is an area where our team are able to provide support.
Tip 3: When putting forward your proposal, it is important to explain your solution using plain English and avoid using jargon. A proposal will be reviewed by several people with different skill sets before it is shared with the network partners. If your solution is submitted through the EIC Hub, an engineer will be allocated to support this process.
Tip 4: If your proposal is taken to the project plan stage, it is useful to familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions, as well as the legal framework that will be in place to access NIA or any alternate funding that may be required.
The sooner any concerns are raised and discussed, the quicker the process will be completed. When a proposal is submitted through the EIC Hub, a legal counsel will be on hand to support this process. Please note that as this is a regulated industry, some of the terms and conditions will be non-negotiable. You can access specific advice relevant to your innovation by signing up to the EIC Hub and submitting a proposal. Whether your solution is taken forward or not you will be provided with valuable feedback from our team of experienced engineers.
What is in place to protect the IP of a solution?
Under an innovation funding initiative in the energy sector, such as Ofgem’s NIA funding, it is important to remember that innovation projects are partly funded by energy customers. As a result, terms and conditions surrounding intellectual property (IP) within projects that utilise NIA funding need to comply with the NIA governance document, published by Ofgem.
Generally, the background IP - the IP generated before any project funded by NIA has started – will remain with you, the innovator. The ownership of foreground IP, i.e. any IP developed as part of a project, will depend on whether it has been created jointly or independently by a project participant. For further information, download our guide to ‘Intellectual Property found and NIA projects’ or see Section 7 of the Energy Networks Innovation Process (Intellectual Property Guide), available via the ENA website here.
Please also be reassured that a non-disclosure agreement can be requested when submitting an idea through the EIC and our legal team is on hand to provide support and discuss the process.
Where can I find out about the UK energy networks’ innovation priorities?
The GB energy networks have worked collaboratively through their industry body, the Energy Networks Association (ENA), to develop a joint innovation strategy. This was published in March 2022 and can be found here. Each network in the UK also provides information on their individual websites on current issues, their priorities for innovation and their innovation strategy. The EIC also works collaboratively with our network partners to advertise their innovation priorities. Our team can help you in targeting your ideas towards current opportunities.
What wider funding is available to develop innovation in the sector?
These are the main funding mechanisms in this sector, which can be considered by innovators:
Network Innovation Allowance (NIA)
The NIA was introduced by Ofgem as part of the RIIO-1 price controls in 2013. The NIA provides limited funding as a set allowance to the energy networks to fund smaller research, development & demonstration trials between TRL 2 – 8. Projects must have the potential to facilitate the energy system transition and/or benefit consumers in vulnerable situations and have the potential to deliver a net benefit to consumers. This is typically the most accessible fund for SMEs, where they are supported by one or more energy network.
Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)
As part of RIIO2 price controls, Ofgem is introducing the SIF to support the national transition to net zero. This fund supports large-scale transformational research and development projects and will be available to gas distribution, gas transmission, electricity transmission and the electricity system operator in the first instance.
Fully Network Funded / Business as usual (BAU)
As part of the latest price control set by Ofgem, the energy networks will have to find more efficient ways to improve their performance in areas such as asset management, environment, and customer service. These are often called business as usual activities. Innovation in these areas will be funded directly by the networks or through other (applicable) sources of funding, such as Innovate UK grants.
The above information is referenced originally in the ENA’s ‘Energy Networks Innovation Process document.’ To access this document, click here.
What is the difference between NIA and SIF?
The NIA is an allowance that each network receives to fund innovative projects as part of its price control settlement. The NIA funds research, development and demonstration projects focused on the energy system transition and/or addressing consumer vulnerability.
The SIF is additional innovation funding which network licensees can apply for and is focused on the achievement of Net Zero and the energy system transition, whilst delivering net benefits to energy consumers. It does this through a multi-phase approach designed to address the biggest challenges facing energy networks.
What information and data are available to Innovators?
Each year, network companies must report on their performance and outputs under Ofgem’s RIIO (Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs) network price controls.
To ensure value for money for consumers, the price controls limit the amount by which network costs can rise and stipulate levels of performance. These network indicators give a snapshot of Ofgem's monitoring and can be found here.
Please note that these market indicators and data are not intended for use or to be relied on for any commercial purposes.
What do the network companies report on?
The RIIO price controls are designed to encourage network companies to play a full role in delivering a sustainable energy sector, and to do so in a way that brings consumers value for money. Under RIIO, each company has to deliver and report on a range of outputs:
Reliability: We expect companies to improve network reliability and reduce the number and duration of power interruptions.
Connections: Companies will provide a better service for customers wanting to connect to the network.
Customer Service: We incentivise companies to deliver good customer service and listen to stakeholders.
Social Obligations: Companies will do more to help vulnerable customers, particularly during power interruptions.
Environmental: Companies must reduce their carbon emissions and other environmental impacts.
Safety: Companies are funded to ensure the network remains safe and meets Health and Safety Executive standards.
Where can I find the Open Data Portals?
The Open Data Portals feature one of the UK's biggest sets of collective information about the electricity networks. The online portals bring together thousands of datasets from a vast range of sources to provide visibility of our network assets, where they are, what capacity they have and how they are being used. The links below will take you directly to the Open Data Portals of our partners.
What are the main differences between Energy Transmission and Distribution Networks in the UK?
In the UK, there are two types of energy networks: Transmission Networks and Distribution Networks.
Transmission networks are like the motorways of the networks, moving energy efficiently over long distances. Distribution networks are like the A-roads of the networks, carrying gas and electricity into your home or business.
There is only one gas transmission network in Great Britain, the National Grid. It is a set of high-pressure pipelines that allow for the quick transmission of natural gas from storage to distribution networks. There are seven gas distribution networks in the UK managed by four companies.
A Distribution Network Operator (DNO) is a company licensed to distribute electricity in the UK. They do it by operating the system of pipes, cables, and towers that connect electricity from the national transmission network to homes and businesses across the country.
The Transmission Network is the highest voltage electricity network in the UK – the ‘motorway network’ of the energy world. It transmits large quantities of electricity over long distances via wires carried on a system of mainly metal towers (pylons) and large substations. The UK Electricity Transmission Network is owned and maintained by regional transmission companies: National Grid Electricity Transmission plc (NGET), Scottish Power Transmission Ltd, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, and Northern Ireland Electricity Ltd.
Do you need more information?
If we've not answered your question on this page, or on our website, you can find more information through the following:
1. You can get in touch with us directly. We'll endeavour to answer your query for you and perhaps add it to the list on this webpage.
2. The Energy Networks Association has a comprehensive FAQ page, which may provide you with an answer.
3. The Energy Networks Association Resource Library offers resources and information that can be accessed easily.