Through the Ayrton challenge programme, UKRI seeks to help drive forward the clean energy transition in developing countries and deliver real change in clean and just energy for the world’s poorest.
The Ayrton challenge programme will be centred on the delivery of impact with proposals expected to have clear plans for the transition of research to implementation in developing countries.
The funding objectives are to:
- deliver a programme of high quality, interdisciplinary research related to the Ayrton themes of Low Carbon Supplies, Super-Efficient Demand, and Smart Delivery
- deliver tangible and sustainable benefits to the welfare of people living in beneficiary countries that drives forward the Global South energy justice research agenda, making progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and 13 (Climate Action)
- foster engagement with diverse and relevant partners in developing countries and in the UK to ensure that research is co-created, co-designed and co-delivered with stakeholders, researchers and users
- embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within both research activities and operations, including clear consideration for specific EDI context and challenges within the proposed research areas, stakeholders and community
The Ayrton challenge programme will deliver a portfolio of research to drive forward the clean energy transition in developing countries by funding both the development of innovative technologies and the knowledge needed to enable delivery of long-term sustainable change in developing countries.
This funding opportunity is part of the Ayrton Fund, a UK government commitment of up to £1 billion that aims to accelerate the clean energy transition in developing countries, by creating and demonstrating innovative clean energy technologies.
Work funded will span the Ayrton Fund themes:
- Low carbon supplies: future energy systems enable an opportunity for further reductions in deployment costs and tariffs will help displace the case for additional unabated fossil fuel generation on and off the grid.
This theme will include the specific challenge areas:
- next generation solar
- zero-emissions generators
- Super-efficient demand: responding to development in electrification and digitisation in many sectors, including in areas such as electric cookstoves, household appliances and industrial equipment highlights a number of opportunities to lower carbon demand. This theme will include the specific challenge areas:
- sustainable cooling for all
- modern cooking services
- energy efficiency
- industrial decarbonisation
- clean transport
- Smart delivery: smart systems present an opportunity to improve the interface between demand and sources of clean energy such as energy storage technologies, demand-side interventions (including solutions to facilitate behaviour change) smart grids, the hydrogen economy, critical minerals, and long-distance transmission. This theme will include the specific challenge areas:
- smart energy systems
- energy storage
- inclusive energy & leave no-one behind
- clean hydrogen
- critical minerals
Projects must focus on one or more of these themes and make clear in the project vision how the research will yield a step change in one or more of the specific challenges.
The duration of this award is three years.
Projects must start by 1 January 2025 with no slippage allowed.
UKRI will fund of around 10 projects between £2 million and £3 million for up to three years.
80% of the full economic costs will be available for the UK component of each project. Overseas costs for research partners in countries on the DAC list of Official Development Assistance (ODA) recipient countries will be funded at 100% of full economic cost.
What we will fund
Successful research projects will be challenge-focused and interdisciplinary, working to deliver complete solutions capable of providing the answers needed to enable real world change. To tackle the Ayrton challenges the projects should bring together a breadth of expertise from both the UK and beneficiary countries, including research collaborators, delivery partners and stakeholders. Successful awards must be co-created, co-designed and co-delivered and underpinned by inclusive and equitable partnerships.
Awards will drive forward the clean energy transition in terms of the low carbon energy research agenda, while strongly grounding the projects in the research needs and local context of beneficiary countries. The projects should focus on an outcome delivery, contributing towards meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) or 13 (Climate Action) and lead to climate change mitigation and solutions to energy inequity in developing countries.
Work funded will span the Ayrton themes and projects should be clear in their route to tackling the Ayrton Fund challenges. The Ayrton Fund in its totality represents a much larger ecosystem than what is being funded through this funding opportunity, and therefore successful awards will be expected to engage with other Ayrton Fund platforms and programmes throughout their lifecycle to leverage developments and further enhance and enable routes to impact.
To see some other initiatives, partnerships and projects funded by the wider Ayrton Fund see the Ayrton Explorer Tool.
For more information on the background of this funding opportunity, go to the Additional information section.
International collaboration requirements
The projects should bring together the right people and organisations, both from beneficiary countries and from the UK to tackle the challenges including research collaborators, delivery partners and stakeholders, for example: academics, businesses and research users, government and other policy makers, third sector organisations and NGOs, and community groups.
The minimum requirement is for one collaborating project co-lead to be based in a country on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipient countries. Equitable partnerships will be a cornerstone of the programme and projects will require genuine and substantive equitable partnerships to co-deliver the work, with a strong ethos of co-creation with the communities that stand to benefit from the work.
Successful bids will be expected to conduct stakeholder engagement en route to the development of research programmes, incorporating local community engagement, equitable project co-design and grounding in societal context.
Funded programmes should deliver inclusive and sustainable development, developing holistic solutions to real challenges facing those living in developing countries.
The strength and equitability of this partnership will be assessed at outline.
Learn more about equitable partnerships.
Visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.
Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.
Costs attributed to international project co-leads (PcL (I)) from developed countries (those not on the OECD DAC list of ODA recipients) must not exceed 30% of the full economic cost grant value. There is no cap on eligible funds going to PcL (I)’s from DAC list countries.
Learn about the costs you can apply for.
This programme will form part of the UK’s ODA, as defined by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
When applying to this funding opportunity it is important that you ensure your application is ODA compliant. It must be clear how the application is ODA eligible as defined by “administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective”.
What we will not fund
Ayrton challenge programme applications must not include researchers or partners based in either India or China and must not list these countries as beneficiaries.
Single items of equipment above a value of £10,000 are not permitted.