How two companies have formed international clean energy technology partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa through the Energy Catalyst programme
The Energy Catalyst programme supports UK-based businesses to develop innovative, market-focused energy technologies that can accelerate clean energy transition in developing and emerging economies. Applications for the eighth round of this funding competition are currently open.
Recent participation on the Energy Catalyst programme has enabled two EEN clients, Upya Tech and Gommyr Power Networks, to form international partnerships and to secure Innovate UK grants to pilot and commercialise their technology faster.
Both Upya Tech and Gommyr were assisted by EEN in their successful applications to join the programme and were part of a mission to Kenya last year which was organised and delivered by EEN. The visit comprised pre-visit training and preparation, a full week of facilitated meetings, sight visits and brokerage events, and follow-up advisory support in forging partnerships. During their visit, the companies met with government officials and key industry players to understand the local energy landscape and energy access issues; they pitched to in-market companies and organisations; and met with UN field officers and NGOs to understand the energy projects happening in the countries.
Upya Tech: finding a collaboration partner in Kenya
Upya Tech is a SaaS company in the off-grid energy sector that provides an innovative and low-cost CRM software solution for last mile distributors in sub-Saharan Africa. Its focus is on Kenya because the country has pioneered off-grid energy enabling technologies such as solar home systems, mobile money and the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business model. However, even with many of the technical building blocks in place, 40 per cent of the Kenyan population still does not have access to safe and secure electricity. Upya’s proposed solution was to design and demonstrate a software solution to facilitate the financing and monetisation of new renewable energy assets with a particular emphasis on giving electricity access to bottom of the pyramid end-users.
In order to achieve this, Upya needed to collaborate with a company with a strong presence and knowledge of Kenya’s last mile distribution and off-grid energy market. At a networking event in Nairobi, Upya met a Swedish-Kenyan social enterprise, GiveWatts, that aims to eradicate energy poverty by bringing clean, efficient and modern energy solutions to people living off-grid.
The EEN Intelligent Energy sector group facilitated a partnership between the two, and together, they successfully applied for an Innovate UK Energy Catalyst grant of £352,190 to fund their project in Kenya. This international grant is funded by Innovate UK and by the UK Department for International Development as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programmes.
“Working closely with our EEN adviser was vital in getting our project off the ground,” says Gerard Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Upya Tech. “Our adviser provided valuable support in everything from drafting proposal documents, facilitating introductions, to managing communications between project partners.”
Upya and GiveWatts will collaborate to demonstrate a flexible and more cost-effective IT solution for last mile energy providers, which will be a catalyst for more sustainable growth in Kenya. The grant is also expected to create two new jobs for Upya and significantly increase their turnover.
Gommyr: funding for its pilot project in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Gommyr Power Networks, which develops sustainable microgrids to offer on-site energy generation primarily based on renewable energy sources, has created eStreet with a Congolese partner. eStreet uses a solar battery microgrid to provide water, telecom access, sanitation and security to its business clients.
EEN started working with Gommyr in 2019, helping them to commercialise eStreet by implementing an initial pilot system in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Their EEN adviser recommended and supported their successful application to the Energy Catalyst programme. Gommyr attended the fully funded mission to Kenya and met with relevant energy stakeholders in East Africa.
EEN has continued to work with Gommyr, advising the company on how to repurpose their technology and business to the new market in DRC.
The project consists of piloting a complete eStreet in a large off-grid community of over one million inhabitants in DRC. In order to implement the pilot, Gommyr needed a partner to manage energy data and monitoring of the project in the field, and EEN facilitated an introduction and partnership with a Greek energy efficiency company for this purpose.
EEN guided them through the Energy Catalyst grant application process to fund their pilot testing for a project of 24 months and valued at £1.5m. This project is expected to increase turnover by 300% and create over 30 jobs, including positions operating the eStreet in DRC and in the UK. “Our EEN adviser has been a critical piece of support in helping us be successful with the Energy Catalyst,” says Arnaud Henin, Managing Director of Gommyr Power Networks. “He has been engaged and supportive throughout the Energy Catalyst processes and in helping us grow our business.”
Energy Catalyst Round 8 is currently open for applications. Contact your local EEN adviser to learn more about the programme and how to access this support.