Energy Catalyst brokerage accelerating clean energy transition

Energy Catalyst delegates are looking at and discussing a battery storage system.

What to expect from an Energy Catalyst brokerage visit, and why you should apply.

The Energy Catalyst’s mission is to accelerate the innovation needed to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (‘Affordable and clean energy for all’). By providing financial and advisory support to businesses we develop new technologies and business models to improve lives in Africa and Asia.

Why is this important? Well, without sustained efforts, 650 million people will still be left without access to electricity in 2030. For businesses, SDG 7 represents a $2.5 trillion market.

In May 2022, we announced an additional £40 million Energy Catalyst funding. To support this, Innovate UK run brokerage visits for UK businesses to understand the country’s market, challenges, and opportunities. This year, we have taken cohorts to Rwanda, Malawi, and Indonesia, and there are many more opportunities coming up to get involved in.

Keep reading to hear what happened in Malawi to give you a flavour of what to expect through these opportunities!

The experienced gained by participating in the brokerage visit is invaluable for our company. By having the opportunity to be in-country, meeting with companies and other stakeholders that are doing something similar, or could benefit from our technology, really gave us an insight into how we can move to the next step.

Energy catalyst video highlighting successful projects and the benefits to both businesses and local communities of engaging with the programme. Video credit: Innovate UK
On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube.

Before the visit

Once you are accepted onto an Energy Catalyst brokerage visit, you are immediately provided with support. You’ll receive information on how to prepare – visas, vaccines, general things to consider, and be included on 2 pre-visit briefings.

The first briefing will be the first opportunity to meet the cohort (usually around 12 people) and is a crash-course in all things pitching. You’ll be introducing yourself to a lot of people while in country. So, this is a must have to get you feeling confident to give quick elevator pitches in any situation.

A second pre-visit briefing will be held two weeks before the visit. This briefing will be a detailed overview of the itinerary, objectives, and expectations so that it’s fresh in your mind before you travel.

Energy Catalyst cohort standing in front of a solar mini grid.

Energy Catalyst cohort standing in front of a solar mini grid.
Credit: Energy Catalyst

Day 1

You’ve arrived in Lilongwe, have had a chance to settle into the hotel and get to know the rest of the cohort. This is where the work begins.

In Malawi, day 1 an opportunity for the cohort to get up to speed with the market and understand the real-life opportunity by speaking to a community who faced unreliable energy access. This helps understand their wants and needs.

We visited the Sitolo solar mini-grid run by Community Energy Malawi. It was a fantastic opportunity to see first-hand the challenges communities face by not having access to energy sources and the impacts on the lives of those who now have:

  • low cost
  • low carbon
  • reliable energy

In the evening, we attended a reception hosted by the British High Commission. The group were provided with background into Malawi from a UK government perspective and key contacts were highlighted.

Day 2

On day 2 we took the opportunity to visit an existing Energy Catalyst project to understand how to do a project in practice. The Golomoti Project, run by JCM Power, is a 20MWAC solar photovoltaic project with a 10MWh battery energy storage system and is Sub-Saharan Africa’s first utility-scale solar project.

This was a valuable insight – not only to see what amazing work can be produced with funding from Energy Catalyst but how to work with local communities. To make sure no-one is displaced or left behind, JCM Power provided educational facilities and job opportunities for those in Golomoti.

Energy Catalyst cohort with all delegates of the joint forum between Innovate UK and Renewable Energy Industries Association of Malawi, including the Minister of Energy in Malawi and the British Deputy High Commissioner to Malawi.

Energy Catalyst cohort with all delegates of the joint forum between Innovate UK and Renewable Energy Industries Association of Malawi, including the Minister of Energy in Malawi and the British Deputy High Commissioner to Malawi.
Credit: Energy Catalyst

Day 3

We’ve officially hit the midpoint of the week, and this is where the cohort could really put the pitch training to work. Innovate UK and the Renewable Energy Industries Association of Malawi held a joint forum. The aim of the forum was to provide both Malawian businesses, and the UK delegation an opportunity to pitch their businesses and network. They also heard directly from the Minister of Energy about the energy access challenges within the country.

The British Deputy High Commissioner, non-governmental organisations representatives, and investors were also in attendance which gave everyone an overview of the opportunities available.

This day was the perfect opportunity to build meaningful collaborations, a key aspect of Energy Catalyst programme. UK businesses must partner with in-country businesses on their project. A key aspect of the brokerage visits is meeting people who you may want to partner with on an Energy Catalyst project.

Mixed Energy Catalyst image with different block images.

Mixed Energy Catalyst image.
Credit: Energy Catalyst

Day 4

Days 4 and 5 saw us in a different location. Driving between Lilongwe and Blantyre provided an opportunity for the cohort to see how communities interact with the landscape and the energy ecosystem at work.

Upon arrival in Blantyre, we met with the Malawi Environmental Endowment Trust, a not-for profit organisation that provide funding to sustainable initiatives across the country. The team took us to meet a local brewery sustainability team, where we had a roundtable discussion. Topics included how the UK cohort could work with them to explore new or improved opportunities, particularly as the business was still coal powered.

Day 5

The final day in Malawi was spent visiting the Malawi University of Science and Technology. Here we were provided with another opportunity to pitch the technologies of the cohort and hear about what the Energy Resources Management department were working on.

Visiting universities is beneficial during the Energy Catalyst brokerage trips as they often make great project partners. Particularly when considering trials and demonstrations in country, due to their existing relationships with businesses and communities alike.

What isn’t scheduled into the week are the natural conversations the cohort had. Conversations with each other, and with organisations in Malawi they had either identified prior to the visit or had met during the week. It was not uncommon to see meetings taking place in the hotel lobby or over a coffee during breaks in the day!

The visit brought amazing insights into the host country and how our energy innovation fitted within the social and political context. Such visits are pre-requisite to making certain types of funding bid.

Are Energy Catalyst brokerage visits worth it?

Absolutely. In round 7 alone the overall success rate was 32%. 64% of those who went on a brokerage visit and went on to apply were successful in their funding application. In addition, 89% of participants met potential in-country partners, and 71% met potential UK partners.

How do I get involved?

If this sounds like an interesting opportunity you, there are multiple Energy Catalyst activities taking place in support of the Energy Catalyst Round 10 competition. This is launching on 30 January 2023 with £20 million worth of funding available.

We have upcoming brokerage visits to:

There’s also the opportunity to meet potential collaborators online via the B2Match platform. We will be running a series of webinars to support Energy Catalyst Round 10, so sign up today to be kept up to date.

If you have any questions please contact us at: energy.catalyst@iuk.ukri.org

Further information

Find out more about the work of the Energy Catalyst by visiting the Energy Catalyst website.

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Top image:  Energy Catalyst delegates are looking at and discussing a battery storage system. Credit: Energy Catalyst

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