Stage 1.1

Idea generation

For all innovation ideas, it is important to review this strategy thoroughly to:

  • Get a sense of the principles governing all network innovation projects.
  • Ensure your idea aligns with one of our priorities by understanding our themes and the focus areas we need to address.

How to... propose, share and discuss an innovation idea:

National routes include:

  • The Smarter Networks Portal is the window into network innovation for regulatory-funded projects where you can see details on current projects, find partners and propose ideas for all network companies to review and consider.
  • The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) website contains details of UKRI’s key funding programmes and includes a funding finder tool where you can search for current funding opportunities across UKRI, research councils and Innovate UK.
  • The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is part of Innovate UK and exists to connect innovators with new partners who will work with you to refine your idea and direct you to appropriate funding opportunities.

For ideas that are specific to a particular network company, you can engage with them by:

  • Exploring the individual energy networks’ innovation websites and social media accounts (including LinkedIn).
  • Looking at the individual innovation strategies or business plans published by the network companies and reading the networks’ and ENA’s newsletters.
  • Talking to the networks at events held throughout the year, including the annual conference also known as Energy Innovation Summit.

Stage 1.2

Initial proposal development

Take a look at the funding opportunities and eligibility criteria for network innovation to see which one might be the best fit for your idea

How to… learn more about the key network innovation funding mechanisms and their eligibility criteria:

  • The Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) mechanism is for research, development and demonstration projects and covers all types of innovation including commercial, technological and operation. The NIA has been available throughout RIIO-1 and will continue in RIIO-2.
  • The Network Innovation Competition (NIC) is only available in the RIIO-1 period and is for large-scale projects which can specifically deliver carbon or environmental benefits.
  • The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is the replacement for the NIC in RIIO-2 and will support network innovation that contributes to the achievement of Net Zero, while delivering net benefits to energy consumers. Watch short summaries of the SIF projects launched in March 2022.
  • The network companies can also use their own funds to transition an innovation project into business-as-usual or to explore new efficiency methods to drive continuous improvements. If you think your idea might suit this type of funding, it is best to engage directly with the network.

Stage 1.3

Proposal refinement with network sponsor

If your idea is specific to a particular network company, it is best to engage with them directly to refine your idea into a project proposal. If your idea can be applied anywhere, you can go through one of the national routes where all the network companies will have the opportunity to see and discuss your idea with you.

How to… refine your innovation idea and develop your project proposal:

  • The best way to refine your proposal is to work with the network sponsor who you will be collaborating with to delivery the project.
  • Each network has its own innovation website (click on the logos to follow the links) where you can often find some of the key questions you will need to answer about your idea. These questions (or criteria) can also be found in the relevant funding mechanism governance documents.

Stage 2.1

Apply for project funding

Having determined the best funding route for your project idea with the network sponsor, now is the time to work with the network company to apply for project funding.

How to… apply for funding:

Once you have agreed an idea to take forward with your network sponsor, they will help you apply for the appropriate funding. The eligibility criteria and application questions for each of the key network funding mechanisms are included in the governance documents:

Stage 2.2

Project registration

Proposals that are successful will have a kick-off meeting to start the project. All SIF, NIA and NIC-funded projects will be registered on the Smarter Networks Portal once they launch.

Stage 2.3

Project delivery

You will work with the network sponsor to deliver the project.

The Energy Networks Innovation Process (ENIP) Overview and Governance Document, published by ENA, is a valuable resource that explains how innovation projects are delivered, how third parties can get involved and contains the full details of the end-to-end industry-led process for reporting, collaboration and dissemination of regulatory funded innovation projects.

Stage 2.4

Closedown and knowledge sharing

This is where the project will be wrapped up and the outcomes validated against the original objectives.

Information and learning should be shared throughout a project’s delivery and, at this stage, the final results and learning are shared with stakeholders.

You can find progress and closedown reports of all NIA and NIC-funding projects on the Smarter Networks Portal .

Stage 3.1


This is where the project will be implemented into business-as-usual operations.

In the RIIO-2 price control, we will use the Innovation Measurement Framework (IMF) to report on innovation outcomes, including collaboration and partnerships, the speed at which successful innovation is transitioned into business-as-usual for network customers and the benefits delivered.

ENA facilitates the data gathering from each network and the expected and delivered benefits of each innovation project are calculated using the IMF. From 2022, this information will be published annually for our NIA portfolio. As a holistic tool, the IMF has the potential to be adapted for collective reporting across all our future innovation activities.

Stage 3.2

Benefits realisation

Once a project is implemented, it starts to deliver benefits, and these will be tracked by the network company.

Innovation projects can deliver a wide range of benefits to our consumers, including:

  • A more reliable energy supply.
  • Inclusive engagement.
  • Wider socio-economic benefits.
  • Accelerated decarbonisation.
  • Efficiency improvements.
  • Positive impact on our employees.
  • Reduced environmental impact.
  • Safer and more secure energy networks.