ManagEnergy is a technical support initiative of the Intelligent Energy - Europe (IEE) programme of the European Commission which aims to assist actors from the public sector and their advisers working on energy efficiency and renewable energy at the local and regional level.

Funding for SMEs to innovate for low carbon energy

As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is hand-picking potentially disruptive businesses to invest and support as part of the SME Instrument. Successful applicants could receive up to €2.5 million in funding, and world-class business coaching.

Managed by European Commission agency EASME, applicants should be ‘high growth, highly innovative SMEs with global ambitions that want to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets.’

It's a good sign if your company is based in an innovation hub, has received grants or venture capital funding, received innovation-related tax benefits, or won an innovation prize in the last 2 years.

Under the call SIE 1 – 2014/2015: Stimulating the innovation potential of SMEs for a low carbon and efficient energy system , in 2014 the programme funded 94 Phase 1 projects (budget: €50,000 for each) and 27 Phase 2 projects (estimated total budget: €29 million).

Crowdfunding for energy efficiency with Bettervest

Bettervest is a crowdfunding platform funded under Phase 1. For Phase 1 (Concept & Feasibility Assessment), EUR 50 000 in grant funding is provided and a feasibility study is carried out to verify the viability of the proposed disruptive innovation or concept. CEO Patrick Mijnals explains their business model:

‘bettervest is the world's first crowdfunding platform for energy efficiency projects of companies, NGOs and local authorities that lets the crowd participate with high returns in the cost savings. The money is collected on an escrow account until the funding goal has been reached and the energy-efficiency project can be realized.

‘Each project must have been analysed by an external energy efficiency consultant. A defined percentage of the savings is distributed to the crowd until the investment plus a previously agreed upon profit has been paid back. SMEs, NGOs and local authorities can finance their energy saving projects and reduce their CO2 emissions.

‘Additionally, crowdfunding is a very good channel for marketing & corporate social responsibility. Citizens get a sustainable investments opportunity that supports the energy transition and has a low risk profile compared to startup crowd funding. Producers and sellers of energy efficient products as well as energy efficiency consultants can use bettervest as a sales and marketing platform. bettervest gets a percentage of the overall funding sum for each energy-efficiency project for handling and administration.’

With the funding from the SME instrument Phase 1, Bettervest did a study to assess the potential of the ‘crowdfunding for energy efficiency’ business model in selected EU-countries.

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An engine that runs on hot water – Exergyn

Exergyn is an Irish start-up developing an engine that runs on waste heat from hot water. With EUR 2,48 million grant funding from Phase 2 [1], the company will further develop the technology and bring it to full commercial production.

The grant will be used to conduct industrial trials, to become manufacturing-ready, and to prepare the company and the market for the Exergyn DriveTM. CEO Alan Healy said:

‘We have developed an engine that runs on hot water, known as the Exergyn DriveTM. It will enable, for the first time, electricity to be generated from waste hot water (less than 100 degrees C) in a commercially viable manner i.e. inexpensively. If fully deployed world-wide, our first product could reduce world carbon emissions by around 2%.’

The engine can be used anywhere that waste hot water is produced.

Healy continues:

‘Industrial power plants, for example, are currently dumping huge volumes of hot water as a necessary by-product of their process. They are making no use of the waste heat, and in many cases, expending power to cool the hot water before dumping it.’

‘By installing an Exergyn DriveTM, they would be able to convert the waste hot water into electricity, and save power from no longer needing to expend energy to cool the hot water before dumping it. The net effect will thus be an increase in the efficiency of power generation i.e. more power for for a given input of fuel, and a reduction in the carbon intensity of electricity production across the EU. This will have an impact on improving both efficiency and supply security of power generation in Europe.’

SMEs play a crucial role in developing resource-efficient, cost-effective and affordable technology solutions to decarbonise and make more efficient the energy system in a sustainable way. They are expected to strongly contribute to one or a combination of more than one of the challenges outlined in the legal base of the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge ‘ Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy’.

In 2014 and 2015 the SME Instrument will sponsor SMEs operating within 13 themes, including low carbon energy systems, greener and more integrated transport and eco-innovation and sustainable raw material supply.

[1] For phase 2 (Demonstration, Market Replication, R&D) the SME will further develop its proposal through innovation activities, such as demonstration, testing, piloting, scaling up, and miniaturisation. Proposals will be based on a business plan developed on phase 1 or otherwise. The EU aims to contribute between €0.5 million and €2.5 million.