Accelerating Enterprise-led Innovation in Technologies and Business Models

Strategic partnership with Shell Foundation, to accelerate access to energy through testing and demonstrating innovative enterprise-led solutions.

Department for International Development (DFID) and the UK-registered charity, Shell Foundation (SF), are collaborating to further their mutual objective of accelerating global access to modern energy services for low-income households and small businesses through the Transforming Inclusive Energy Markets Approach (TIME) partnership.  This partnership will deploy £60m over 5 years, of which half of this funding (£30m) will be contributed by SF. The programme provides grants and repayable grants to enterprises who are creating innovation within the Access to Energy sector and who are working to expand into new, underserved markets in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA).

SF Logo in blue box

Transforming Inclusive Energy Markets Approach

SF works to identify barriers and opportunities in the Access to Energy market by:

  • Identifying a market gap/challenge.
  • Mapping the existing market to identify potential organizations best suited to address the gap.
  • Identifying or co-creating the most appropriate implementing partner, carefully selected based on a qualitative and quantitative assessment of all potential partners against SF’s defined and transparent guidelines.
  • Providing a blend of financial (grant and repayable grant) and non-financial business support to help its partner build capacity and scale up operations.
  • Engaging in wider market-building activities to encourage replication.

This approach is informed by and builds from Shell Foundations lessons learned during 18 years in supporting the Access to Energy market. This approach will accelerate the impact of individual enterprises by backing credible management teams and business plans. Such support will grow these enterprises far more quickly than they would without DFID/SF support. Supporting platforms and intermediaries will amplify the scale that can be achieved when compared with backing individual enterprises alone.

Read more about the Partnership Structure

Support is provided in 4 main categories:

  • Applied research and innovation: Support for organisations that can clearly articulate the energy access sector-wide barrier they intend to address with their applied research and demonstrate how their proposed solution will propel the viability and legitimacy of the sector. Support for organisations that can illustrate a path to scale for their proposed solution. Support may also be needed to help established organisations test their approaches in new geographies.
  • Enabling Environment: Support for initiatives that increase access to market information for energy enterprises, investors and other key stakeholders; and joint funder initiatives that coordinate action to address market gaps, where appropriate and where not overlapping with other DFID programmes. Support for industry member bodies to boost the voice of those serving the BOP energy markets, to help improve the policy and regulatory environment.
  • Financial innovation: Support for organisations that can clearly articulate the sector-wide finance barrier they intend to address with a new solution or business model. Support to develop and test new financial intermediaries.
  • Corporate partnerships: TIME will test and validate new partnerships between energy access SMEs and multinational corporations (MNCs) to explore approaches to deploy energy services, which do not require subsidy for wider scale and replication.


Key Case Studies:


BBOXX is a UK-based company that designs, manufactures, distributes and finances solar energy systems to improve access to energy across the developing world. We have supported BBOXX’s entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has an electrification rate of just 8%. The success of early pilots has led to BBOXX signing a contract with the DRC Government to connect 2.5m people by 2020.



Aceleron is an innovative, UK-based start-up, piloting battery assembly technology that repurposes batteries from equipment in developed markets –  including laptops and electric vehicles that would otherwise be discarded – to be used in the off-grid sector as storage or power sources. Our support is positioning their business to keep up with the growing demand for lithium batteries, set to increase by more than 500% by 2020.

Read more about SF insights and case studies

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