Posted: 1 November 2017

Electricity NIC 2018: What’s your idea?

Network Innovation Competition, NIC, National Grid, innovation, System Operator, Electricity Transmission

National Grid System Operator is searching for smart ideas that have the potential to shape the future of our network.


National Grid wants your ideas for the 2018 Electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC). The Head of Innovation Strategy Mark Herring explains the simple way to get involved and pinpoints the areas where proposals are particularly welcomed.

As the System Operator, we’re always looking for partners to help us find our next large-scale innovation project.

Mark Herring, Head of Innovation Strategy.

We recently launched a call for proposals for the Electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC) 2018. This is an annual opportunity for electricity network companies to win funding for flagship innovation projects that develop and demonstrate new technologies, operating and commercial arrangements. The NIC is run by the regulator, Ofgem, and some £70m of grant funding is up for grabs.

We’re searching for your ideas to shape the future of the energy market and help us operate our network more flexibly and affordably.

Some challenges are more pressing and significant than others, so we’ve listed a few key areas where we’d encourage proposals:

  • System operability – we’re always looking for ways to improve how we operate the UK’s electricity system. Can you help us run the current system cheaper or more flexibly? Can you provide us with new tools to operate the future energy system?
  • Whole system – we’re seeing a change in how networks behave as distributed energy resources (DERs) increase and consumers more actively manage their demand. DERs are smaller power sources, typically renewable energy, that are connected to the distribution system. To meet these challenges, we need to develop joined-up approaches across transmission and distribution. How can you help us develop this type of whole-system thinking?
  • New markets – we need new, more open marketplaces that encourage new technology and innovation. Can you think of novel commercial arrangements or services that will help us achieve this?
  • Big data – a more complex energy system has created new data opportunities for us as the System Operator. We need new ways to process and analyse this. What new solutions do you have that will allow us to make use of all this – and more – data?

Any proposal that leads to a successful bid in 2018 will join our existing NIC projects, Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) and Power Potential.

EFCC is using £9.3m of NIC funding to help us meet the challenge of maintaining 50Hz frequency stability in the transmission system as newer, more renewable generation comes on line. We’re investing £9.6m of NIC funding in Power Potential, which aims to maximise the use of distributed energy resources on the system.

Do you have the next big idea? If you think so – or even if you’re not sure – here’s the straightforward process for submitting proposals and the part you play in it: 

  • Download and complete a proposal form with your idea
  • If you need guidance to help frame your proposal, a subject matter expert will be on hand
  • Submit your idea to us by 30 November 2017
  • We’ll assess the proposals and let you know the outcome in January 2018
  • If successful, we’ll work with you to co-create an NIC Initial Screening Proposal (ISP) bid for 2018.

Successful projects will be awarded the funding they need to research, develop and demonstrate the smartest new ideas and technologies of tomorrow.

If your proposal has potential, but is not taken through NIC, we’ll look at whether it can still be funded under the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), another funding mechanism operated by Ofgem.

As you’ve seen, the call for proposals closes on Thursday, 30 November, so please don’t hold back.

For more information about getting your idea off on the right footing, take a look at our Proposal Guidance, or download our Proposal Form.

If you have any questions, need guidance to complete a proposal, or simply want to submit your proposal, please contact us at

Gas innovation in full flow
“We’re asking for your ideas and solutions to help shape the future of the energy market and help us operate our network more flexibly and affordably”

Mark Herring, Head of Innovation Strategy.