There is no dedicated national R&D programme for solar thermal. However, solar thermal projects can bid into a number of funding schemes backed by the UK public sector;
Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF) – The objective of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF) is to support, through capital grants, the development and demonstration of innovative technologies and/or processes in the areas of energy efficiency, power generation, energy storage and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The scheme seeks the best ideas, irrespective of source, in these areas from the public and private sector. However, the scheme particularly aims to assist small and medium sized enterprises, including start-ups. Those companies that are selected will receive additional funding for incubation support.
The Energy Entrepreneurs Fund has been launched in three phases (c. £35m) –2012-2014. A further £5m will now be available for funding in this fourth phase for project expenditure up to 31st March 2016. Companies can apply for up to £1m per proposal, depending on the state aid requirements outlined in section 6 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/378464/Phase_4_Guidance_notes.pdf ). The scheme is run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Horizon 2020 - Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation. Horizon 2020 is open to everyone. http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/area/energy
Energy Catalyst - The Energy Catalyst has been established by Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to accelerate innovation in the energy sector. Up to £10m is available for the third round of the Catalyst (from 30th April to 18th Nov 2015) to innovative businesses and researchers from any sector who can address the three major challenges facing the energy sector - the energy ‘trilemma' of:
• reducing emissions
• improving security of supply
• reducing cost
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects - from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering. https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/