Solar technology experts have been invited to bid for £7 million of funding which will help stimulate the next generation of solar energy harvesting technologies.
The Technology Strategy Board and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is calling on nanotechnology researchers and industry specialists to enter the competition.
It is designed to build upon earlier investments of £6.7 million in five research projects by the research councils, led by EPSRC.
As part of the competition, the EPSRC - the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences - will invest up to £5 million in the new research and development projects, while the Technology Strategy Board - a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government - will invest £2 million.
Inclusive of those involved in the five original research projects, other specialists in the field are now being offered the opportunity to enter this second competition, where business-led consortia will focus on building the supply chain and achieving technology demonstration in a "real life environment".
According to the Technology Strategy Board and EPSRC, investment is needed here to help UK businesses become "early adopters" of the technology and aid "rapid commercialisation" of their products.
Explaining the aims of the competition, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, Iain Gray, said: "The projects we will fund through this competition will both improve our quality of life and generate economic benefits to the UK economy.
"Nanoscale technologies have the potential to address the major societal challenge of increasing our renewable energy options for the future. By investing in this area we will be contributing significantly to the UK's 2050 targets for renewable energy as well as growing significant business opportunities for British companies both at home and abroad, transferring commercially focused basic research into the business community."
The two bodies claim that current installed electricity generating capacity is around 80GW, with demand potentially increasing by up to 50% by 2050. They add that government targets, meanwhile, demand an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and argue that, in principle, the sun could provide "sufficient energy" to make up the shortfall.
However, they note that for this to happen, new innovative methods of energy capture and storage need to be discovered, developed and exploited "rapidly" and claim nanotechnology has "a significant role to play here and is increasingly influencing these areas".
EPSRC chief executive, Professor David Delpy, said: "Solar energy is the only renewable energy technology that, in theory, could meet all of the world's energy needs.
"To date we have been limited by the cost and efficiency of the available technology. This competition will ‘fast track' projects that address some of these challenges. The projects will also have commercial potential and can position British businesses to exploit a growing global market in the near term, while providing sustainable solutions for the UK in the longer term."
The competition opens on September 13 and expressions of interest must be submitted by October 14. The closing date for receiving full applications is October 21 2010.