Net Zero Innovation Programme

Delivered through a collaboration between the Local Government Association (LGA) and University College London (UCL), the Net Zero Innovation Network brings together local authorities, universities and other stakeholders to address climate challenges at the local level, and seek routes to achieve council’s net zero commitments.

Delivered through a collaboration between the Local Government Association (LGA) and University College London (UCL), the Net Zero Innovation Network brings together local authorities, universities and other stakeholders to address climate challenges at the local level, and seek routes to achieve council’s net zero commitments.

Within the wider network in 2020-21 the LGA and UCL are supporting a Net Zero Innovation Programme providing training and project funding to equip councils and universities to work in partnership to help achieve the local carbon reduction goals of councils.

The Net Zero Innovation Programme is now open for applications.

Apply now and learn how partnership and coproduction skills between your council and university can help tackle climate change challenges together.

If you have any questions, please check out the FAQs, and if you cannot find the answer, please email

You can also download a copy of the application questions as a PDF for reference purposes.

Deadline for applications: September 25 2020 at 17:00.


Blogs from the April 2020 pilot

Gain a flavour of what was covered in the pilot and find out whether it would suit your local needs.

Introducing the Net Zero Innovation Programme

Across the UK, local authorities are declaring a climate emergency, seeking to lead action at a local level to reduce carbon emissions, increase biodiversity, transition to net zero and ultimately improve the quality of life of their residents and the local environment.

Universities have been working in the climate change space for a substantial period of time and therefore have invaluable research that can help councils in achieving their ambitions.

We believe that the varying expertise of local authorities to respond to the climate emergency creates a clear opportunity for engagement and knowledge exchange with the research community, as well as for delivery of evidence directly in to policymaking and practical delivery at the local level.

The Net Zero Innovation Programme will bring together partnerships of researchers and climate change officers from councils across all the regions in England for an initial period of twelve months. The cohort will be supported and facilitated by University College London and the Local Government Association to work collaboratively as a group and in smaller teams to define and co-create challenges and develop projects that could begin to address these. Possible challenges which councils and universities may look to address include decarbonising transport, retrofitting housing, or improving air quality.

The cohort will then be given time and funding to work on their problems, at times feeding back in to the larger network with progress and for wider support. While we do not anticipate all of the challenges set at the outset of the programme will be solved, by the end of the first twelve months we expect that strong collaborations across the cohort and wider network will have been formed and sustained, and some practical progress will have been made.

The aims of the Net Zero Innovation Programme
  • Support partnerships between councils and the higher education sector to develop partnership and coproduction skills through a series of facilitated training sessions. Support the pairings to deliver climate change projects in local areas.
  • Provide funding to support delivery of the collaborative projects. The grant funding will be given directly to the council. Funding will be given up to £18,000 per council.
  • Provide space, time and opportunity for researchers and local authorities to co-create practical responses to local-level challenges in reducing carbon emissions.
  • Expand partnership networks between councils and universities across the whole country. A network of higher education and council contacts will be nurtured on an ongoing basis - valuable to partnerships locally, regionally and nationally.
  • Showcase how universities and local authorities can work in collaboration on adaption and mitigation strategies at the local and regional level as the United Kingdom prepares to host COP26 in November 2021.
  • Offer support to all councils and universities not on the programme through sharing lessons on webinars, blogs and podcasts.
  • Offer a train the trainer model, providing support to a greater number of council and university partnerships over time.
Application criteria

Over a period of twelve months the Net Zero Innovation Programme will provide up to ten pairings of councils and universities with up to £18,000 in funding support to develop and deliver innovative projects to tackle net zero challenges in their local area. Projects should draw on practical challenges being faced by the local authority and/or addressed by research as well as the skills and experience of both parties to develop mechanisms and solutions. Projects could seek to tackle challenges such as green infrastructure, reducing car use, retrofitting buildings, understanding local carbon footprint, engaging local communities in climate challenges, increasing recycling or reskilling local residents. Projects should be achievable and able to deliver some outcomes within a period of six months from January to June 2021.

To apply for the Net Zero Innovation Programme, your council and university must:

  • Want to tackle a climate change challenge at the local level
  • Work collaboratively with a university or council partner
  • Ensure that your project is endorsed by your council Chief Executive or a senior sponsor (eg Director level) and your university Head of Department or Faculty
  • Have the capacity to undertake the progamme which will include a commitment to a series of online workshops and project delivery, as well as participation in the wider network
  • Be willing to share your learning and experience from the programme with other councils and universities across the country
  • You must be an English council or a UK University to apply to the programme
What will the cohort of successful councils and universities be expected to deliver or participate in?
  • Participation and contributions to the partnership workshops and co-production sandpits
  • Produce demonstrator projects (one per partnership), delivered by councils and universities in partnership.
  • Contribute to sharing of their learning from the programme. This may include contributions to the LinkedIn group for the Net Zero Innovation Network for councils and universities, a blog, podcast, report, video and/or case study.
  • A recorded webinar to showcase the projects and their outcomes.
  • Participation in the 'further support' workshops at the end of the programme to discover how to help people in other councils and universities to implement a similar project.

Timeline for the programme 

Official launch of the programme October 2020

Partnership development workshop webinars 19 October, 23 October, 2 November

Three two-hour sessions designed to build the foundations of partnership working techniques.

Co-production Sandpits 9 November, 16 November, 23 November

A series of three two-hour sandpits to co-produce and refine project proposals. These sessions will include guided sessions to refine:

Project delivery
Stakeholder plan
Outputs and outcomes

Final project proposal 11 December

Each partnership will produce a formal proposal, detailing their project plan, outputs, outcomes, timescales and what financial support they will require. The LGA will then grant fund the councils who are taking part to deliver their co-produced project with their university partner. The LGA will grant fund the councils on the programme directly with up to £18,000 towards the cost of the project.

Project delivery January-June 2021 (27 January, 17 March, 28 May)

Development and delivery of collaborative projects. This will include:

  • Teams will work remotely on the projects refined in the co-production sandpits
  • The cohort will continue to connect virtually and up to three virtual whole-cohort meetings will be coordinated to check on progress and share questions and feedback.
  • Regular check-ins with the network coordinators i.e a monthly call.

Reporting, evaluation, dissemination and next steps July 2021 (6 July, 14 July, 23 July)

The cohort will reconvene for a final series of activities (group workshops) to pull together the outcomes of project work as well as learning gained throughout the process and to prepare and disseminate final outputs. This will include the further support workshops to help people in other councils and universities to implement a similar project.