The Net Zero Innovation Programme develops partnerships of researchers and climate change officers from councils across all English regions and supports them in tackling the climate emergency.
Delivered through a collaboration between the LGA and UCL, the Net Zero Innovation Programme brings together local authorities, universities and other stakeholders to address climate challenges at the local level and explores ways for councils to meet their net zero objectives.
The programme was a finalist in the Climate Challenge Cup – an international competition celebrating innovative local solutions to global climate issues.
Applications for the programme are currently closed.
- About 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. Councils are place shapers and implementers in their local communities. Together, the partnership creates a clear opportunity for knowledge exchange, delivery of evidence directly in to policymaking, and practical delivery at the local level.
The programme brings together partnerships of researchers and climate change officers from councils across all English regions and supports them to define and co-create challenges and develop projects that could begin to address these.
The scope of the programme is broad. Partnerships can address challenges from decarbonising transport, improving air quality, reducing climate impact on vulnerable communities and improving wellbeing through green spaces.
Practical tools and solutions can include development of training, toolkits, mapping documents or calculators.
- What are participants expected to do?
Those who take part in the programme:
- contribute to partnership workshops and co-production sandpits.
- produce demonstrator projects, delivered together by councils, universities and other partners
- share their learning from the programme, which can include contributions to the LinkedIn group for the Net Zero Innovation Network for councils and universities, blogs, podcasts, reports, videos and case studies
- take part in a recorded webinar to showcase their projects and their outcomes
- participate in the 'further support' workshops at the end of the programme to help people in other councils and universities implement similar projects
- provide a detailed write-up of their project development and experience of the programme.
- 2021-2022 Net Zero Innovation Programme project list
Developing an industrial area assessment tool and roadmap to identify circular opportunities
London Borough of Enfield & UCL
Teresa Domenech Aparisi
Industrial areas concentrate energy and material intensive activities but also contribute to employment opportunities, add value and strengthen the local economy. Urban and peri-urban industrial areas can make a positive contribution to the transition to net zero but they face challenges such as; competition for land, conflicts over infrastructures and services and, generally, lack of investment and policy focus. There is little understanding of current industrial activities, infrastructural needs and environmental issues which limits potential for environmental and economic improvement, especially in the transition towards net zero.
This project will identify and study opportunities to transition towards circular and low carbon industrial areas.
A hyper-local project aiming to help hard to reach businesses gain the skills they need to transition to net zero.
Nottingham Trent University & Bolsover District Council
Nottingham Trent University
This project aims to carry out stakeholder engagement with micro-businesses and small and medium enterprises operating in Bolsover District, to better understand barriers preventing these types of businesses from accessing training and funding to develop their understanding of net zero, and the skills or technology needed to make the transition to net zero.
Following up, this project will aim to deliver a pilot scheme based on learnings from stakeholder engagement to provide ‘proof of concept’ around what works, what doesn’t work and what might work better to provide the foundations for scaling up delivery and co-creating a successful programme of interventions over the longer term.
Growing a Shared Vision for Urban Greening
Cheltenham Borough Council & University of Gloucestershire
University of Gloucestershire
A strategic approach to enhancing biodiversity and tree cover can guide what needs planting, where, and by whom, with considerable environmental benefits. However, landowners, including councils, often lack the knowledge required to plant the right plant in the right place. Simultaneously, residents are uncertain what these changes will mean for their neighbourhoods and streetscapes. In combination, this leads to situations of conflict or stasis, when rapid action is required.
Our project will develop the parameters for a user-friendly tool that addresses technical acceptability and societal feasibility to facilitate the rapid greening of urban spaces.
Integrating EV car clubs and low-carbon housing for greener neighbourhoods across the city
Newcastle City Council & Northumbria University
Local authorities rely on data-driven approaches to understand how low-carbon interventions can be rolled out across cities to achieve the net zero target. Abortive effort can be spent collating and processing the wrong data or failing to build engagement and communications strategies.
We are therefore seeking to harness the power of accurate, local-level data to inform solutions across Newcastle upon Tyne. The project aims are to uncover the ‘decision making path’ around connecting an Electric Vehicle car club to prospective (ultra) low carbon neighbourhoods (inclusive of social housing). Tailored partnerships and communications can then be used to encourage action and behaviour change amongst local communities.
DePoLARiZE - Delivering Port of Liverpool-Associated Road-freight Zero Emissions
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council & Lancaster University
Global trade and associated freight transfer is expected to remain high or even grow. The Liverpool City Region has recently been granted permission to establish a Freeport and the Port of Liverpool is planning for significant future growth which is expected to result in increased shipping, port operations and inland freight transfer. These activities are all mainly fossil-fuelled and contribute to carbon emissions.
As freight transport grows, the challenge is to decarbonise all aspects of the distribution network without negatively affecting growth or local environmental and social conditions.
The project aims to facilitate willing members of stakeholder groups on all sides of the issue to convene in new ways, enabling them to envision practicable next steps in ways that cultivate productive working relationships; in short, to kickstart the collective learning process needed to address the issues over the medium-term.
Investment for Net Zero
East Sussex County Council & University of Brighton
East Sussex CC
University of Brighton
Most local authorities have declared a climate emergency. This will require them to understand how they can get to net zero. Some local authorities have incurred costs to pay consultants to carry out modelling and a variety of models have been used, so the results are not necessarily comparable. Some local authorities aren't sure how to go about modelling their pathway to net zero.
The purpose of the project is the development of a model that allows senior managers and Members to make informed decisions, leading to an optimal investment strategy to achieve net zero within the council.
The model aims to generate the maximum available carbon savings for the available investment each year. This considers forecast prices and carbon intensities while achieving net zero targets. The model is designed to be sufficiently generic that it can be used by other councils.
Business Resilience Opportunities in a Net Zero Carbon Essex (BRONZE)
Essex County Council & Anglia Ruskin University
Anglia Ruskin University
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and local authorities both face similar barriers in terms of the goods and services being provided or required for the net zero carbon transition. These barriers can be internal, e.g. their own operations, and external, e.g. the ability to understand the market opportunities by SMEs and the goods and services needed by local authorities.
This project sets out to achieve a clear understanding of business priorities in relation to their understanding of the net zero carbon transition, both internally and with their customers, the wider market opportunities, and their experiences of tendering for local authority contracts and work.
Uncovering the barriers that they face to provide guidance to enable better translation, swifter zero carbon transition and the confidence to tender for local authority work.
Community climate champions: leaving no one behind toolkit
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council & University of Birmingham
University of Birmingham
Sandwell is the 12th most deprived local authority, and our resource-poor residents will find it challenging to adapt to climate change and be severely impacted (as during the pandemic). Specific interventions are required to protect deprived communities in our superdiverse borough.
Sandwell Council in partnership with the University of Birmingham and local citizens will develop a ‘leaving no one behind’ climate champions toolkit, building upon the successful model of our award winning COVID-19 champions programme. This scalable output will adopt a proportionate universalism approach to climate adaptation, minimising risks of further widening health inequalities and maximising opportunities to reduce regional disparities.
Mapping the tree planting supply chain in North Yorkshire and York
North Yorkshire County Council & University of Huddersfield
North Yorkshire CC
University of Huddersfield Business School
The Nature for Climate Fund, very ambitious woodland creation and tree planting targets are being developed nationally (e.g., 30,000 ha of new planting p.a. by the end of this parliament) and regionally (e.g. in the White Rose Forest project in West and North Yorkshire).
There are real challenges for existing supply chains in supporting this level of planting ambition in terms of capacity of tree nurseries (private and public sector) and finding enough people with the right skills to deliver projects.
The project will attempt to map the tree planting supply chain in North Yorkshire and York to develop a scalable tool that is applicable more widely across West and East Yorkshire. Working with supply chain experts at the University of Huddersfield, the project will help in understanding the role of councils in working with other key partners in delivering large-scale tree planting ambitions.
‘Energetic Lifestyles’: Engaging young people in the development and implementation of carbon reduction initiatives
University of Bedfordshire & Luton Borough Council
University of Bedfordshire
Lack of end user engagement at early stages of implementation of new technologies often leads to operational issues, user complaints and system failures. The full potential of desired energy efficiency cannot be achieved without robust engagement from end-users and a good understanding of current barriers facing behaviour change.
The ‘Energetic Lifestyles’ project will focus on the user perspective and on establishing an improved understanding of the perceptions and barriers to energy efficient behaviours among young people and ethnically diverse communities. By doing so, the project aims to enhance engagement of young people in particular in the development of new energy efficient technologies and initiatives, and ultimately to drive carbon reduction within the region.
Net zero landlords
Kent University & Medway Council
As domestic emissions are the greatest source of emissions in Medway, it is imperative that we work to reduce this. As many landlords are yet to be equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to transition to a carbon reduced climate, especially as expeditiously as required by everchanging legislation, Medway Council and the University of Kent will work in tandem to facilitate this gradation.
This will be encouraged through a series of knowledge transfer workshops and other various means of engagement. We also aim to dispel preconceived notions surrounding the net zero agenda and make the journey as straightforward as possible.
Growing a Difference: Getting Newham’s schools growing
Newham Council and the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL
The objective of this project is to research and understand the obstacles to, and potential of schools growing food on campus. We aim to create a toolkit with schools and stakeholders that will help primary schools start growing food and integrate food growing into the curriculum, to help schools become hubs of growing activity.
This project will develop broader vision for a sustainable food future for schools in Newham (and beyond). We aim to fund and facilitate the creation of new food gardens at pioneer schools and prepare for opportunities beyond the life of this project.
- Podcast series: Together towards net zero
During the first cohort of the programme in 2020/21, UCL and the LGA recorded and released a number of podcast episodes documenting the process each of the partnerships went through. These demonstrate the benefits to local areas through partnership working and the challenges faced. You can stream episodes via the links below.
- You said, we did
You said: How do we scale our learning to other councils and universities?
We did: The Net Zero Innovation Programme created a showcase webinar to promote and scale the learnings, products and the tools created via the programme. We heard how some of the partnerships approached this and what they created through the programme. We hope that other councils will benefit from the products created and can take away ideas on how they can apply them to their own challenges.
You said: Attendees valued time to share each other's project plans.
We did: We programmed a greater number of one to one sessions in between the Net Zero Innovation Programme representative and the council and university partnership.
You said: The full time commitment for the workshops and project work was not known at the outset.
We did: We shared collaboration agreements from the previous cohort with the councils and universities to provide examples of how to overcome this challenge.
You said: One to one sessions were incredibly valuable because they provided focused time to explore the projects as a partnership and plan for next steps.
We did: We programmed some further time into the workshops and action learning sets for councils and universities on the programme to share their projects. This included learning, challenges and achievements. We found that the power of the network was extremely fruitful.
You said: It was sometimes challenging to set up an agreement locally between the university and council to work together smoothly.
We did: Prior to sign up, we made sure to outline the workshop dates and outputs on the webpage and all other communications material.
- Case studies
Below you can read case studies from past programmes, demonstrating successful partnership working between councils and universities.
- Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and Leeds Sustainability Institute, Leeds Beckett University: Property and People
- Durham County Council: Home working energy usage project
- South Gloucestershire Council: Co-developing a carbon communication toolkit
- Cambridgeshire County Council and University College London: Procurement tools to measure and reduce carbon emissions
- Cornwall Council and the University of Exeter: Climate change and health adaptation tool
- London Borough of Lambeth and London Southbank University: Retrofit skills
Below are links to relevant blogs which you may find useful.
- Developing partnerships, changing futures
- Fostering partnerships between local authorities and universities to deliver climate emergency action plans
- How to turn a face-to-face facilitated workshop into online sessions
- Net Zero Innovation: COP26 as an opportunity for the UK public sector and universities to show leadership
- 2020/21 programme showcase
In early 2022 we held a webinar which showcased the work of the programme's 2020/21 cohort. Attendees heard from some of the completed projects and how they hope to be scaled to help other councils. It was an opportunity to learn about partnership working and provide training for councils to use the products created, the slides can be found below. Slides from the event can be downloaded below.
Home working energy usage project
Jacki Bell, Research Impact Officer, Durham Energy Institute
Hannah Jameson, Assistant Director of Sustainable Development and Climate Change, London Borough of Lambeth and Pippa Palmer, Research Strategist, London Southbank University
Procurement tools to measure and reduce carbon emissions
Emily Bolton, Climate Change Officer, Cambridgeshire County Council and Dr Isabela Butnar, Senior Researcher, University College London
Climate change and Health Adaptation Tool
Peter Lefort, Impact Partnership Development Officer, University of Exeter and Alex Rainbow, Project Manager, Cornwall Council
Video: About the Net Zero Innovation Programme
- Video transcript
The Net Zero Innovation Programme (or NZIP) is a joint programme led by University College London (UCL) and the Local Government Association (LGA) to drive local action on climate change.
NZIP brings together partnerships of researchers and policy professionals supporting them to define and co-create projects that can begin to address climate challenges.
We recognise the different skills and strengths each group brings and work with them to break down barriers and build effective partnerships
NZIP provides time and funding to work on local carbon challenges, increasing knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Local projects we’ve supported include tools and toolkits for health, procurement, and decarbonisation, to practical interventions like providing commuter e-bikes and primary school climate engagement.
NZIP’s goal is to create sustained communities of change working together across the UK to deliver local-led carbon reductions.
As the saying goes; if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to innovate and make long-lasting progress on tackling climate change - go together.