Net Zero Innovation Programme FAQ

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.

The Net Zero Innovation Programme is now closed for applications.

Application stage 

Which organisations can apply to the programme?
  • Any English council (including all those not in membership of the Local Government Association)
  • Any UK University
At application stage, should I commit to the dates outlined in the timeline?

Yes please. Although we cannot say if you have a place on the programme yet, if you are successful, you will be expected to attend all the sessions so it will be vital to save the dates in the diary so that you can attend. For simplicity, please save the following dates:

  • 12 October 10.00am-12.00pm
  • 13 October 10.00am-12.00pm
  • 20 October 10.00am-12.00pm
  • 3 November 10.00am-12.00pm
  • 10 November 10.00am-1.00pm
  • 17 November 10.00am-1.00pm
  • 25 November 2022
  • 16 December 2022
Which internal stakeholders should I speak to before applying?
  • The organisation’s Chief Executive or most senior officer
  • The lead for climate change, or similar member of your organisation
  • Colleagues across the organisation with specialisms in your chosen project e.g. transport, planning, housing, public health
  • University Head of Department or faculty
Do I need to gain confirmation from the organisation’s most senior officer in order to apply?

Yes, a confirmation in the expression of interest form from your most senior officer in the organisation will be required to pursue the application. This will include both the senior officers in the council and the university. This is to ensure that you have organisational buy in for your project, and to be on the programme.

How many applications can I submit per council or university?

Applications are limited to one per council, including where a council is a partner in a joint bid with a university. Applications are also limited to one per university, including where a university is a partner in a joint bid with a council.

As a university or a council, can I apply to the programme on my own?

No – unfortunately, we are asking councils and universities to apply together. If you are struggling to find a suitable partner, then do get in touch with the relevant LGA or UCL contacts.

Can we apply to the programme as a joint bid between the university and the council?

Yes, this is the only way you can apply to the programme.

Does my partner applicant need to be from the same local area?

Partnerships can be local or be made up of those from different parts of the country. As all support will be delivered virtually, we are open to partnerships which break geographical boundaries. You may be interested to find an organisation which is looking to work on a similar challenge to you, for example.

I am a council applying for the programme. Can I apply in a joint bid with another council?

Unfortunately, due to the constraints of delivering the focused partnership and co-production support for each local challenge, we are unable to accept bids where councils are applying in partnership with one another. This programme promotes the opportunity for a council and a university to apply together, or on their own, to be matched with a counterpart. However, we are excited to offer the opportunity to take part in the lessons learned workshops (see beneath) which will offer the opportunity for other councils and universities to benefit from the support over time. We would suggest that you reach out to a university partner who is currently undertaking research that would contribute to your project’s area.

My council/university took part in the April 2020 pilot/the 2020/21 programme or the 2021/22 programme. Can I still apply?

Unfortunately, due to the limited capacity and funding of the programme, we are only able to support councils and universities who have not yet participated in the programme. This is so that we spread our support to the maximum number of organisations.

If you have been on the programme, we would welcome continuing to work with you and staying in touch.

In the expression of interest form, it mentions that I need to provide joint contact details. Who should fill this in?

There will be one project lead per organisation - one for the council, and one for the university. The project lead for your organisation is defined as the person who will participate in the programme by attending the programme of activities and project managing the agreed project. The project leads should not change throughout the programme.

In the expression of interest form, it mentions that I need to define a Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the programme from both the council and university. Who should they be and what is their role?

The council SRO should be a Director or Chief Executive of the council. They will oversee the project, unblock any challenges and ensure senior buy in for your project internally and with local partners.

The university SRO should be a Head of Department or faculty.

How long should my application be?

Sufficient detail is required to make a good application, but we ask that applications are kept clear and succinct. This means that applications should not exceed 100 words per question, but answers can consist of fewer words than this.

Can I save the application while I am completing it?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to save the expression of interest form as you are completing it, however you are able to download a PDF copy of the application questions for reference and to plan your responses in advance.

How innovative does our proposal need to be?

We encourage applications which seek to address tricky climate change and ecological challenges which local government has been grappling with recently. We are looking for applications where their projects can develop into universal tools.

How many rounds of the programme have been run already?

We ran a pilot of this programme in April 2020 involving six pairings and in 2020 we launched our first cohort of 12 pairings and in 2021-2022 we supported 10 new pairings and 2 accelerator projects. We will be supporting up to twelve pairings again this year, and it will involve a greater variety of support including funding and an even wider network.

What will our expression of interest form be judged on?

The expression of interest form will seek to support diversity of application as much as possible. Applications will be assessed on criteria including suitability and variety of topic, achievability, co-production and willingness for partnership working, variety of region and political leadership. We are looking for high quality, measurable and scalable applications that can make a real difference to the climate crisis.

What challenges can we work on?

The programme is themed around climate change and council commitments to achieving net zero targets. Examples of challenges include but are not limited to:

  • greening finance
  • reducing climate change impact on vulnerable communities
  • retrofitting housing
  • installing renewable energy
  • decarbonising transport
  • reducing waste and increasing recycling
  • improving air quality
  • skilling the workforce
  • increasing the uptake of active travel (e.g walking, cycling)
  • reducing the use of car travel
  • implementing environmental social value in council procurements
  • engaging communities in climate change activities.


It is also important to state however, that we do not want to duplicate work that has already been undertaken. Please do take some time to familiarise yourself with the projects that have already been completed as part of the programme:

Net Zero Innovation Programme Case Studies

How many councils and universities will be successful?

Up to twelve councils and twelve universities, in partnership with each other i.e. twelve pairings.

How many organisations will be successful in being awarded the grant funding?

Up to twelve partnerships on the programme will receive the grant funding. This will contribute to delivering the local project with their partner university.

During the programme

How do the lesson learned sessions work?

The facilitators will develop a training programme and blueprint for how to scale up our approach to other councils. This will be part of how we can train the council to train others.

What can the £10,000 per project be used for?

To pay directly for the project, either in full, or to seed fund. This is not to be used to pay for council staff or a consultancy. It should also be noted that the funding cannot be used to pay for university staffing costs and should solely be used to fund the delivery of the project. Any research time will be included in this delivery, but potential applicants should note the funding should not be used to pay for a partner’s involvement.

Do I need to have my own collaboration contract with my partner?

Councils and universities may want to put together their own collaboration agreement for this work as it will be expected that the time given to the programme will be given in kind from both institutions. Examples can be provided on request for applicants successfully enrolled in the programme.

How long should my project last for?

It should be achievable within the six-month period from January-June 2023.

Will all the support take place online?

Yes – all support will be delivered virtually. We are mindful of a number of factors which have drawn us to this conclusion which include:

  • the need for social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside ensuring the accessibility of support
  • cost savings for both the programme in booking venues and participants for travelling
  • as this is a national programme, the reduction in travel will contribute to meeting our carbon reduction targets.

After the programme

How will the project be evaluated?

Evaluation will form an ongoing process throughout the programme and will be conducted by the project coordinator. Evaluation mechanisms may include:

  • an impact log
  • observation
  • online surveys
  • reflections session
  • stakeholder mapping
  • media and web analytics
  • network member and project participant interviews
  • LGA Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool.
What will I commit to doing after the programme has finished?
  • To share your learning with other councils and public sector partners via a blog, a webinar, a podcast or similar.
  • A series of keep in touch calls over the following 6-12 months with the programme team whilst you finish the project (if not competed in the initial six months) and to identify any ongoing impact of the work .
  • Take part in the train the trainer model.

For any further questions, please contact or