UCL Public Policy


Net Zero Innovation Programme: A UCL and Local Government Association Collaboration

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Delivered through a collaboration between the Local Government Association, the national membership body for local authorities, and 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 Network is open to researchers, academics and policymakers working to address local net zero challenges as a forum for open discussion and collaboration. 

To join the Net Zero Innovation Network on LinkedIn please contact climate@local.gov.uk

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.

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 brings together partnerships of researchers and climate change officers from councils across all the regions in England, providing support to work collaboratively to define and co-create challenges, and the time and funding to work on their problems towards achieving local net zero targets. 

Read our FAQs document to find out more about the application process.

The 2020 Net Zero Innovation Cohort
In 2020, the Programme supports a cohort of 12 research/council partnerships on their net zero journeys. 


Low-energy Housing - to design and oversee the construction and evaluation of a new, low-energy housing estate in Barnsley, using the latest research and innovation in insulation and renewable energy.Barnsley CouncilLeeds Beckett University
Procurement Carbon Calculator - to develop and test a framework to estimate the emissions from procured goods and services and enable informed discussion with suppliers on how to reduce them.Cambridge CouncilUCL
Supporting Schools - to enable two local primary schools embed environmental education, reduce their environmental impact—and have fun. Colchester CouncilUnivesrity of Essex
Public Health - to provide evidence for decision-makers to focus beyond short-term outcomes and understand the potential implications of climate change mitigation and adaptation on health and the subsequent impacts across a broad range of sectors and services.Cornwall CouncilUnivesrity of Exeter
Impact of Home Working - to measure the real energy consumption impacts of home working to help with future energy scenario planning.Durham CouncilUnivesrity of Durham
Care Home Energy Efficiency - to work with care homes to identify any areas of wastage and then present options to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency.Hertforshire CouncilUnivesrity of Hertfordshire
Community Finance - to explore a range of alternative financing mechanisms and evaluating them for use on a variety of sustainability projects that may or may not generate a financial return.Lewes and Eastbourn CouncilsUniversity of Sussex
Housing Retrofit and Jobs - to address the urgent need to expand the capacity of local supply chains to deliver net zero retrofits at scale, pace and quality, and to connect local residents to these jobs.London Borough of LambethLondon South Bank University
Modelling Housing RetrofitLondon Borough of SuttonUCL
Decarbonisation Training - North of Tyne Combined Authoritytbc
Community Engagement - to develop effective communication strategies focussed on three priority challenges - overcoming resistance to active travel measures, barriers to the uptake of low carbon home retrofitting initiatives and raising the profile of the climate emergency within the Local Strategic Partnership.South Gloucester CouncilUniversity of West of England
E-bikes Scheme - to look at both ‘business miles’ and staff commutes to improve local uptake of e-bike schemes.Worcester City CouncilUniversity of Worcester


Together Towards Net Zero Episode 1: The Partnership Building Workshops

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Read the transcript for Episode 1 here

 Together Towards Net Zero Episode 3: The Action Learning Groups 

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 Together Towards Net Zero Episode 2: The Sandpits

SoundCloud Widget Placeholderhttps://soundcloud.com/uclsound/together-towards-net-zero-the-sandpits

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.
  • Provide funding, 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.
  • 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.
  • Support the cohort to share their learning, providing support to a greater number of council and university partnerships over time.

Read more about the programme’s pilot workshops held in April 2020 on the Policy Postings blog:

If you have any further questions about the Net Zero Innovation Programme please email Katherine Welch: k.welch@ucl.ac.uk. 

Timeline and milestones

Date  Milestone
October 2020Official launch of programme

October 2020

Partnership development workshop webinars

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

November 2020

10.00-12.00 on:

9 Nov

16 Nov

23 Nov

Co-production Sandpits

A series of three two-hour sandpits to co-produce and refine projects.

An additional drop in session for project teams will be offered on 30 Nov 10.-00-12.00

January -June 2021

Project delivery

Development and delivery of collaborative projects.

July 2021


Reporting, evaluation, dissemination and next steps

The cohort will reconvene for a final series of activities 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.