Net Zero Innovation Programme

The Net Zero Innovation Programme brings together partnerships of researchers and climate change officers from councils across all English regions and supports them in tackling the climate emergency.

Climate change hub

Delivered through a collaboration between the LGA and UCL, the Net Zero Innovation Network brings together local authorities, universities and other stakeholders to address climate challenges at the local level and seeks routes to achieve council’s net zero commitments. 

In 2021-22, the LGA and UCL are providing training and project funding to equip councils and universities to work in partnership to help achieve the local carbon mitigation and adaptation adaptation goals of councils. Successful partnerships will address the climate and ecological challenges and needs belonging to all councils. The partnerships will lead on the creation of a replicable tool, guide or training which can be used by all councils.

The Net Zero Innovation Programme was a finalist in the Climate Challenge Cup – an international competition celebrating innovative local solutions to global climate issues.

Please note that applications for the programme are currently closed.

If you have any questions please email or

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 Net Zero Innovation 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, and partnerships could address challenges from decarbonising transport or improving air quality, to reducing climate impact on vulnerable communities or improving wellbeing through green spaces.

Practical tools and solutions could include development of training, toolkits, mapping documents or calculators. Partners may also wish to bring in an industry partner to contribute to the work and add a wider perspective. Challenges must address local and climate or net zero related concerns.

The cohort will be given time and funding to work on their projects, at times feeding back into the larger network with progress and for wider support.

Up to twelve partnerships, with evidenced ideas for scalable tools, will receive £10,000 worth of funding to create the tool. The council will receive the money from the LGA. We also encourage councils and universities to think about what match funding they may be able to bring to their projects.

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 programme will:

  • support partnerships between councils and the higher education sector to develop partnership and co-production skills through a series of facilitated training sessions
  • provide space, time and opportunity for researchers and local authorities to co-create practical responses to local-level challenges in reducing carbon emissions, adaptation and increasing biodiversity
  • expand partnership networks between councils and universities across the country
  • showcase how universities and local authorities can work in collaboration on adaption and mitigation strategies at the local and regional level
  • provide support to all councils and universities not on the programme through sharing lessons on seminars, blogs and podcasts
  • offer a 'train the trainer' model, providing support to a greater number of council and university partnerships over time
  • support development of universal tools which can be shared widely with the sector and help a greater number of councils start to tackle the climate emergency.
Application criteria

Over a period of twelve months the Net Zero Innovation Programme will provide up to twelve pairings of councils and universities with up to £10,000 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 local authorities 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, green growth, 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 2022.

To apply for the programme, your partnership must:

  • want to tackle a climate or ecological challenge at the local level
  • apply and work collaboratively with a university or council partner (the programme also encourages the inclusion of an industry or other partner where applicable)
  • ensure that your project is endorsed by your council Chief Executive or a senior sponsor (e.g. Director level) and your university Head of Department or Faculty
  • have the capacity to undertake the programme which will include a commitment to a series of online workshops and project delivery (see timeline for details), 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

Please note that you must be an English council or a UK University to apply.

What will the cohort of successful councils and universities be expected to deliver or participate in?
  • Contribute to the partnership workshops and co-production sandpits.
  • Produce demonstrator projects (one per partnership), delivered together by councils, universities and other partners.
  • Share 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.
  • Take part in a recorded webinar to showcase the projects and their outcomes.
  • Participate 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.
  • Provide a detailed case study of their project development and experience working on the programme.
Reasons to join the programme

You will like the programme if you:

  • need space and time to reflect on your proposed project
  • want to build a partnership relationship, as opposed to a consultancy relationship
  • would like to establish a long-standing partnership with your local university or council, and other stakeholders
  • wish to develop new working relationships outside of your organisation
  • have dedicated time to work on a project – the team will provide times and dates to hold in your diary from the very beginning (please see table below).
Timeline and milestones

Partnerships will be expected to attend all the sessions outlined below. Please save the dates in your diary in anticipation. 



September 2021 

Official launch of programme 

3 Nov, 10am-12pm

10 Nov, 10am-12pm

17 Nov, 10am-12pm

Cohort Training 

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


30 Nov 10am-1pm

2 Dec 10am-1pm


Cohort Development 

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

  • Project delivery 
  • Budget 
  • Timeline 
  • Stakeholder plan 
  • Outputs and outcomes 
  • Evaluation 

Dec 2021 – Jan 2022 


In January, the partnerships will submit 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 to deliver their co-produced project with their university partner.

Jan – Jun 2022 



Project delivery 

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, such as a monthly call​​​​


Jul 2022 

Reporting, evaluation, dissemination and next steps  

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.

Blogs from 2020 pilot and podcast

A pilot of the Net Zero Innovation Programme took place in 2020 and our first cohort followed in 2020/21. You can gain a flavour of what was covered in the pilot to find out whether it will suit your needs, and listen to our podcast series Together Towards Net Zero, via the link below.

Net Zero Innovation Programme pilot and first cohort – resources page

To join our LinkedIn information sharing forum, the Net Zero Innovation Network, please contact And for more information about the LGA's work on climate change visit the climate change hub.