Net Zero Innovation Programme

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.

Climate change hub

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

In 2022/23, 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, biodiversity and adaptation goals of councils. Successful partnerships will address the sustainability, 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 is now open for applications. Apply now and learn how partnership and co-production skills between your council and university can help to tackle sustainability, climate change and ecological challenges together.

Are you a council officer tasked with delivering the council's climate action plan? Are you a 'net zero', sustainability or climate change expert at a university who wishes to collaborate (or deepen your collaboration) with your local council?

Apply to the Net Zero Innovation Programme and learn how to get the most out of partnership working between council and university; receive project funding to tackle a climate change challenge together; and share learnings across a network of councils and their local stakeholders.

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

Deadline for applications: September 9 2022 at 5pm.

Apply now

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 which 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.

Case studies

Below you can read case studies from past programmes, demonstrating successful partnership working between councils and universities.


Below are links to relevant blogs which you may find useful.

About the Net Zero Innovation Programme

Across the UK, councils have declared a climate emergency, seeking to lead action at a local level to reduce carbon emissions, adapt to climate change, 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 council officers working on climate change and sustainability 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, climate, adaptation, biodiversity 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 coproduction skills through a series of facilitated training sessions
  • provide space, time and opportunity for researchers and councils 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 councils can work in collaboration on adaptation 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, adaptation and biodiversity challenges in their local area. Projects should draw on practical challenges being faced by councils 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 2023.

To apply for the Net Zero Innovation Programme, your partnership must:

  • want to tackle a climate, adaptation, 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
  • be an English council or a UK university. 
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 and 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 you might like the programme
  • You need space and time to reflect on your proposed project.
  • You want to build a partnership relationship, as opposed to a consultancy relationship.
  • You would like to establish a long-standing partnership with your local university or council, and other stakeholders.
  • You wish to develop new working relationships outside of your organisation.
  • You want 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 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 2022

Official launch of programme

12 October 10am-12pm

13 October 10am-12pm

20 October 10am-12pm

3 November 10am-12pm

Cohort Training

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

10 November 10am-12pm

17 November 10am-12pm


Cohort Development

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

  • project delivery
  • budget
  • timeline
  • stakeholder plan
  • outputs and outcomes
  • evaluation.

November 2022 - January 2023


Towards the end of November, the partnerships will submit a formal proposal, detailing their project plan, outputs, outcomes and timescales. The LGA will then grant fund the councils to deliver their co-produced project with their university partner.

January - June 2023



Project delivery

Development and delivery of collaborative projects. This will include the following:

  • 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.

July 2023

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. 

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.