Funding competition Net zero living: Pioneer places

UK registered businesses and local authorities can apply for a share of up to £2 million to plan for a place based demonstration of ways to accelerate progress towards net zero.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £2 million in innovation projects. These will be for local authorities and businesses to develop detailed local plans for innovative approaches to unlock non-technical systemic barriers to the delivery of net zero targets.

The aim of this competition is to support up to 30 places to develop a plan, with local authorities, to accelerate their transition to net zero. This will be achieved by developing innovative solutions to overcome barriers to implementation.

Your proposal must demonstrate a deep understanding of the opportunities from and non-technical systemic barriers to, delivery of net zero objectives in the area.

You must consider the whole net zero system in your area, including:

  • power
  • heat
  • mobility
  • product manufacture and usage

This must be across domestic, commercial and industrial users, as appropriate for the area. Links to other sectors are also welcome where relevant to the delivery of local net zero targets.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. Successful projects from phase 1 will be invited to apply to a phase 2 competition, for further funding to deliver their phase 1 proposals.

Phase 2 will fund up to 6 Pioneer places, with up to £8 million per project to deliver your innovative approach to support a fair and equitable transition to net zero in the UK.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total grant funding request must be between £50,000 and £75,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a total grant funding request between £50,000 and £75,000
  • start on 1 April 2023
  • end by 30 June 2023
  • last between 1 and 3 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • demonstrate alignment with current delivery activities within your existing Net Zero Transition Plans or Climate Action Plans
  • be based on existing experience of delivering systems based approaches to net zero
  • be scalable or replicable by other places within the UK
  • have an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policy in place for the organisations involved

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK Local Authority or a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

The term local authority includes, county councils, district councils, unitary authorities, metropolitan districts and London boroughs. Regional collaborations coordinated through bodies such as Combined Authorities are also eligible.

Your project must include eligible partners in its collaboration with a minimum of one local authority and one UK registered business.

We welcome collaborative applications between multiple authorities.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following:

A minimum of two grant claiming partners must be included to be an eligible collaboration and must include a minimum of one UK registered business and one Local Authority.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding when entering their costs during the application.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

If subcontractors are to be used in your project, you must clearly outline in your application how any knowledge transfer will take place with the local authority.

Number of applications

A local authority or business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further single application.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

Previous applications

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must at all times make sure that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to, or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.

Funding

Up to £2 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research and local authority participation

The research organisations and local authorities undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 80% of the total grant funding. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 80% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are a local authority, RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Please note: if a local authority elects to undertake non-economic activity, they must not act commercially with any project outputs.

Your proposal

The aim of this first phase competition is to fund up to 30 place based projects. These will develop detailed local plans for innovative approaches to unlock non-technical systemic barriers to the delivery of net zero targets.

Your plan must show how non-technical systemic barriers to rapidly accelerate progress to net zero targets in a defined place can be overcome.

You must explain how these places, local businesses and communities can thrive through that transition through innovative technologies and solutions. The removal of these barriers will enable innovative solutions to be adopted at scale and drive local economic growth.

Your proposal must demonstrate a deep understanding of the opportunities from any non-technical systemic barriers, to delivery of net zero objectives in the area.

You must consider the whole net zero system in your area, including:

  • power
  • heat
  • mobility
  • product manufacture and usage

This must be across domestic, commercial and industrial users, as appropriate for the area. Links to other sectors are also welcome where relevant to the delivery of local net zero targets.

You must show engagement with letters of support demonstrating senior level commitment from the local authority for your proposal.

Your application must outline your experiences and understanding of non-technical systemic barriers that are preventing effective delivery of net zero. You must include an outline of your potential innovative solutions to overcome these barriers.

On completion of your feasibility study you will be required to submit a final report. Your final report must:

  • align to and build on your current activities and experiences
  • deliver a detailed plan outlining how your consortium will unlock system barriers to achieve net zero at scale with a whole systems approach considering power, heat, mobility, product manufacture and usage
  • explain how you will demonstrate removal of critical barriers to delivering net zero in your area or region with a follow on phase
  • demonstrate a systems approach by considering whole system integration to enable more efficient whole system costs of provisions to transition to net zero
  • show how you will approach benefit identification to place, society, carbon emissions and net zero, including the size and scale of benefits to be targeted
  • describe which net zero tools you will be using
  • develop a resource plan explaining which partners and organisations you need to accomplish your goals for a potential second phase of this project including the timescales and delivery methods
  • develop a financial plan showing how your financial resources will be shared and split through the project lifetime
  • develop a sustainability plan for use beyond the funding and deliverables to continue improving and unlocking system barriers, this is a starting point – how will local authorities change their culture, long term plans and continue net zero transition into the future
  • describe your community engagement approach and plans for supporting all citizens through the transition including socio economic considerations as well as protected characteristics
  • explain how you will disseminate your learning from future trial outputs publicly on a regular basis, sharing any barriers encountered through the process and the solution you have applied
  • describe how you will aim for an open source data and sharing of information in an appropriate format for specific audience
  • consider how you will work with local authorities, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ofgem and Code Administrators to implement your design
  • describe how your proposal will be scalable or replicable across the UK

Portfolio approach

We reserve the right to take a portfolio approach that will allow us to fund a variety of projects across different types of barriers, geographies, systems approaches and place types (urban and rural). We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

Your project must:

  • focus on a whole systems approach which considers power, heat, mobility, product manufacture and usage in domestic, commercial and industrial settings, as appropriate for your local area
  • identify and address non-technical systemic barriers, not infrastructure and technical barriers
  • clearly show how the proposal links to your ongoing delivery of your existing net zero plans and development in your area
  • show how you will work to align with other ongoing activities for example in financing and capability provision

Your proposal must address non-technical systemic barriers to delivery including but not limited to:

  • financing
  • capacity, capability and skills
  • consumer engagement and behaviour change
  • policy and regulation
  • system governance
  • common data standards for open source and interoperability
  • ability to influence strategic grid reinforcement

Research categories

We will fund feasibility studies and plans as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • are previously unsuccessful projects
  • are not innovative
  • are unable to demonstrate delivery
  • are net zero infrastructure or new technology projects
  • do not consider heat, transport, manufacturing, or power as whole systems approaches
  • does not address non-technical systemic barriers to delivering net zero in a UK geographic area

We cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

26 October 2022
Competition opens
31 October 2022
Online briefing event: register to attend
1 December 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
12 January 2023
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete
  • that all partners have completed all assigned sections and accepted the terms and conditions (T&C’s)

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit the application before the competition deadline.

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 15 working days before the competition closing date.

You can email support@iuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign the right experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from question 1. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

You must answer all questions. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers, unless asked for.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation, any partners and subcontractors working on your project.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Need or challenge

What is the need and opportunity behind your innovation in the delivery of net zero? What are the likely challenges that will need to be resolved to address this?

Explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • your experience of the challenges or barriers to be addressed by your plan
  • the opportunities that it will create in your area (social, economic, technical)
  • whether you have identified any similar innovation and its current limitations,
  • with evidence of, any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 3. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on existing solutions in new areas, the development of new solutions for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current activities in the net zero area and those of key stakeholders
  • in detail and provide evidence of how your solution builds on your experience of delivering existing net zero projects
  • how it will help you to accelerate your progress towards net zero targets
  • your governance and strategic engagement, including a description of the range and level of engagement, across local government and key stakeholders
  • and give evidence of, the Net Zero Transition Plans or Climate Action Plans that already exist for your area

Your answer can be up to 800 words long.

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

You can also submit one appendix to support your answer which can include links to evidence your Net Zero Transition Plans or Climate Action Plans. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • your experience with delivering other successful innovation programmes
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project and how knowledge would be transferred
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. Stakeholder engagement and coordination

Who are your key stakeholders? What collaboration mechanisms do you currently have in place and how will you coordinate delivery across the different organisations?

Describe:

  • who the key stakeholders are and what role is needed from them during your project
  • how your engagement approach builds on your existing stakeholder management
  • how you propose to ensure that stakeholders are engaged for the full duration of your project
  • how you will engage with other net zero initiatives for example, local net zero hubs, net zero toolkits
  • what collaboration mechanisms you currently have in place
  • what considerations will need to be made to citizen engagement to ensure a fair and equitable transition is achieved within your locality

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You must submit one appendix with letters of support demonstrating senior level commitment from the local authority for your proposal. It must be a PDF, up to 8 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6. Outcomes

How are you going to deliver long term accelerated progress towards net zero as a result of the project? What additional benefits including societal and economic benefits will be targeted?

Explain:

  • your current position, and progress on delivery of your local net zero targets
  • how your project compliments existing plans and current targets
  • how this feasibility study will help you to progress net zero
  • your target areas for focus and how you will engage with potential users
  • how you will consider local economic growth from the innovation,
  • how this funding will help you to accelerate progress against targets
  • how the innovation will affect your performance, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will disseminate the outputs of the project, for example through publications, events, digital engagement, sharing data
  • your strategy for continuing to progress your plan after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale for the benefit of the wider local government community
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities
  • how you intend to implement the insights developed through primary research

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 7. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe the wider benefits that will be expected from successfully overcoming your challenges to net zero delivery for:

  • external parties
  • customers
  • others in the supply chain
  • broader industry
  • the UK economy

Describe:

  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • engagement with under-represented communities
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 8. Project management

How will you manage your project effectively?

Explain:

  • the main work packages of your project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each package
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
  • how you will mitigate these risks

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value

How will this public funding help you to accelerate or enhance your approach to developing your project towards delivery? What impact would this award have on the organisations involved?

Explain:

  • what advantages public funding would offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to achieving net zero (this list is not exhaustive)
  • the likely impact of the project outcomes on the organisations involved
  • what other routes of investment you have already approached
  • what your project would look like without public funding
  • how this project would change the innovation or R&D activities of all the organisations involved

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 11. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

In terms of your project goals, explain:

  • your total project costs
  • the grant you are requesting
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to your project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to your project

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Where applicable applicants should demonstrate alignment to the CPNI Security-Minded approach to developing Smart Cities & Connected Places guidance including PAS185 available here.

Organisations and their teams are highly encouraged to review and follow the Secure Connected Places (smart cities) guidance provided by DCMS here.

Organisations and their teams are highly encouraged to review and follow the Connected Places Cyber Security Principles provided by NCSC here.

Data sharing

This competition is operated by Innovate UK.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with our own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application. Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy is accessible here.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a project partner

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Innovate UK KTN.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with Innovate UK EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email support@iuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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