Funding competition Net Zero Living: Fast Followers

Local authorities can apply for a share of up to £6 million to build skills and capabilities to accelerate local progress towards net zero.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, are investing £6 million in this Fast Followers competition as part of the Innovate UK Net Zero Living programme.

The aim of this competition is to support local authorities in up to 20 places and fund a dedicated Net Zero Innovation and Delivery officer role. The funding will help you to further develop your net zero delivery plans, improve delivery pathways and enable adoption at scale of innovative products and services.

We will invest up to £300,000 per place over 2 years. If successful you will also have access to net zero skills and capability support provided by Innovate UK and our partners.

If successful you must:

  • recruit a specific Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer to participate in the programme
  • actively participate in a programme of net zero delivery support modules to be provided by Innovate UK and its partners
  • implement the learning gained to a specific net zero project

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


Project size

Your project’s total grant funding request must be between £250,000 and £300,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total grant funding request between £250,000 and £300,000
  • start on 1 July 2023
  • end by 30 June 2025
  • last for 24 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • recruit and have a suitable candidate ready to take on the “Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer” role before commencement of the project

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 or work alone your organisation must be a UK Local Authority.

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.

Eligible local authorities can work alone or in collaboration, including collaborations of local authorities.

Parish councils, community councils and town councils are not eligible to apply as a lead but can be a collaborative partner.

Project team

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

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • local authority
  • community groups
  • health authorities
  • education establishments

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 must claim funding by 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 your total project costs.


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.

Number of applications

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

If an organisation is not leading an 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 Subsidy Control Act 2022. Further information about the Subsidy requirements can be found within the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (

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 Subsidy Control Act 2022 or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must always 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.


Up to £6 million has been allocated to the funding support for this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

In this competition we will fund project activities as feasibility studies, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

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 participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 100% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them. Of that 100% 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 an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to support local authorities in up to 20 places and fund dedicated Net Zero Innovation and Delivery officer roles. The funding will help you to further develop your net zero delivery plans, improve delivery pathways and enable adoption at scale of innovative products and services.

You must:

  • demonstrate a knowledge of your understanding of the challenges in delivering your net zero plans
  • create and recruit a Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer role within the local authority
  • describe the support that will be offered to the Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer role within the local authority
  • demonstrate senior level support and commitment for the Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer role
  • include details of a previous net zero case study, that identifies your areas of need, how you tackled them and how the lessons learnt would create further impact
  • explain how innovation would improve your approach to non-technical barriers
  • how you would use the grant funding to invest in specific initiatives to identify and define improvements in non-technical barriers

If you are successful, during your 2 year project you will be expected to:

  • complete a series of activity modules managed by Innovate UK
  • provide better definition to your net zero plans and identify at least one project to demonstrate the impact of the funding
  • produce a clearly defined net zero delivery plan that is supported by your stakeholders
  • participate in monthly Fast Follower peer network cohort activities arranged by Innovate UK and participate in mentoring activities
  • participate with training modules and expertise made available by Innovate UK to improve net zero delivery and disseminate this learning into your organisation and to your partners
  • openly share learnings with the cohort and publicly, contributing to communications within your own organisation and other agencies
  • develop a long-term plan demonstrating how the programme activities will support net zero delivery using a whole systems approach, including financing, beyond the funding period
  • monitor impacts and share these and wider insights with Innovate UK and publicly
  • produce a final report, in an agreed format, that documents all this list of requirements

Portfolio approach

We reserve the right to take a portfolio approach that will allow us to fund a variety of projects across different regions, geographies and place types, for example, urban or rural.

Specific themes

You must identify a potential project that you will implement your programme learning and innovative approaches on.

Your project must focus on:

  • identifying and addressing human, process and non-technical barriers, not infrastructure and technical barriers
  • demonstrating the impact that these alternative approaches can make through application within a live project
  • delivering net zero activities relating to heat, power, mobility or manufacturing

Non-technical barriers to delivery include, but are 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 as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that are:

  • not in scope for this competition
  • net zero infrastructure or new technology projects
  • unable to commit to the resource requirements and participation
  • not committed to addressing non-technical barriers to delivering net zero in the UK

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
18 January 2023
Competition opens
26 January 2023
Online briefing event: register to attend
1 March 2023 11:00am
Competition closes
13 April 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
  • if collaborative, that all partners have completed all assigned sections and accepted the terms and conditions (T&Cs)

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

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

Accessibility and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes providing support, in the form of reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us. Read more on how we are making our application process more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

You must contact us as early as possible in the application process. We recommend contacting us at least 15 working days before the competition closing date to ensure we can provide you with the most suitable support possible.

You can contact us by emailing or calling 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

Application team

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

Application details

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

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.


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.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation and any partners or 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

Describe the key non-technical barriers that you are facing in delivering your net zero commitments to date.

What are the challenges involved in resolving these barriers and what innovation is required to support this?

In terms of your non-technical barriers, explain:

  • your experience and recognition of the barriers to be addressed
  • your key priorities and why
  • why these are important for your local authority
  • what type of innovation and support will enable the greatest potential opportunities in your local area, for example, social, economic or technical

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 3. Track record

Describe a previous net zero project which encountered challenges due to non-technical barriers.

Explain the innovation you will use to overcome those challenges and how it will improve the outcome.


  • a previous net zero project, including the challenges faced and the lessons learnt
  • the opportunity and potential benefit of taking an innovative approach
  • what innovative approaches could have been used to deliver a better outcome
  • which other key stakeholders, internal or external, and including businesses would be required to make an innovative approach work
  • which elements of the Fast Followers support would provide the greatest benefit to your previous project

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 4. Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer requirements

How will you enable the funded Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer to deliver changes effectively?

Where will they sit in the organisation and what support are they going to be provided with?


  • your plan for the recruitment process and the criteria for identifying the correct candidate for the Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer role
  • the support that you will put in place internally for the officer’s role to work with and influence teams across the local authority and partner organisations
  • where the role would sit within your management structure, the role sponsor and the level of influence that the Net Zero Innovation and Delivery Officer will have, for example, access to relevant committees or board meetings
  • your approach to integrating the officer’s role within other teams, and partner organisations with details of the teams that they will be working with
  • the rationale behind which team the officer’s role will sit in and how that will enable them to deliver changes to non-technical barriers and support a systems based approach to net zero delivery
  • if you will be using a subcontractor or 3rd party, explain why, the benefits that this brings and how you ensure that learnings will be shared with the local authority.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

You must submit one appendix with letters of support demonstrating senior level commitment from all local authorities in 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 5. Your net zero project and programme development

What difference will this funding and Fast Follower programme participation make to your net zero programme?

How will you invest the funding to develop the project that this would support?

How will you identify and measure the success of your proposal?


  • how this funding will help you to accelerate progress against your net zero targets
  • how the funding for innovation will affect your performance, in both the short and the long term
  • how your innovation will affect all different groups within society
  • your strategy for continuing to progress your plan after the project and how you will share your outputs
  • any expected economic, environmental, social or regional impacts from this funding

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit one appendix with a short summary of an existing project that will be or is being delivered as part of your net zero plan, 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 6. Team and project management

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

How will you manage your project effectively?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the details and roles of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • if your project is collaborative, the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify your key project deliverables

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit one appendix with 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 7. Costs & Value for Money

How does this investment represent value for money for your local authority and the taxpayer?

What will the funded activities provide that is over and above your business as usual activities?


  • 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 your local authority 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

This funding competition is part of the Innovate UK Net Zero Living programme.

Innovate UK will also provide successful places, access to net zero skills and capability support to overcome your non-technical barriers. This will enable the development of a community of Fast Followers to:

  • engage in structured learning and dissemination
  • access key expert partners to help overcome systemic barriers to net zero delivery

Fast Follower activity modules

If you are successful and become a funded Fast Follower, you will be expected to complete a series of activity modules which include, but is not limited to:

  • your net zero challenge definition and net zero vision for your place
  • citizen engagement to understand the needs of all communities within their place and the development of a citizen challenge group
  • a general understanding of relevant emerging innovative technologies related to the delivery of net zero to increase confidence in decision making
  • re-development of your plans for delivering net zero
  • basic training about net zero and carbon literacy for a specified number of employees
  • attendance at engagement events with net zero innovators including SMEs, communities and academics
  • energy efficiency and retrofit training, getting inspiration from advanced local authority led projects, as well as detailed models for delivery
  • basic renewable energy technology training
  • receiving energy network connection training
  • procurement training for net zero
  • financial training for potential investment activities
  • data standards and practices training
  • access to specialist practitioners with experience of net zero planning and tools

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (each an “agency”).

Any relevant information submitted and produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to BEIS and vice versa. This would include, but is not restricted to:

  • the information stated on the application, including the personal details of all applicants
  • scoring and feedback on the application
  • information received during the management and administration of the grant, such as Monitoring Officer reports and Independent Accountant Reports

Innovate UK and BEIS are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, and BEIS 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 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.

Next steps

If you are successful with this application, you will be asked to set up your project.

You must follow the unique link embedded in your email notification. This takes you to your IFS Set Up portal, the tool that Innovate UK uses to gather necessary information before we can allow your project to begin.

You will need to provide:

  • the name and contact details of your project manager and project finance lead
  • a redacted copy of your bank details
  • a collaboration agreement, if applicable
  • an exploitation plan

In order to process your claims, we need to make sure that the bank details you give to us relate to a UK high street bank that is regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The account must have a BACS clearing facility and be in the same company name as your application.

If you have any doubts that your bank account will not meet Innovate UK's funding criteria, you can use the sort code checker. If you input the sort code and find a tick next to the ‘BACS Direct Credit payments can be sent to this sort code’, this will give you an indication that the bank account you hold is acceptable.

Finance checks

We will carry out checks to make sure you are an established company with access to the funds necessary to complete the project.

You must check your IFS portal regularly and respond to any requests we have sent for additional information to avoid any delays.

Failure to complete project setup may result in your grant offer being withdrawn.

Your Grant offer letter (GOL)

Once you have successfully completed project setup, we will issue your GOL.

The GOL will be made available on your IFS portal. You will need to sign and upload this before you start your project.

Your GOL will show the start date for your project, do not start your project before this date. Any costs incurred before your start date cannot be claimed as part of your grant.

If your application is unsuccessful

If you are unsuccessful with your application this time, you can view feedback from the assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.

Sometimes your application will have scored well, and you will receive positive comments from the assessors. You may be unsuccessful as your average score was not above the funding threshold or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if this is applied for this competition.

Contact us

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

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

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