Net zero projects secure £7.6 million to cut heating emissions

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Three collaborative research and development projects have been awarded funding from Innovate UK to transform how our buildings are heated and to reduce heat loss.

Innovate UK’s Net Zero Heat Programme is driving the transition away from gas as a source for heating to more sustainable solutions.

Projects range from using artificial intelligence (AI) to help landlords bring homes up to standard to a new off-site approach to retrofit, to data-driven decisions for non-domestic building upgrades.

According to the Climate Change Committee, 23% of total emissions in the UK is generated from heating our 30 million buildings.

Renewable heating technologies

In response to this challenge, Innovate UK ran a competition, Design Engineering Innovation Lab, to invest in the development of renewable heating technologies that are innovative and scalable across the UK.

The competition took the form of an ‘innovation lab’, or ‘sandpit’, which is about creating innovative, collaborative, research and development project ideas in a face-to-face setting.

The core aim is to foster new project proposals and relationships that would not be achieved under normal competition processes.

Net zero renovation

A diverse range of organisations competed for a place, ranging from energy suppliers, technology providers, research organisations and community interest groups.

The project proposals were required to reduce capital and installation costs across the whole system of net zero renovation, such as the fabric of the building and decarbonised heat technologies.

The lab structure involved facilitated sessions, knowledge sharing and intense group work.

The five-day collaborative sessions produced eight project ideas, three of which were successful in securing a total of £7,615,622 in grant support.

The projects

Let Zero

Led by South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, the Let Zero project has secured £2.4 million in funding.

It will work with landlords in the private rented sector to improve decision-making on renovations and improvements in their properties for the benefit of their tenants, especially vulnerable people.

The 18-month project will develop an end-to-end solution, powered by AI, to give landlords a ‘trusted path’ for upgrading their properties, tailored to the needs of the occupants.

The solution, to be tested in South Yorkshire, has the potential to be scalable across the UK.


Another winner is a project led by Energiesprong UK, which has secured £3.3 million for its project that aims to help deliver retrofit solutions to one million homes per year by 2030.

The current retrofit market doesn’t have the capacity or capability needed and this project brings a fresh approach.

Transform-ER will embrace the move towards offsite construction to enable rapid deployment of high-quality retrofit solutions.

The project will provide interoperability rules for new products, enabling kits of parts to be brought together.

A ‘retrofit rulebook’ will also be developed, which will write up the activities in the project as case studies.

It will also set out clear guidance for other industry innovators and those wishing to join the retrofit revolution.


Finally, £1.9 million has been awarded to a project led by Elemental Power that aims to transform how retrofits are carried out on non-domestic buildings in the UK.

From using immersive ‘digital twins’ to test and simulate real conditions, to using local renewable energy solutions, building owners will be provided with the information needed to make the best upgrade decisions.

Overcoming innovation barriers

Mike Pitts, Deputy Challenge Director, Innovate UK said:

Innovate UK’s Net Zero Heat programme seeks to overcome barriers to innovation to enable the UK to prosper from moving quickly away from gas for heat in buildings.

The three projects announced today are the biggest investment to date from the programme.

The projects were developed through an intensive five-day workshop designed to bring together deep and broad consortia.

The participants are involved from all stages across the process of Net Zero Heat renovations of buildings, and they all seek to improve the process for different types of building, with the aim of bringing down cost and speeding up retrofit work.

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