back to open calls

Net Zero Heat: Design Engineering Innovation Lab

General & Misc
Project Size:
between £1.5 - £5 million

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £8.5 million in innovation projects. As part of a three stage Innovation Lab you will be supported in creating and undertaking innovative, collaborative, research and development projects.

The aim is to accelerate the shift to a net zero economy. It offers the opportunity to develop project ideas that will improve the delivery and reduce the cost of net zero heat building upgrades through design and system engineering processes.

The Innovation Lab will bring together experts and insights from across different sectors to collaborate effectively and develop new solutions.

We are looking for a range of individuals from multi-disciplinary organisations to bring a diversity of knowledge. Not all will be typically associated with the heating or building renovation sectors. Organisations can include, but are not limited to, those active in:

  • user-centred design, consumer and sector finance, housing and energy policy, urban planning, justice and equality, law and regulations
  • providers of social services and facilities, third sector organisations working with vulnerable people, skills and training providers, owners of portfolios of buildings
  • automotive, robotics, manufacturing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, remote sensing and computer vision
  • net zero technology and solution providers, construction professionals, building performance evaluation professionals
  • agencies of relevance to making an important contribution to the net-zero mission

This competition is split into 3 stages:

  • Stage 1: Expression of interest in attending the Innovation Lab (this stage)
  • Stage 2: Participation in all 5 days of the Innovation Lab
  • Stage 3: Selected proposals developed at the Innovation Lab will be invited to apply for funding to undertake a collaborative research and development project

If invited to the 5 day collaborative residential Innovation Lab, you must commit to attend on behalf of and with the support of your organisation. The Innovation Lab will take place between 18 and 22 September 2023.

The location and agenda for the Innovation Lab will be included in your invite to attend.

Attendees to the Innovation Lab will work together to develop collaborative proposals for research and innovation projects that will deliver concept demonstrators.

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


This is Stage 1 of a three stage competition:

  • Stage 1: Expression of interest in attending the Innovation Lab (this stage)
  • Stage 2: Participation in all 5 days of the Innovation Lab
  • Stage 3: Selected proposals developed at the Innovation Lab will be invited to apply for funding to undertake a collaborative research and development project

To apply to participate as an individual in the Innovation Lab you must have the support both as an individual and be able to commit resources for your organisation to a potential stage 3 project.

You must be:

  • part of a UK registered business of any size, academic institution, a research and technology organisation (RTO), charity, not for profit organisation or public sector organisation
  • able to commit to attending all 5 days on a residential basis at the nominated UK location
  • able to show you can work collaboratively and have the relevant skills, expertise and experience to represent your organisation
  • able to demonstrate you have the authorisation from your organisation to undertake a project that relates to the scope of this competition
  • able to demonstrate the resources and financial support your organisation will commit

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

If you plan to take part in the Innovation Lab you must submit your application yourself. If someone else makes an application on your behalf it will be ineligible.

If you are invited, you must sign and return a confidentiality agreement before attending the Innovation Lab. This is to protect existing intellectual property (IP) and to allow full disclosure of expertise and capabilities at the Innovation Lab.

You will also be required to attend both an online orientation webinar prior to the Innovation Lab, and the Innovation Lab from 18 to 22 September 2023.

Number of expressions of interest

Your organisation can be involved in any number of applications for individuals.

If more than one individual from an organisation applies, we expect to invite only one individual per organisation to participate in the Stage 2 Innovation Lab.

Up to 40 individuals from different organisations will be invited to attend the 5 day Innovation Lab.

Stage 3: Selected project proposals

Project proposals successfully developed and selected at the Innovation Lab will be invited to apply for funding support in a separately assessed stage 3 application.

Projects invited to Stage 3 are expected to have total grant request of between £1.5 million and £5 million.

Organisations involved must:

  • carry out their project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from the UK
  • work in collaboration with others (businesses, research base or third sector)
  • involve at least one grant claiming micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

Your project can include non-grant claiming partners.

Successful Stage 3 projects must start before 1 February 2024 and must finish by 31 March 2025.

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.

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

The stage 3 funding competition will provide 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.

The Net Zero Heat programme is overcoming barriers to enable a faster roll-out of decarbonised heat for buildings.

The UK must move away from gas as a source of heating space and water in buildings to meet its net zero commitments.

The Net Zero Heat programme focuses on the following three approaches:

  • Market demand: standardised information on what renovation to do, where and when for maximum impact
  • System barriers: to bridge scaling gap leading to growth in supply chains and localised deployment
  • Design engineering: to reduce capital and installation cost across the system of net zero building upgrades and heat provision

The aim of the Innovation Lab is to generate innovative and commercially viable new ideas. This will address the systemisation of delivery of net zero heat in buildings to make the process more efficient, effective and a lower cost.

The Innovation Lab will invite individuals representing a cross-disciplinary of organisations to come together for 5 days. They will explore and propose new solutions, using whole systems thinking, approaching complexity in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into parts.

The Innovation Lab will foster innovation and creativity in research design. It will provide a dedicated environment to allow participants to collaborate in designing and proposing novel projects. The project proposals may then be offered the opportunity to apply for funding support to carry out projects in a further separately assessed stage 3 application.

We are looking for unique consortia to emerge, developing project ideas decarbonising and reducing the heat requirements of buildings through design and system engineering.

Project proposals developed at the Innovation Lab must centre on the following:

  • a just transition, ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded in approaches to net zero heat in buildings
  • delivery of substantial upgrading of building portfolios
  • reducing the cost and speed in delivery of building upgrades
  • targeting decarbonisation of the whole system
  • delivery of approaches at scale
  • solutions demonstrated on real developments

As an individual applying to this expression of interest (EoI), you must show you are able to offer one or more of the following:

  • demonstrable experience, interest, involvement, thinking and preparation on net zero renovation and design and systems engineering
  • experience of developing and pitching project ideas
  • understanding of sector industrialisation to reduce cost through collaborative design and system engineering
  • understanding of how people interact with buildings in their life and work environment, particularly those in vulnerable or marginalised groups

Project ideas will be developed over the course of the Innovation Lab. Innovate UK, mentors and facilitators will help participants to ideate and form potential teams to build and review emerging project proposals. Ongoing contact with Innovate UK and mentors throughout the week will help project ideas stay within scope.

On the final day of the Innovation Lab project ideas will be pitched to a panel, consisting of expert assessors and Innovate UK funders. This pitch will be run as an assessment process using consistent assessment criteria to decide which teams will be invited to submit their project proposals to Stage 3.

Your pitch will describe your proposed idea and how it innovatively addresses the aim of the delivery of net zero heat in buildings. The pitch will also need to:

  • quantify how the solution can be commercialised
  • explain how it will include testing and demonstration in realistic scenarios or environments during and upon completion of the project
  • address regulatory or safety issues and constraints, providing a clear indication how these can or will be resolved and demonstrated
  • demonstrate organisational buy-in from consortia members

Project teams will be informed on the final day whether they can apply to Stage 3 of the competition. They will be offered feedback from the pitch review.

Invited projects will have 4 weeks after the Innovation Lab to finalise their proposals and agree them with their respective organisations.

Full Stage 3 project applications must then be submitted for assessment through the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) portal.

Stage 3 projects must be the same as the project proposals created during Stage 2 of the Innovation Lab, including any feedback from the pitch panel .

The location and agenda for the Innovation Lab will be included in your invite to attend.

Portfolio approach

We will take a portfolio approach to selecting candidates for the Innovation Lab.

We want to include a broad range of organisations, disciplines, technologies and approaches that will bring together people who would not normally work together. Ensuring a diversity of knowledge and the equality, diversity and inclusion of participants.

Not all attendees will be typically associated with the heating or building renovation sectors.

Specific themes

Your proposed project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • delivery of energy demand reduction
  • delivery of market demand certainty
  • delivery of heat efficiency
  • delivery of cost reductions for systemised deep renovation
  • building upgrades for heat demand reduction that are faster to do and easier to initiate
  • using data, automation, AI and machine learning, capitalise building information modelling (BIM), computer vision, off-site manufacturing to improve renovation and heating upgrade processes
  • utilise modular in design with common interfaces and open architectures, and follow all appropriate industrial standards and system engineering principles

Interested in this call? Book a free consultation with our team
Book a Consultation
+44 (0) 1925 506 100
Contact Us
Thank you! We will be in touch shortly.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.