Net Zero Living: User focused design

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £3.8m to support them in developing net zero products or services.

Opportunity Details


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Your project’s total grant funding request must be between £50,000 and £100,000. This can cover up to 70% of costs depending on business size.


Innovate UK

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Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to invest up to £3.8 million in innovation projects. These will be to support the net zero agenda. The Design Council will support the implementation of this competition by providing bespoke support to your project.

The aim of this competition is to support ambitious, early-stage growth businesses in developing your net zero products or services to meet demand. This support will include budget to hire the expertise of living laboratories to test your products or services with end users, so that they can better meet the requirement of the target market.

Your project must focus on the development of your product or service and demonstrating it in a relevant market. The user focus can be achieved by testing the product or service in a living laboratory and demonstrating results that will both support the net zero agenda and answer a market need.

  • To lead a project your organisation must be a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). An SME can only lead on one application in this competition.

    Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

    Living laboratories can be added as subcontractors in this competition. You must justify the relevant expertise required for the project and the user focus role. The living laboratories role and budget must be justified in your application.

  • Your project must:

    • have a total grant funding request between £50,000 and £100,000
    • start by 1 February 2024
    • end by 31 January 2025
    • last between 6 and 12 months
    • carry out all of its project work in the UK
    • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

    Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

  • The aim of this competition is to support ambitious early-stage growth businesses in developing net zero products or services.

    This competition will support you to utilise design thinking methods to link your innovations with the market. Behaviour changes in both places and businesses will focus on finding a market for a solution and support the uptake to create a valid business model. This includes access to living laboratories and other activities to test consumer response to products or services.

    This competition will require a user focus, meaning that you will have to demonstrate how you will take into account the user needs and requirements and include them in your product or service development. This can include testing or demonstrations in a living laboratory. The living laboratory user focus expertise and cost must be justified.

    The Design Council will offer bespoke support to each business, assisting the understanding and reception of those products or services to users and those with a significant interest in the supply chain.

    This competition will not support the generation of novel propositions based on design research aimed at understanding the needs and challenges of users.

    As such, the nature of design contributions in this space will be in assisting companies repeat, refine and importantly pivot if need be, from existing concepts and projections for how the product or service might be commercialised.

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

    • power
    • heat
    • mobility
    • product manufacture and usage
  • This competition will not fund projects that are at discovery and definition stage of a product or a service to answer a specific problem, as this stage should already have been reached. This competition will only focus on supporting projects that have a product or service that needs to be tested and developed with a user focused design.

    We are not funding projects that are:

    • generating novel propositions based on design research aimed at understanding the needs and challenges of users
    • not focusing on net zero themes
    • not able to explain how the user focus will support the development, testing and demonstration of their product or service
  • An online briefing was held on Wednesday 9th August: watch the recording.

    If you have a query about the competition, you are welcome to contact Innovate UK KTN’s Design team or our Net Zero team.


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