Adapting to rising temperatures: defining the challenges for Net Zero cooling

This report was produced as part of the activities of the Innovate UK Climate Change Adaptation Innovation Network.

Net Zero cooling

In November 2023, Innovate UK Business Connect brought together industry and academia from the cooling sector as well as businesses, local authorities and community groups requiring Net Zero cooling. The group explored the technical, social, regulatory, economic, and environmental challenges stopping the adoption of Net Zero cooling solutions to help the UK Government understand how innovation funding could help to solve them. A list of participants in the workshop is provided in the report appendix.

The participants examined two main areas of Net Zero cooling:

  • How do we cool the buildings we live and work in? (building design, passive cooling, air conditioning)
  • How do we provide refrigeration for process cooling, storage, and transport? (retail, manufacturing, data centres)


The workshop participants made the following recommendations for the Government to support the adoption of Net Zero cooling in the UK.

Reduce the cost of switching to Net Zero cooling

Financial support is required to support the business case for transitioning to Net Zero cooling solutions. Financial options that drive good practice and incentivise the adoption of Net Zero cooling solutions could include:

  • Government-backed bank loans for retrofit based on expected performance
  • Tax credits which incentivise the adoption of energy-efficient practices
  • Capital investment from the Government to reduce the cost of retrofit
  • Cooling-as-a-Service business models to reduce the operating cost of innovative solutions

Improve and enforce regulations to encourage the adoption of Net Zero cooling

There is a need for regulatory review for refrigeration and cooling within buildings. New regulations that encourage the adoption of Net Zero cooling approaches will deliver energy savings. Areas to be considered include:

  • Building design
  • Monitoring performance over time
  • F-gas phase-out
  • Temperature-controlled transport and storage standards

Train a skilled workforce to deliver Net Zero cooling

The lack of technical expertise to install and operate the innovative cooling solutions is a major barrier to adoption. A skilled workforce is required, with knowledge of what innovative options are available and an understanding of how they operate. This workforce can then advise and encourage companies who require Net Zero cooling to consider the Net Zero alternatives. The workshop participants identified the need for further training for the following workers:

  • Installers
  • Architects
  • Refrigeration technicians
  • End users of cooling


Overall, the group agreed that there are areas for improvement where innovation funding could help (building design, low GWP refrigerants, thermal system approaches and process optimisation), but there is a greater need for regulatory review and financial support to remove the barriers to adoption of existing Net Zero cooling solutions.

Related programmes

Climate Change Adaptation Innovation Network

Climate Change Adaptation Innovation Network

The Climate Change Adaptation Innovation Network, founded by Innovate UK, is a collaborative community that aims to support businesses to innovate to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, to create resilient and thriving businesses across the UK.

Net Zero Adopt and Accelerate

Net Zero Adopt and Accelerate

Innovation is our key to a sustainable future. Fundamental to the UK’s Net Zero ambitions is accelerating the adoption and diffusion of Net Zero innovations in sectors and regions across the UK.

Net Zero Living

Net Zero Living

Innovate UK’s £60 million, three-year Net Zero Living Programme aims to help places and businesses across the UK to accelerate the transition to net zero.


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