Leicester universities to help lead county-wide net zero project

Leicester’s universities are set to deliver a major new programme of net zero research and climate action across the region.

The University of Leicester and De Montfort University (DMU) were successful in winning more than £500,000 to help scale up action by communities, citizens and organisations to become more sustainable.

The institutions made the bid under the Universities Partnership, the alliance of local organisations which also includes Loughborough University.

The work to be carried out by the University of Leicester and DMU is part of a bigger £2.5m project led by Leicestershire County Council, funded through Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency.

That project is called Leicestershire CAN (Collaboration to Accelerate Net Zero). It will be used to explore how local organisations can collaborate and accelerate climate action, develop a decarbonisation pathway plan for the whole county, identify the best ways for communities to get to net zero and launch a new online platform to share information and tools.

Leicestershire CAN will also work to develop community energy projects, aiming to have a community energy organisation in every district.

The University of Leicester’s School of Business will lead on the creation of a digital suite of resources, toolkits and other materials to help ensure that SMEs and other stakeholders have all the information and capabilities required to reduce their carbon footprints.  This builds on the success of previous work with small businesses to develop the Responsible Business toolkit which helps local businesses become more sustainable.

Professor Paul Baines, Deputy Dean and Director of Executive Education at the University of Leicester School of Business is the Principal Investigator, for the Leicestershire Carbon Reduction Advisory Service, he said: “We are delighted to have won this funding to help SMEs, other organisations, and other stakeholders in Leicestershire reduce their carbon footprint.  We will work with our county and university partners to help the East Midlands become a beacon for sustainable business.”

DMU will be responsible for developing, piloting and evaluating models for good governance in order to reach net zero targets, enabling inclusive participation in decision-making for people and organisations across the region. Dr Andrew Reeves, DMU’s lead for the Environmental Sustainability theme within the Universities Partnership will lead this work.

Dr Reeves said: “This project builds upon many years of collaborative work between DMU, our local councils and the universities in the region to address the needs of our community. Our focus will be on using the apolitical and impact-driven ethos of the Universities Partnership to ensure that action on climate change in our area is inclusive, transparent and makes a positive difference to local communities.”


Other workstreams within the CAN programme will be led by National Grid, Energy Systems Catapult and Green Fox Community Energy.

Ann Carruthers, Leicestershire County Council’s Director of Environment and Transport, said: “It is a huge achievement for us to secure this funding, which will allow us to take a great stride forward in our ambition for a net zero county by 2045, and to ensure our communities are an integral part of this process.

“Leicestershire CAN will strengthen the county’s ability to meet net zero commitments by working together with community organisations and businesses across the county, and this funding will allow all partners to work together and remove the barriers to delivery of our net zero aims.”

Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK, said: “We know that many local authorities find it hard to plan and deliver decarbonisation of heat, power and transport locally. Often technology is available, but there are big gaps in capability, resource and evidence of what works best in reality. That’s why we have issued this package of targeted support to help places around the UK tackle the challenges, prove what can be done, share experiences and speed up with journey to net zero.”