Promoting cross-sector green innovation to build partnerships and accelerate net-zero transformation.
At Essex County Council, we’ve created a sector development strategy with a strong focus on green growth and decarbonisation opportunities across five sectors – built environment, energy, advanced manufacturing and engineering, digital technologies, and med-tech and life sciences. We realised there was a great opportunity within this strategy to spark green innovation and the Net Zero Innovation Network was launched to connect community groups, organisations, energy providers, and institutions across the public and private sectors to develop pioneering sustainability projects and decarbonisation solutions.
We have a huge depth of resources and expertise across the county as well as access to freeports and two international airports. But it isn’t enough to talk to businesses about carbon reduction and innovation, we have to provide opportunities for real creativity and progress. The Net Zero Innovation Network connects individuals and organisations who might not ordinarily be in the same room, providing unique opportunities for innovation.
The Net Zero Innovation Network is structured across four thematic areas – built environment, energy, waste, and sustainable transport each with a project pipeline and trajectory. The council helps to facilitate, support, and connect network members and we have held three successful and galvanising community conferences to date. The fourth conference will take place on 31st March 2022 and, at this event, members will be moving into their finalised interest areas and spotlighting priority projects to move forward. We will also be providing access to project managers to begin project initiation and planning.
The Net Zero Innovation Network is home to over 80 members – all invited to join the network because of their expertise and experience. Members include academics, social housing providers, large organisations, social enterprises, community energy groups, and SMEs. It’s a highly active and engaged community with Essex County Council providing access to a dedicated Teams channel, useful tools, and business support hub – with detailed resources and funding information – as well as delivering a bi-monthly newsletter, to actively support project ideas and development.
Though the Net Zero Innovation Network remains at an early stage, we have already moved from strategizing and growing relationships in 2021 to a delivery focus in 2022 as the community begins to focus on priority projects and next steps. It’s an exciting time for the community and we can’t wait to see projects begin to come to life.
Don’t underestimate the power of your contacts –
It’s been great to uncover so much knowledge and enthusiasm already out there. Often, it’s a case of bringing existing resources and people together rather than starting from scratch on decarbonisation projects.
Ask rather than tell –
It’s been really useful to go to our business community and ask them what they need to move towards net-zero rather than telling them what they should do or what we can offer them. It puts ownership on the community and that’s a powerful way of approaching this important issue.
Our Metrics –
• Community members
• Projects in pipeline
• Member engagement
We now have a PhD resource who will be working to collect and analyse detailed data from the community.