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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Meeting the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 requires significant changes in how we use energy, as well as rapid acceleration and uptake of technologies that support decarbonisation. The good news is that for many of the challenges we face, solutions already exist. However, such technologies need to be propelled forward and scaled up, while ensuring they remain sustainable throughout the supply chain. 

Our 2021 Accelerator to net zero aimed to support SMEs with novel technology-based products that have high impact potential for enabling the net zero transition. We hosted a virtual series of workshops, led by experts from industry, academic, investment and entrepreneurial communities, and offered dedicated mentoring support throughout. It culminated in a ‘meet the investors’ pitch day, giving the participants the opportunity to practice their pitch, receive expert feedback and build their networks.  

The ten-week programme covered a broad range of topics, starting with the current net zero landscape and its challenges and opportunities, before moving onto the lean start-up methodology, marketing strategy and sustainability disclosure. Our participants learned how to create and capture value through sustainability, achieve supply chain sustainability and build a business model with sustainability integration, as well as strategies for business growth. We also delved into entrepreneurship, access to finance and protecting intellectual property, and how to reach Chinese markets. 

17 promising SMEs were chosen to join the programme, based on their potential to help accelerate the UK’s path to net zero. The group covered a diverse range of areas, including power storage and efficiency, transport and logistics, power generation and maintenance, and resilient electric-grid performance, as well as those driving behavioral and societal change. 


Despite their broad categories, these small businesses all have one thing in common: a bold, forward-thinking and credible approach to enabling the net zero transition. One is producing green hydrogen from concentrated solar light; another is developing an innovative mechanical battery that has potential to address grid volatility, which is critical for a grid with a high level of renewable integration.

Whether it’s an AI-powered domestic energy trading system or the data-driven tech creating the cities of the future, each innovation offers a tangible way forward in emissions reduction. Now, this group of innovators is also equipped with the knowledge to accelerate their pathway towards commercial success. They are part of our growing community of entrepreneurs and innovative small businesses delivering the transition to net zero. 

Interested in joining us? Register your interest for future net zero programmes with the CISL Accelerator here. You can also read more about CISL’s commitment to achieving zero here