skip to content

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

HRH The Prince of Wales visits world-leading collaborative sustainability project

31 March 2022 - The Prince of Wales launches innovation hub for green entrepreneurs at heart of new Cambridge low carbon retrofit office

The Prince of Wales, Patron of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, today welcomed the launch of a ground-breaking innovation hub for SMEs at the opening of the organisation’s new retrofitted headquarters.

The world-first sustainable office retrofit has breathed new, low carbon life into a 1930s telephone exchange in the centre of Cambridge to house the Institute’s staff and a new collaboration platform to accelerate small business innovation on sustainability.

The Prince of Wales met with design and construction firms, business leaders, SMEs and innovators at a reception for the launch of Canopy and the opening of the new Entopia building.

CISL has been at the heart of collaborative business, government and finance sector discussions and learning on sustainability for more than 30 years. The Institute brings together a network of over 30,000 sustainability leaders worldwide and now engages SMEs and entrepreneurs to help drive innovation from the margins to the centre of positive action for people, nature and climate.

Clare Shine, CEO and Director, CISL said:

“Bolder leadership and action are critical for human security and planetary health over the next 10 years. Today’s launch of the Canopy incubator at the heart of our groundbreaking retrofit HQ takes CISL’s global reach and impact to new levels. We’re creating new bridges between entrepreneurs, SMEs and the most powerful actors in the economy to put their collective weight and innovation capacity at the service of inclusive and sustainable development. CISL thrives on openness. Through Canopy and our collaborations across Cambridge University, we hope to embrace fresh perspectives and offer space for difference to forge solutions that work for people, nature and climate."

During the opening of CISL’s new Entopia building and launch of the Canopy, The Prince of Wales met with the owners of start-ups and small businesses, corporate CEOs, and staff and academics, indicating the range and breadth of collaboration across the Institute’s work.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge said:

“The University of Cambridge’s work on climate change and sustainability is an outstanding collaborative achievement. Today we celebrate projects that have the power to change the way we live and the way our industries operate, hastening the transition to a low carbon world. The new Entopia building is now the most sustainable premises in the University estate, and a key contributor to reaching the target of eliminating our carbon emissions.”

The new Entopia building aims to provide a sustainability hub in the heart of Silicon Fen, offering Canopy members the space to work and think, share knowledge, take part in workshops and business clinics as well as benefit from connections across the wider University and Cambridge Innovation Cluster.

Solublue is an award-winning Cambridge small business and producer of biodegradable seaweed-based clear ‘plastic’. Their CEO attended the Canopy launch and Entopia opening.

Ayca Dundar, CEO, Solublue said:

“So many bright and brilliant ideas are coming out of the minds and owners of small businesses. Since we started our company one of the biggest learnings we had were from other fellow start-ups’ experiences of business strategy, team building, innovation and sustainability. That’s what makes the new Canopy such a great idea – a space at the heart of Cambridge that brings cross pollination of ideas, a community to share with and a place to work and meet that reflects those values.”

In 2019 the University of Cambridge became the first university in the world to adopt a 1.5 degrees Science Based Target for carbon reduction, committing itself to reduce its energy-related carbon emissions to absolute zero by 2048, with an ambition to achieve this by 2038 - a decade early. In 2020 the University announced it aims to divest from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels by 2030 as part of its ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions across its investment portfolio by 2038.

The newly opened Entopia building has been carefully retrofitted over the past year to extremely high standards, setting new levels for low energy use, carbon emissions and impact on natural resources. It has set new standards by aiming to achieve the highest sustainability credentials across BREEAM, EnerPhit, Well and Passivhaus, as well as showcasing built-in circular economy design principals. CISL’s new HQ will have an estimated 80% whole life carbon saving with 85% of construction waste diverted from landfill and 50% of furniture and fittings being reused and refitted.

The retrofit project has been delivered through the University’s Estates Division by a team of leading sustainability-focussed firms in the architectural, main contractor, project management and engineering disciplines, who understand the need for deep collaboration and innovation to achieve stretching sustainability targets. The team includes: ISG, Architype, BDP, Max Fordham, 3PM and Eve Waldron Design.

The £12.8m retrofit is supported by a £6m donation from greentech leaders Envision Group and a £3m grant from the European Regional Development fund (ERDF), which is also funding the operation of the Canopy. The University has invested its own funds in the project alongside an internal grant from its internal Energy & Carbon Reduction Project.

Lei Zhang, Founder and CEO, Envision Group, said:

“This former telephone exchange underwent a pioneering retrofit to meet the highest possible environmental and wellbeing standards. As home to the CISL and its canopy incubator, the Entopia building brings together leaders, businesses and academics to generate new ideas and accelerate leadership for a sustainable future. It enables collaboration to achieve the Entopia vision of a future where everyone has access to clean, secure, affordable energy.”



During the visit to world-leading sustainability projects at the University of Cambridge, The Prince of Wales also visited the University’s Whittle Laboratory to see groundbreaking work hosted there on how to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation. He was joined by Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng and key figures from the aviation sector, including business and government representatives, to see both cutting-edge, zero emission technology under development and a new global whole-system model of the aviation sector developed by the Aviation Impact Accelerator (AIA) - an industry-academic initiative started two years ago by a challenge from The Prince of Wales for Cambridge to accelerate the transition towards sustainable flight. The AIA is led by The Whittle Laboratory and CISL.

Professor Rob Miller, Director of the Whittle Laboratory said:

“Achieving an aviation sector with no climate impact is one of society’s biggest challenges. Solving it will require a complex combination of technology, business, human behaviour, and policy. We have assembled a world class team of academics and industry experts to take on this challenge.”

During the event HRH was introduced to the latest developments on a proposed new Whittle Laboratory building, currently under development. This new site would provide facilities for rapid technology development, cutting the time to develop technologies from years to months and act as a hub for the Aviation Impact Accelerator, a global network of experts working to provide evidence-based insights to unlock system-wide change.  By bringing together multi-disciplinary global expertise from industry and academia this new hub will accelerate the aviation sector towards a climate-neutral future and help sustain the UK as a leader in aviation innovation.

To find out more information about membership of the Canopy incubator, please follow this link:

Entopia logos


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

Email | +44 (0) 7845652839