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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Accelerator to net zero


Virtual Accelerator programme to support established SMEs with high impact potential for enabling the net zero transition, accelerating their pathway towards commercial success and increasing their all-round sustainability.


Ten-week online Accelerator programme divided into two parts, with a four-week break in August. 3-4 hours per week, with additional hours for ongoing 1-2-1 mentoring and optional virtual networking events.

Applications for this programme are now closed. If you are interested in discussing future opportunities on this topic please get in touch.


About the programme

For a successful transition to net zero, we need both to propel forward innovative, scalable, decarbonising technologies and to ensure that they are sustainable throughout the supply chain. The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) Accelerator is uniquely positioned to foster competitive, sustainability-led, growth-driven companies.

This programme is designed for scaling up companies with novel technology-based products that have rapid market adoption and high impact potential for the net zero transition. The priority technology areas are renewable energy generation, distribution, storage, demand reduction, efficiency and electrification of energy use.

Through its workshops and dedicated mentoring support, the programme aims to help participants accelerate the growth of their ventures and to make their products and operations more sustainable. This will maximise their opportunities arising from increasingly sustainability-driven markets.

The accelerator programme is devised around five core topics: sustainability, lean start-up, intellectual property rights, access to finance and pitching.

The ten-week programme is divided into two parts with a four-week break in August. It will be delivered virtually by a dedicated team from CISL, with experts from the industry, academia, investment and entrepreneurial communities. The programme will provide weekly one-to-one mentoring and culminates in a demo day event. For qualifying cohort members, the second part of the programme can include an optional consultancy project — carried out by a student team and led by a mentor — to find a solution to an issue specific to the participating company.


Programme overview

Session topics include:

  • Energy: the big picture - opportunities and challenges in a rapidly moving space
  • Improving productivity through the lean start-up methodology
  • Business planning with sustainability integration
  • Capturing value through sustainability
  • Intellectual property management
  • Access to finance
  • Access to China: market and supply chains
  • Meet the buyer
  • Pitch camp and demo day

Mentoring is offered on a one-to-one basis in addition to the programme above for up to three months from its start date, subject to mentor availability. 

There are optional networking sessions between these virtual workshops to connect innovators with the wider sustainability ecosystem of CISL and its network.    



Juliet Davenport

OBE - Vice President, the Energy Institute & CEO, Good Energy

Clare Shine

Director and CEO of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Michael Anstey

Partner, Cambridge Innovation Capital 

Amanda Wooding

Deputy Head of Life Sciences, Cambridge Enterprise 

Peter Bachmann

Managing Director, Gresham House & Angel Investor

Erenn Ore

Programme Manager, CISL 

Ben Kellard

Director of Business Strategy, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Dr Doroteya Vladimirova

Senior Research Associate, Institute for Manufacturing University of Cambridge

Dr Ione Meyer

Commercialisation Associate, Cambridge Enterprise

Helen Turton

Client Engagement and Ecosystem Relationship Manager, Innovate UK EDGE

Simon Attack

Innovation and Growth Specialist, Innovate UK EDGE

Fernando Centeno

Innovation & Growth Specialist, Innovate UK EDGE

Arun Muthirulan

Lead Innovation Growth Adviser, Innovate UK EDGE

James Thwaites

Associate Director, Whitecap Consulting

Prof Richard Leaver

Guest Professor Hainan University & Partner, Boundary Capital Partners

Dr Pablo Salas

Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow, University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Jie Zhou

Programme Manager, Sustainability Hub and Accelerator team

Viola Jardon

Accelerator Programme Manager, CISL


Who should apply

An applicant SME should:

  • have a viable technology-based product with a high impact potential for net zero transition
  • be at the early stage of market entry or the piloting stage
  • have already secured external funding
  • employ full-time staff.

In addition, we require commitment of participation in the core modules of the programme. Ideally one representative from each company should attend, but allowances can be made to offer flexibility. For some sessions, more than one participant may be allowed.

The Accelerator to net zero is part funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund and is available for free for SMEs incorporated in England at least one year prior to the start of the programme. The priority will be given to those located in parts of the East of England

Applications for this programme are now closed. If you are interested in discussing future opportunities on this topic please get in touch


Part-funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund.