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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


Two day virtual hackathon, bringing together innovators from around the world to come up with solutions to help the British Antarctic Survey achieve net zero.


Two day hackathon, online

Who should apply?

Innovators willing to think creatively to achieve net zero for the benefit of the global ‘race to zero’, and for the benefit of remote communities and delicate polar environments in particular.

Key dates

Friday 26 November (08:20 - 17:30 GMT) and Friday 3 December (08:30 - 16:30 GMT). There will also be a pre hack introduction and networking session on Thursday 25 November (17:00 - 19:00 GMT).  

Applications have now closed for this event. 

The CISL Accelerator, in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Cambridge Zero, will host a two day hackathon, bringing together a global community of innovators to come up with solutions to help BAS achieve net zero across their operations at their Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. 


BAS delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth and our impact on it. BAS is an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Achieving net zero carbon emissions for the organisation by 2040 (aligned with the UKRI’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy) will be a challenge, especially for their five Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Research Stations – thousands of miles away from towns and cities. However, the process is very similar to what all businesses and organisations globally will be going through over the coming months and years. Central to this particular challenge is:

  • how to radically reduce energy use, and decarbonise the power generation system; 
  • how to sensitively use renewable energy in a delicate environment, dealing with intermittency and seasonal variation in energy production; 
  • how to provide year round back up energy without costing the earth.  

Add to this the remote location, climatic extremes and the need for robust systems that can be fixed locally and it’s a complex set of problems in need of a fresh and innovative approach. BAS and their team have been working hard on the solutions and can achieve around 70% of this with existing technologies and fuels, but are struggling to find appropriate and affordable solutions to take them the ‘last mile’.

Working with innovative companies, we know that many of the solutions are out there. This two day hackathon, supported by BAS experts and leading academics from the University of Cambridge, aims to surface new solutions that will assist BAS on implementing this ambitious goal – but which are likely to also have wider applicability in the race to net zero. 

We know that often innovation arises from very constrained situations or specific challenges with limited direct replicability – take for instance, the solar panel, invented by NASA in the space race. Through supporting BAS and their team, we hope to bring the best thinking from a diverse global innovation community to break new ground in the race to decarbonise our economy, in ways that tread lightly on our remaining planetary resources and are equitable and inclusive.


Why join?

The biggest challenges require team work. By contributing to this hackathon you will be helping to fast track the transition to net zero and limit global warming. In addition to this, winners of the hackathon will benefit from:

  • Bringing your solution to a new potential buyer
  • 12 months free mentorship, facilitated by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership
  • Gain publicity through follow up press and online promotions 



Dr Pablo Salis

Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow, CISL

Dr Kristen MacAskill

Assistant Professor in Engineering, Environment and Sustainable Development at the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge


Dr Rachel Freeman

Research Fellow, UCL Energy Institute

Dr Lata Sahonta

Research in quantitative electron microscopy of nitride films, University of Cambridge


Irene Maffini

Expert for the European Commission




Get involved

We are calling on innovators from SMEs, corporates, academia and startups to join our innovation community. 

  • You will have knowledge, experience or ideas in net zero technology and decarbonising the built environment and/or fleet. However, we also welcome a wide range of disciplines to help unlock creative thinking and inspire radically new approaches (non-engineers welcome!)
  • You can enter as a team, or as an individual (looking to join a team). Maximum team size of six.  


Programme format

This will be a virtual hackathon, designed to be as ‘pandemic proof’ as possible and to enable as wide participation as possible.  

  1. Teams can hack one, two or all three of the problems outlined 
  2. At the end of day 1 teams will present their solutions to the judging panel 
  3. Panel selects strongest teams to progress to the second hack day
  4. The chosen teams come back for the second hack to work up their ideas further
  5. Judges will select three winners from pitches at the close of day 2


In partnership with:


Supported by: