On a mission to make the world a greener, fairer place?

Sponsored by SSE, the Net Zero Challenge is designed to springboard climate-conscious entrepreneurs developing low-carbon solutions in the race against climate change.

Register your interest

What's in it for you?

Speed is of the essence in the race to Net Zero, so let us help you fast-track your idea from concept to reality with cash prizes, intensive training and support from SSE - the leading generator of renewable electricity and one of the largest electricity network companies in the UK who develop, own and operate low carbon infrastructure to support the zero-carbon transition.

 

 

£30k

First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £30k in equity-free cash and £17,750 of in-kind business support from SSE and our industry partners towards turning your idea into a reality.

£10k

Runner-up prize

The runner-up will receive £10k in equity-free cash and £9,000 of in-kind business support from our industry partners to help get your business up and running.

Training

Bespoke business training

All successful applicants enjoy a money-can’t-buy package of training and pitch coaching from experts with real-world experience of starting and growing global businesses.

Plus

Post-programme support

Once you’ve been accepted onto our programme, your journey doesn’t end there. As a Converge alumnus, we continue to provide you with access to our network of investors and advisors, business support and publicity and promotion.

Who can apply?

We welcome both product and service-based ideas that can deliver maximum impact for Scotland’s net zero goal. For instance, you could be developing a new system to store energy or creating a new carbon capture technology. We’re also looking for projects that reduce carbon in non-energy related sectors.

Read our full terms and conditions

Staff and students at all Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

Recent graduates (up to *24 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are also eligible to apply.

*If you can demonstrate that your project has been delayed by Covid-19, we may consider applicants who have graduated within 36 months. Talk to our Enterprise team if you think this applies to you.

Team and joint applications are accepted, provided one member of the team is a student, recent graduate or member of staff from a Scottish Higher Education Institution.

Applicants must plan to have their business headquartered in Scotland.

The lead applicant must commit to attend the final investor pitches and our awards ceremony. The Inside Innovation showcase event is also compulsory but can be attended by any team member. We highly recommend you attend our training events too as past experience has shown these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and the chances of reaching the next stage of the challenge.

You must either own or have the right to use and commercially exploit all Intellectual Property Rights related to your business idea.

This challenge is aimed at new or prospective businesses that are operating within twelve months of our annual Converge Awards in November.

Applicants need to demonstrate validation of their product/service, early customer engagement and a viable route to market.

Judging criteria

We are looking for projects that can demonstrate substantial and sustainable impact towards reducing carbon emissions.

Innovation

  • Intellectual property
  • Disruptive potential
  • Competitive advantage

Net zero impact

  • Potential to reduce carbon
  • Scalability

Market validation

  • Customer engagement
  • Viable route to market
  • Market fit

Team

  • Relevant experience
  • Planning for future team

Resource planning

  • Understanding of market readiness requirements including funding, expertise and operations

What's involved?

Our challenges are split into four stages over a period of eight months. Applications open in January and these are evaluated by a panel of university representatives.

Successful applicants are invited to attend the Converge entrepreneurial training programme (6-10 and 21-23 June) that prepares them to put forward a business plan, financial forecast and 1-minute video pitch to be assessed by a panel of university representatives.

Shortlisted finalists then receive additional training (12 & 26 September) and pitch their idea live to a panel of investors and business experts on 10 October, with the winners announced at our annual Converge Awards ceremony on 3 November.

  • Application Deadline
    5 April
  • Business Training
    6 - 10 + 21 - 23 June
  • Inside Innovation Pitching Event
    23 June
  • Business Plan Submission
    1 August
  • Additional Training
    12 + 26 September
  • Final Pitches
    10 October
  • Awards Event
    3 November

Judging panel

Our diverse judging panel brings together market leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs with experience in energy transition and carbon reduction.

Marta Smart

Head of Partnership SSE

 

John Thomson

Director of Strategic Investments DC Thomson

John Thomson currently leads DC Thomson’s investment activities into private companies. Previously, he has led development of the family company’s interests in newspaper and magazine sales and advertising, enterprise, cloud hosting, genealogy, books and gifting. John has also lived and worked extensively overseas developing businesses across a wide variety of sectors including pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, natural resources and more recently in the fintech and blockchain spaces. He is a Chartered Accountant and has also studied at INSEAD and MIT.

 

Caroline Halliday

Board Director Green Angel Syndicate

Caroline has 20 years of technical, commercial and management experience, with a background in Chemical Engineering with British Gas and BP and later becoming a crude oil and derivatives trader with BP. Following a move back to Scotland, Caroline gained a further Masters in Environmental Management and joined The Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Here, Caroline specialised in projects focussing on resource efficiency and waste management, later joining the Senior Operations Management Team. Caroline has been a Business Angel since 2014, with the Scottish-based syndicate Equity Gap and UK-wide Green Angel Syndicate. Caroline has a portfolio of investments in both private and social enterprise companies and has a strong interest in energy and resource efficiency. In addition, she is a Chair and Trustee of two charities.

 

Gavin Tweedie

Co-Founder & Chairman Net Zero Nation

Gavin is passionate about helping SMEs in Scotland to succeed. His mission is to drive the decarbonisation of society and industry across the world, using Scotland as an exemplar in Net Zero innovation and action.  As an Entrepreneur in the hi-tech and sustainability sectors, Gavin has been in the founding teams of companies in North America and the UK achieving exits and mergers with IBM, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Citrix and Virtana. 

Today, he is focused on mobilising Scotland to become a more sustainable and Net Zero Nation by 2045 and helping business to quadruple the bottom line in people, purpose, planet and profit.  As co-founder and chairman of the social enterprise Net Zero Nation and the Net Zero Scotland community, he provides help, support and mentorship to early -tage companies looking to become low carbon operations and growing their business internationally as a result.

 

Resources

Learn more about taking the leap from academia to entrepreneurship, boost your business skills and find resources to help you polish and perfect your challenge application.

Converge Application Form 2022

Downloadable file

Here's a preview of the application form you'll need to complete online.

Download now

FAQs 2022

Downloadable file

Answers to some commonly-asked questions, to help you get started.

Downloadable file

Guide for Applicants

Pre-Application Pack

Thinking about applying? This handy little pack summaries everything you need to know and even gives examples of previous, winning applications to help you take the leap.

Download now

SolarisKit

Case study

"Winning the 2019 Impact Challenge was without a doubt the turning point for SolarisKit!" Find out more about Faisal's world-changing innovation.

View case study

Kenoteq Ltd

Case study

The construction sector is the UK's largest user of materials with millions of tons of waste sent to landfill each year. The cost to the industry is eye-watering and presents a major stumbling block in its efforts to decarbonise. Answering the call is Kenoteq, a clean-tech spin out from Heriot-Watt University.

View case study